Customer engagement has changed at an unprecedented rate because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the “new normal”, capturing consumer behavior is one of the biggest and most unpredictable business challenges. This change forces all businesses to take action to adapt, survive and grow.
So, how can you prepare to engage customers during and after the pandemic?
What is customer engagement?
It’s the level of interaction between a customer and a business or brand via different channels. When customers engage with a brand, they tend to show loyalty to that brand. They’re more likely to buy again and recommend that brand to their circle.
A prominent example of customer engagement is British bakery chain Greggs. During a sales slowdown in 2013, they decided to implement a new consumer engagement strategy. Rather than continuing to offer conventional baked products, Greggs would shift its focus to providing ‘food on the go,’ trying to compete with big-name high-street rivals. They also introduced vegan options to target underserved customers.
Customer engagement has become the key to having a solid position in the market and in the hearts of customers. More and more businesses are adopting a customer-centric approach while developing their marketing strategies.
Customer engagement before COVID-19 pandemic
Before the pandemic, a large number of customers walked in your doors to shop. This means you need to develop customer engagement strategies for both your brick-and-mortar store and your online presence.
Maintaining the service quality both physically and digitally requires huge costs, time, and energy. That’s why many business owners neglected their online presence to focus on the other. Their business websites could either look like they were created decades ago or ran super slow. Or their social media pages made customers wonder if the brands are still open.
Many brands focus on brand loyalty programs before the pandemic. Customers tended to purchase from brands they’re familiar with to receive accumulated benefits. But things can be different after the pandemic, since customers stay at home more and are exposed to attractive offers from many other brands.
Customer engagement after COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 has shown us an immediate crisis in many industries, from airlines and hospitality to luxury retail and customer service.
We all feel the vulnerability of how things are changing. Yet we’re forced to learn to adapt to these sudden changes. So, how can we better prepare for the during and after of the pandemic?
Maintain and grow your online presence
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many small and medium businesses have prospered thanks to the development of e-commerce sites. People have shifted from shopping in outlets to online platforms. They also spend more time at home and surf online shopping sites.
Now that people are getting used to booking and ordering online for contactless and safe purchases, this trend of digital usage can continue in the future. Maintain and grow your online presence, and it’ll bring large opportunities for your business.
Focus on customer safety
During COVID-19, businesses have to adopt contactless transactions to ensure customers’ safety while using their services. Safety measures have become an integral part of customers’ shopping habits.
You need to maintain these measures, even after COVID-19, so that people can feel comfortable shopping and avoid the risk of post-pandemic trauma.
Prepare for return
Customer demand will resurge after the pandemic. People will get back to life by traveling, eating out, and spending more time with friends and family. Things may change: the challenges customers face, their shopping behaviors, their preferences and interests, etc.
To develop suitable strategies to engage customers post-pandemic, businesses need to analyze those changes to offer worthy values to consumers. Speedy delivery, fast customer service, and timely updates also need to come back once tough times have passed.
Due to the pandemic, we witness the change in consumer behaviors and the formation of new customer segments. This change is fast-paced, unpredictable, and driven strongly by emotions. This is a challenge but also a motivation for businesses to change and adopt better customer engagement strategies.
To prepare for the during and after of COVID-19, businesses should prioritize spending resources on customer-focused solutions. Listen smarter to empathize. Work on your and your staff’s customer service skills. Be flexible and prepare for changes to stay in sync with customers.
But most importantly, stay safe and healthy.