The COVID 19 pandemic of 2020 brought on a profound socio-economic impact to the entire world. Not only have businesses been forced to change in their approach but the term customer engagement is quickly evolving with customer expectations shifting, necessitating more intelligent customer interactions.

Some would argue, that this is something business should have done a long time ago, well before the global pandemic arrived. This argument strengthens when we all hear of companies only growing and gaining market share, because their digital transformation was set in place before the pandemic hit the world.

In many cases, this pandemic disruption of 2020, has accelerated the trends in rethinking of how businesses and brands should be engaging their customers in the digital age. These trends have important implications for how businesses build lasting relationships with customers, which means businesses need to carefully consider what is the “new normal” FOR THE CUSTOMER?

The competitive advantage lies in consumer insight data from their experiences

The importance of being data and insights driven cannot be underestimated in these unprecedented times. We often hear businesses say that one of their challenges is to understanding how to manage the expectations of consumers due to their changing behaviour patterns. But to cope with such challenges, it requires structuring the data collection, so you are collecting the needed data for decision-making. Often businesses have the necessary data but do not invest time and resources to generate the insights and work towards altering the strategies and enhancing the customer experiences.
To contextualise this further. Every time a consumer swipes on a mobile device screen or post a status update to social media, they leave a trail of data on their preferences and behaviours, meaning that these interactions provide businesses the opportunity to use those insights to create more personalised experiences, either through better pricing, specific products/services or overall purpose.

Accelerated shift to digital channels – Early days of the ‘New Normal’

The value of digital channels increased greatly through the months of lockdown. Millions of people have turned away from physical shopping (offline) where possible,  to online shopping. Many businesses had to close down their physical stores as engaging in physical retail became a health risks.

As society began to reopen after the first wave, the convenience of working from home or shopping online became a new connivence that people got used to. According to Visa, the growth in eCommerce has also been seen in countries where consumers tried online shopping for the first time, such as Latin America, where 13 million people made their first-ever online transaction.

Two things to rethink for your customer experience

  1. Better understand your customers and their journey. You have a product that your customer’s need, but do you understand when they want it, why they want it and how they would like to receive it? By understanding your customers and their journey much better, you can give them the right content through the selling cycle and creating a stronger, more compelling experience.
  2. Your customer is mobile. Think ‘mobile first’ and ‘omnichannel’, as online traffic from mobile phones has overtaken traffic from desktops in 2016. There are many brands that have still failed to acknowledge this in 2020.

Trust is more important than ever

In the “Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic” report from Edelman, they state, “the need for specific brand action to help address the societal challenges posed by Covid-19”, and and adding to that, “71 percent agree that if a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever”.

Building Trust with Intelligent Content

The Content Marketing Institute quoted Ann Rockley as saying “Intelligent content is content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.”

To be able to deliver the right content* (message, information, advertisement, video, email, Article or WhitePaper) to a customer in the right part of their journey, will simply build the customer’s trust in a brand.

The Content Marketing Institute describe Intelligent Content as having the following traits:

  • A strategic approach to developing and managing content as a business asset. 
  • Efficient use of content processes, people, and technology.
  • Content efforts that scale.
  • Content designed for automation, including content components that can be mixed and matched assembly-line style.
  • Content that’s appropriately structured for retrieval and reuse. 
  • Content that’s personalized in ways that deliver value for customers and potential customers: the right content delivered to the right person at the right time regardless of device. 

Getting Started with Intelligent Content

Content marketing has started to mature as a discipline in the industry, and there are many good agencies that can assist with applying Intelligent Content to their overall customer journey strategy.

Here are some basic steps that you should ensure that are followed.

  1. Conduct a content audit (at least once a year) to understand which content is consumed by customers, how it is consumed and why it is consumed.
  2. Look at what content can be automated and structure it for reuse.
  3. Thirdly understand what users find engaging content and create more.

Many of these steps can be evaluated through your analytics tool, and looking at the engagement metrics by ‘Average time on Page’ and ‘Bounce Rate’.

It is important to remember that every consumer interaction elicits an emotion. And during these times, brands need to consider not just how to meet the consumer’s rational needs but reach them on an emotional level and drive this emotional connection through personalisation, relevance and authenticity.

In the words of Maya Angelou – “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

This article was written for the Brand Leadership Community by Faizan Syed, who has worked in management consultancy with companies such as Accenture and CapGemini. He has a Master’s Degree in International Business and Communications from the Copenhagen Business School.

Faizan is a founding member of the Brand Leadership Community Advisory group.

You can visit Faizan’s profile on Linkedin here

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