Strong customer relationships are a key factor in the growth and development of any brand and business. The social distancing protocol and lockdown amidst the pandemic have put a dent in reaching out to relevant audiences. Even though lockdown has been lifted in many places, things are not the same. With COVID-19 still prevalent, social distancing is of utmost importance to both businesses and consumers alike. Connecting with users while following the social distancing protocols is challenging, especially, for those who predominantly interacted with customers in physical settings.
Building connections with customers, however, is more than just talking to them or interacting with them on text for business purposes. Customer engagement involves connecting with them, understanding their needs and desires and to meet them in ways that help build trust and loyalty for the brand. Health, safety (physical and financial), and social engagement are the priority for customers today and brands need to address these needs to truly connect with their customers.
How can businesses and brands engage with customers during COVID-19?
According to the PwC consumer insight survey, before the pandemic, only 9% of people used to shop for groceries online. Post COVID-19 breakout, the numbers have risen to almost 63%, and 86% shared they are likely to continue shopping using online and mobile services even after social distancing measures are removed. Video, chat, and other social media consumption & usage have seen an increase of 50% and more than 80% of people shared that they are likely to maintain the current rate of use.
With consumer presence increasing online, it is essential to connect with audiences through various digital channels. Brands that are present on different online platforms have higher chances of connecting with their customers which can result in higher customer satisfaction. Some of the most common platforms to engage are Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Videos and voice based platforms being the primary consumption modes, businesses need to figure out ways to utilize these platforms to connect better with existing & prospective customers. Scaling up digital and social media presence can help both B2B & B2C brands to stay relevant and on top of their game.
Show your support & care
Empathy is key for businesses to show that ‘we are in this together’. Brands and businesses can show care by addressing the need of the hour: consumer health and safety. Brands that work on these can help build trust and loyalty with the customers.
Showing care and empathy can mean different things for different brands. Companies that deal with products can adopt practices such as contactless delivery and a timely check of their personnel on the field to ensure consumers feel safe. Understanding the woes of the consumers by providing pragmatic solutions to their financial distress also shows that brands care. For example, Burger King in the US introduced an offer where families who relied on school lunches to feed their children can get two free kids meals on any purchase through the Burger King app. Providing discounts or providing EMI options can also help increase customer engagement and build a long-lasting consumer base.
Many brands like Coursera, LinkedIn learning, etc. are offering their services free of cost to teachers and students to deal with the challenges of online education effectively. Showing active participation in solving challenges for targeted people in the community shows values that attract customers.
Build spaces for consumers to connect
Albert Einstein once said – “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity”. Brands and businesses can optimize the changing times to connect innovatively with their customers. Social distancing need not mean being distant and brands can play an important role in helping people overcome their feeling of alienation. Businesses and brands can host various virtual events like webinars, zoom meetings, etc. and conduct activities to satisfy the social needs of their consumers. For example, many retail brands like Chanel, Marc Jacobs, etc. are utilizing and becoming creative with their online presence by hosting virtual musical events to offer guided drawing classes online.
Viral challenges such as flip the switch challenge, doodle challenges, trick shot challenge, etc. have seen huge engagement from users online in the past few months. Being part of these challenges and/or promoting them among your audience can help brands and businesses connect furthermore with users. Be it during or post lockdown, commenting, reacting, or sharing emphatic thoughts to customer messages on social media always result in positive customer experience.
Provide useful & meaningful information
Spreading awareness and helping consumers receive authentic messages related to the situation is another way brands and businesses can show their support to the larger society. McDonald’s tweaked their logo to emphasize the need for practicing social distancing measures for safety. Share informative messages through virtual platforms and help customers receive accurate data and reduce the spread of false rumors.
Many people have started to take online courses to build new skills or advance their present skills. Brands can support their consumers by educating them on skills that can help make their life at home easier and fun. Along with educational content, brands can also provide ‘How to’ content to hone cooking, gardening, art, or craft – skills that people can build at home – to increase customer engagement.
The actions and responses of businesses and brands during these times can have a long-lasting impact on their relationship with the consumers. In these trying times, customer experience and engagement means addressing consumer needs, connecting with empathy, and showing care.