How to Retain and Serve Your Customers as We Move Into the ‘New Normal’
In 2020, life changed in every way due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the behavior of our customers changed, too.
In the retail sector, more consumers switched to online providers or smaller independent businesses as a result of their changed routines and for convenience when it wasn't possible to visit shops near work or in city centers.
However, as we move out of the pandemic, our habits are likely to change once more. Therefore, it’s key for businesses to try and retain any new customers gained during the pandemic, using new data strategies and technologies to push them to the next level.
How Can Businesses Retain Customers Gained During COVID-19?
Many businesses saw a boom in customers during the pandemic. But the challenge now is changing to focus on how they can retain those customers. Research conducted by Sitecore revealed that 61 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds (Generation Z) are less loyal to brands now than before the pandemic, with three in 10 consumers also expecting to return to more in-store shopping, highlighting the realities of the challenges ahead.
In order to remain loyal, customers need to be provided with value and a reason to not look elsewhere. Personalizing customer experiences through technology and data insights is one such way of doing this. By engaging with customers in the right place at the right time and acknowledging their wider needs, you'll be able to build trust, provide them with value, and increase your chances of retaining them for the long term.
The Benefits of Advancing Technologies
With footfall to stores down by more than 60 percent in some areas during the pandemic, online sales through video call, live chat and social media surged in popularity. As a whole, the pace of digital transformation has increased during this period, with the Apteco 2021 Data Trends Report also showing that 9 percent of businesses adopted new technology specifically due to the pandemic.
In the face of uncertainty, new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can aid us significantly by looking at situations objectively and removing biases and emotions where we may struggle ourselves.
With demand and customer behavior likely to be rather unpredictable for some time yet, AI and digital technologies can also help to predict and assist the steering of wider decisions that will need to be made as a result, where we as humans would be much slower to react.
Personalizing Your Offerings to Provide Value
AI can also be used to help personalize your offerings to provide value to customers. By detecting elements and attributes that predict certain client behaviors, deciding which actions will have the highest degree of success and developing the way it acts with each iteration, AI can significantly improve the effectiveness of your campaigns and use highly tailored approaches to service each unique customer segment.
Google Analytics and your CRM, operational analytics and transactional data can also show changes in behavior and key areas of interest for your customers. Using this data to inform your actions will show consideration for the needs of your customers, as well as strengthen your relationships with them in order to keep them engaged and well served by your business.
What Learnings From the Pandemic Can We Adopt Into Long-Term Strategies?
The COVID-19 crisis has pushed businesses to adapt and pivot like never before in order to survive. This flexibility to switch strategies and take a new approach is undoubtedly a benefit to any business, and one that's only likely to buffer them against further problems in the future.
Previously, year-over-year data may have been used to draw comparisons and spot trends or changes in consumer behavior. However, in some cases, using month-over-month data, or even data from shorter time periods, can be more helpful when circumstances are rapidly changing and data can quickly become outdated or inaccurate.
It's also crucial to remember that the customer should be at the heart of any business. Through the turbulence, pivoting and re-pivoting, businesses all took a step back to look at what people wanted "now," which is a thought process that should continue, as ultimately, no business can survive for long without customers.
James Alty is the managing director at Apteco, a privately owned software development business specializing in marketing data analysis and multichannel campaign management solutions.
Related story: Retailers Adapting Digital Marketing Strategies for Customer Acquisition, Retention
James is a technologist with over 30 years’ experience in the marketing analysis and automation arenas. As Founder and MD of Apteco, James leads the business designing, developing and supporting the Apteco Marketing Suite™ for thousands of users worldwide. Apteco is based in Warwick, UK and delivers software and services through offices in Frankfurt, Sydney and Rotterdam working with a global network of partner firms. James is experienced in B2B, B2C and not for profit marketing having worked on numerous marketing database, analytics and campaign management projects.
James graduated from Manchester University in Computation and started his career with Logica in The Netherlands, before moving on to found Apteco in 1987. He is always happy with the latest gadgets and able to understand both users’ and developers’ requirements. Outside Apteco, James is a qualified private pilot, single-speed cyclist, community volunteer and vice president of the local members’ sports club where he plays squash.