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How customer engagement is evolving in the new normal

Guest Column: Continuously engaging with the customer is key to staying competitive, writes Sunny Kataria, Head of Commercial Verticals, OLX Advertising

e4m by Sunny Kataria
Published: Dec 18, 2020 2:38 PM  | 5 min read
Sunny Kataria

At the beginning of the year, not many knew what social distancing meant. Wearing a mask was unheard of when stepping outside the home, at least in India. This just goes to show how quickly the world has changed due to Covid-19 and how unprecedented the current situation is.

Understandably, the pandemic has altered consumer behaviour in the past few months, with health and safety becoming a top priority, and most people shifting to online buying. In fact, businesses across industries – even those that traditionally relied on touch and feel such as new and pre-owned cars – have seen purchases move from in-person to online or digital.

The trend of online buying doesn’t seem to be diminishing even as the Covid-19 situation is stabilising. In fact, online buying is likely to even see an increase as customers get comfortable with the medium and start trusting it more. An industry survey revealed that 69% of customers said they will continue to buy online and that they will be fine if they never have to shop in a physical store ever again. 1-This proves that investing in digital experiences is the way forward for businesses.

In such a scenario, customer-centricity takes centre-stage. By understanding what the customer needs, businesses can not only elevate their engagement during the buying journey, but also build trust, loyalty, and a solid reputation. Continuously engaging with the customer is, in fact, the key to fostering innovation and staying competitive in this new normal.

This is exactly what the digital classifieds industry is doing. By keeping the customer at the core and personalising experiences, the industry is booming. A Google-KPMG report projected the size of the digital classifieds segment in India to touch a staggering US$1.2 billion in 2020. As they minimise stepping out, more and more customers are placing their trust in classified portals, and even willing to pay for value-added services such as quality check and verification. The report further stated this growth is being driven by automobiles, e-services and real estate. 2-At the end of the day, it is all about engaging your customers and how.

4 ways to engage customers in the new normal

The golden rule of marketing, ‘be where your customers are’, still stands true in this new normal world. So if all customers are online, that is where brands have to engage them as well.

Brands have to adapt to make digital their default approach. Here’s how they can do so;

Re-look and re-invent your digital touchpoints: While businesses had started their digital transformation journey before the pandemic hit, it definitely fast-tracked the move. Go back and take a look at your current digital touchpoints to see if they still work. See if and where your target audience has moved. Invest in mediums where customers come with an intent to buy. For example, online buying and selling portals have captured audience that is not just window shopping but looking to buy a specific product. Targeting a customer on such a portal offers a higher possibility of translating into a purchase.

Create a unique customer experience: Earlier digital interactions were supplemented by face to face engagements; however, it is no longer the case. Pivot your approach to be purely digital. For example, when buying a car earlier, the customer would do some basic browsing online on aggregator sites for new or pre-owned cars, and then contact the seller or dealership to actually experience what is on offer. Today, they would like to conduct their entire due diligence online and minimise touchpoints. In such a scenario, portals can provide content/FAQs that address all queries for buyers and sellers, verify all users for authenticity, personalise online communication, provide bespoke recommendations of car features that will suit them the most, and enable robust cyber security measures. Those who adopt such changes will definitely gain an edge over the competition.

Anticipate customer needs: Your customer needs you now more than ever to help make buying decisions. Make an effort to understand what their preferences are and personalise your offering for them so that they keep coming back for more. People are staying in and spending hours on online entertainment streaming sites. Taking advantage of this situation, Netflix continuously engages with its customers. Every time they watch a particular show or movie, it learns about their taste and provides them with hundreds of recommendations of similar content to watch. By anticipating their wants and proving a curated list of shows, Netflix has its customers hooked.

Leverage social media to converse: People are lonely with having to quarantine and be at home. To stay connected with the outside world, they are constantly on social media and messaging apps. Reach out to them on these platforms to make meaningful conversations. Use social media to show you care, as well as send your message across. Kellogg India did this in a brilliant way. It released a series of ads on social media to motivate kids to stay at home during the pandemic by making staying indoors fun. It tickled children’s creativity by encouraging them to visualise their home be whatever they want it to be. This initiative engaged its customers in a unique way, reassured them during this tough time, and helped build trust for the brand.

As the Covid-19 situation continues to evolve, so is consumer behaviour. Brands will have to be agile and adapt to changing customer needs and wants. These digital strategies will help them build strong relationships that will last even after the crisis passes.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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