3 minute read 12 Jun 2020
Smiling businesswoman using cell phone in office

COVID-19: How CMOs can help companies get closer to customers

By

Janet Balis

EY Global Media & Entertainment Consulting Services Leader

Transformation leader in media and marketing. Innovator. Digital native. Change agent. Passionate advocate for women and gender parity. Influencer. Mother.

3 minute read 12 Jun 2020

B2C businesses must rethink customer strategy and assess and connect the lasting effects relative to physical and digital interactions.

In brief
  • Digital behaviors accelerated palpably. Consumers seek experiences that are relevant, frictionless and anticipatory, where possible, while still respecting their privacy.
  • In the physical world, consumers hope to return to a sense of normality while protecting their safety.
  • Across the physical-digital divide, consumers value brands that display values consistent with their own, communicating transparently and expressing empathy authentically.

As consumers emerge from isolation, they will return to a world of new rules, safety considerations and potential social distancing norms. EY Future Consumer Index suggests consumers will be more risk aware, for example 52% say they will change the way they shop with 70% of those consumers more concerned about hygiene and sanitation.

With consumer brand preferences likely shaken by product availability and their buying patterns disrupted by either new economic realities or shifts in their values, the question is: what customer strategies will it take to thrive in the new post-COVID-19 world?

EY Future Consumer Index

52%

of consumers will change the way they shop.

Ten actions for Chief Marketing Officers (CMO)

1. Sustain leadership momentum

If COVID-19 motivated new ways for leadership teams to work together around accelerating the digital agenda, we all must find ways to maintain that momentum. Search for ways to sustain the positive effects of breaking down the silos by function and geography to create value faster.

2. Accelerate first party data growth

The crisis showed us that we needed precision in messaging by geography, customer segment and supply chain condition, all of which is enabled by access to first party data. For most companies, consolidating, growing and enriching consumer data has taken on new urgency. Companies that harness the power of their data, while building a powerful foundation of privacy compliance and data security, will be well positioned to personalize experiences and maximize marketing outcomes.

3. Build from the outside in

If you kick the tires of your digital experience and find friction, that means consumers are experiencing the same friction in their digital journeys to learn about products or services, buy them, or seek customer service. Wherever possible, we must prioritize “outside-in” assessments of the digital experience to keep us honest about the priorities and remove pain points.

4. Adapt innovation strategies

Whether innovation was sourced internally, from stables of investments, or from consumers directly, the priorities have likely shifted given how quickly behaviors and values changed due to COVID-19. While social listening is certainly not new, the question is: how we can we add new sources of data to our sentiment analysis, do it more often and elevate the visibility of these analyses to drive our innovation efforts?

5. Accelerate direct-to-consumer/e-commerce

While e-commerce is not necessarily appropriate for every business, many consumer-facing companies are recognizing that their direct-to-consumer acquisitions were either not sufficiently integrated and scaled, or they found their e-commerce technologies had not advanced quickly enough to keep pace with the scale or expectations of consumers post-COVID.

6. Virtualized service

As more sales move from physical to digital experiences, customer care will follow the same pattern. Safety concerns motivated companies to accelerate ideas around self-service kits or remote video assistance, and these moves now afford the opportunity to permanently scale virtualized service and reduce costs while enhancing both customer and employee safety.

7. Prioritize use cases for marketing technology

The “tech stack” does not just need to be built out – it needs to be built out appropriately to what will actually be used and will create value. It is important to understand which use cases add the most value to customer growth and configure technology with those priorities in mind as quickly as possible, focusing on adoption of the new capabilities by the organization.

8. Embrace digital technology to create safety

Safety will become the new expectation for both employees and customers entering retail. Touchless payment systems are likely to accelerate over concerns about contact at checkout. For example, research shows 59% of consumers are now using contactless payments more often, with 54% increasingly using smartphones to pay or credit cards (42%) to avoid physical risk.1

There may also be opportunities to dovetail mobile experiences even more aggressively in physical retail to facilitate navigation and purchase while enhancing social distancing.

EY Future Consumer Index

59%

of consumers are now using contactless payments more often to avoid physical risk.

9. Wire for marketing agility

The only thing that is certain is that circumstances will continue to change. So, companies will need to wire themselves to be agile, relative to brand marketing and communications, on an ongoing basis. Paid media, websites, social and communications all need to be adjusted dynamically based on shifts in constantly changing situations. Companies have the opportunity to better wire internal operations across silos and external agencies for the longer-term model they need.

10. Communicate with empathy

And finally, we know that consumers will continue to build deeper relationships with brands they trust. Trust starts with belief. Companies that managed through COVID-19 with empathy and transparency were rewarded with loyalty, and this best practice is one that should persist as economic, health and geo-political dynamics continue to unfold.

EY Future Consumer Index

34%

of consumers will pay a premium for brands they trust.

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Summary

With consumer brand preferences likely shaken by product availability and their buying patterns disrupted by either new economic realities or shifts in their values, the question for CMOs is: what customer strategies will it take to thrive in the new post-COVID-19 world?

About this article

By

Janet Balis

EY Global Media & Entertainment Consulting Services Leader

Transformation leader in media and marketing. Innovator. Digital native. Change agent. Passionate advocate for women and gender parity. Influencer. Mother.