It was early 2020. Retail was confident it had the right marketing strategies, technology and understanding to reach and guide customers, no matter where they were and under any circumstance. Then suddenly everything changed and one of the very few unanticipated scenarios came into being. A pandemic required everyone to hunker down, undermined confidence, raised fears and jeopardized the customer experience (CX).
Winston Churchill, who knew a thing or two about overcoming challenges, once said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” That holds true, even now. And marketers, known for resilience and a focus on possibilities, can not only handle this with a few tweaks to their approach, they can find ways to strengthen their bond with customers.
Rolling With the Changes
Companies conducting business as usual run the risk of appearing out of touch. Marketing today requires emotional intelligence — i.e., empathetic messaging that recognizes what customers are facing, along with appreciation to those who choose to do business with them during these times.
A company that rolled with the changes well is Kaiser Permanente. The video experience (VX) has earned its own subset within CX because it tells a story unlike any other medium, drawing on verbal and visual communication, narration, animation, and more. It’s easy to digest, engaging and easily accessible on personal mobile devices. Kaiser Permanente launched a VX in early 2020, then needed to alter the narrative to immediately address the pandemic with emotional intelligence. This didn’t entail a dramatic overhaul, just a quick messaging pivot, easily made, customized and distributed because of its adaptive tech capabilities.
Kaiser Permanente responded to the situation, and its customers responded appreciatively. An elevated call-to-action click rate indicated that video viewers appreciated the shift in message and were clear on the next steps required for them to take, despite COVID uncertainty.
Another example is retail; shops and grocery stores quickly saw foot traffic dry up during lockdowns. Previously, a grocer may have relied on shoppers seeing the weekly circular in print to find out about new promotions and information. However, print continues to be expensive, newspaper circulation is declining, and massive shifts in demographic consumption make the weekly circular overdue for a change. Turning the grocery circular digital with dynamic video experiences, individualized offers and timely promotions gave retailers the flexibility that was critical during the pandemic. Now, retailers are able to educate consumers about e-commerce options, delivery, curbside pickup options and changing store hours. Digital circulars with dynamic multimedia also give retailers the ability to shift messaging as close to real time as possible, especially as COVID rates affect local areas differently.
A brand’s ability to execute content velocity at the speed of changing customer needs and market dynamics is now and will continue to be a digital CX requirement in a post-pandemic world.
Make it Easier
If you’re unable to provide a CX that shows how easy it is to work with you, you’ll lose customers. You know those big packets of product information and user manuals? The idea that these are kept as a resource is long outdated. When there’s an issue, a customer isn’t likely to walk back into the store’s service desk. Furthermore, sifting through a mound of material is only going to frustrate someone who just wants to program their remote and watch the game.
Retailers should take a page out of the playbook of cable provider Comcast. It heightened its CX by creating short, topical video chapters enabled by an interactive video experience for its Xfinity cable service. If the customer has a problem, he selects the right chapter from an online video library, which immediately answers his questions and allows him to direct his own relevant content experience.
Retailers can apply an interactive video experience to allow shoppers to configure the best product for the person's situation or lifestyle, enabling a more engaging experience that lets them learn about products through relevant content. When you reduce stress with a more in-tune CX, customers will remember.
No Time Like the Present
Prior to the pandemic, many consumers were reluctant to use digital tools. Well, with a massive remote migration — and severely limited in-person engagement — they’ve been forced to give it a try. Now, they’re ready to go further, and marketers have a unique opportunity to establish the right self-serve and digital behaviors now vs. the more difficult chore of trying to get them to change later.
That’s crucial because things will never go back to the way they were. The pandemic not only accelerated remote capabilities, it advanced digital transformation of businesses by months that would have taken years under normal circumstances. So for the savvy marketer, this is Churchill’s opportunity amidst adversity.
The holidays are around the corner. A stressful time is going to be a whole lot more taxing due to the current circumstances. Consumers may be reluctant to have a grocer cook their turkey, but what if the grocer can deliver all the other items to their doorstep instead of typical in-store shopping? That will be a huge help and customers are primed to give it a try.
There’s no time like the present for retailers and marketers to examine their CX, not just to make sure it’s up to snuff, but ready to tackle what will undoubtedly be a changed future.
Jim Dicso is CEO and member of the board of directors for SundaySky, where he leads the company strategy to support the growing market demand for the company’s solution.
Jim Dicso is CEO of SundaySky, a provider of personalized video solutions that combine the emotion of sight, sound and motion for storytelling in the digital age. He has more than 20 years of experience in leadership positions within the SaaS industry. Prior to SundaySky, Jim was executive vice president of sales and services at LivePerson. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University.