Since the double dip recession of 2008/2012, many companies are finding themselves in troubled waters yet again. No two economic downturns are alike and hence it is important to understand the changing consumption patterns of your customers and fine-tune your engagement strategies accordingly. Against this crisis backdrop, most brands, retailers and manufacturers are rigorously searching for some level of stability. For prolonged success, connecting and engaging with loyal customers is critical. Customers are buying less, reducing budgets and becoming risk-averse. This situation has made the entire ecosystem even more competitive as brands are fighting for pieces of a smaller pie. So, bend over backwards to keep your existing customers happy and make sure you reward their loyalty. To serve a loyal customer well, identify how they function, what influences or triggers their decisions and how has their buying behavior changed. Be prepared to adapt to their current needs because flexibility is vital. Show them what you’re bringing to the table and how your company is helping them satisfy their needs.
“During an upturn, consumers are more open to new products,” says Andrew Swinand, CEO of Leo Burnett. “In a downturn, people focus more on value.” Your strategies need to reflect an empathetic view of the current economic climate. Your customers need to see that you understand the challenges in the market and that you appreciate their loyalty to the brand.
Here’s how you can connect with your customers during a recession and make your business unswayed by the uncertain times:
- Invest in new customer engagement platforms – In order to cultivate loyalty, the best way is to offer exceptional products and services to customers that exceed their expectations. Another great way is to provide them information that is useful. Podcasts are fast becoming mainstream because they build an emotional connection. Podcasts inform and educate customers and they instinctively associate your brand with the message they hear from trusted professionals. Connect with your audience and drive customer engagement better than ever before. Using Facebook Live to stream tutorials, Q&A sessions, presentations or demos and insights about your business is another proven way to engage and connect with your customers.
- Use social media as your engagement tool – One of the most effective ways to connect with your customers is social media. It can be used to engage your customers, proactively respond to their concerns and questions and ask them for recommendations on your products and services to gain insights into their thoughts, preferences and behaviors. For example, based on customer feedback, ranging from color preferences for laptops, to screen sizes, Lenovo has mastered product development.
- Take Mobile-first approach – In this instant and on-the-go world, use of text messages or app push notifications is a cost-effective, relevant and proven strategy to connect with customers. With real time tools, advanced analytics and flexibility at scale, connecting with customers through mobile is gaining popularity. Brands are able to send engaging personalized messages to customers accessing their mobile site or app. Cleartrip uses AI-powered marketing automation to enable ‘Personalized Smart Triggers’ for its app users. Banks send push notifications with multiple savings schemes to their customers. These notifications are further personalized for each customer based on their app behavior and banking patterns. Mobile brand loyalty programs are also on the rise and they encourage customers to use the app to gain points for every purchase. It can also be done by scanning the QR code to register.
- Newsletters improve customer engagement – Customers want to feel catered to and valued. Newsletters allow you to send targeted information to your customers and is a great way to stay on people’s radar. “Send out a newsletter about 10 times per year,” says Stan C. Kimer, president, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer. Segment your newsletters based on business verticals and construct targeted content for better engagement. Also, integrating social media functionality is a must.
- Retail rewards program – A well thought out and strategic loyalty program is your most critical asset at retaining your most profitable customers. Before commencing a loyalty program, identify the compelling benefits of having one in place. Well executed reward programs encourage loyal customers to keep coming back for more and drive referrals. Make sure your loyalty program is easy to understand, personalized and the rewards are very relevant and meaningful. While planning your loyalty program, establish business goals, identify key customers, determine customer preferences and how you will track participation. Reebok UNLOCKED offers VIP experiences, training and wellness programs, partner rewards, limited edition footwear and much more.
Recessions are inevitable and during such times, laying down a foundation for success through connecting and engaging with customers with a strategic loyalty program can help you navigate the economic downturn and position your business for long-term growth.