In recent months, we’ve seen consumer spending habits change, brands being forced to innovate, and new government guidelines alter our everyday habits in response to COVID-19. Brands are refocusing on customer-centric approaches to maintain customer relationships and thrive during the economic downturn.
In fact, according to recent research by Merkle, marketers continue to invest in new ways to better serve their customers. A majority of marketers (52%) reported increased spending during March-June 2020. This varies somewhat by industry, with heath, insurance and retail reporting the highest increases in marketing spend.
Top Priorities During Pandemic
When asked to select the top three tactical priorities during the pandemic, respondents cited trying new marketing technologies or features (50%), becoming more consumer centric in marketing messaging (45%), and developing new transaction fulfillment capabilities (42%) as their top priorities.
Communicating with customer and prospects has also increased in importance with 54% of respondents stating that communicating with customers was significantly mor important and 37% stating that communicating with prospects was significantly more important.
Spend on Marketing Technology
To achieve marketing objectives, marketers have increased spend in several key areas including:
- 56% – Site/Mobile Chat
- 55% – Mobile App Functionality
- 51% – email
- 50% – Video
- 47% – DMP
- 47% – Marketing Database
Marketers also stated they are likely to replace technologies within the next five years:
The pandemic also brought to light certain pain points that marketers are facing including:
- 46% – We take too long to make a marketing decision
- 43% – Data are in too many places to be useful
- 38% – We don’t leverage the data we have
Communicating with consumers with messaging that resonates is more important than ever as stated by brands in Merkle’s research. Becoming more customer-centric is about more than just offering good customer-service but is a mindset that should infiltrate an entire company culture. Just look at Amazon as a great example of putting customers first in everything. Customer-centricity is about providing great customer experiences, which in turn drives repeat business.
Customer experience has been touted as the key differentiator that can make or break a brand and this has never been so apparent as now, when brands are all vying to thrive and compete for the same customers.
Prior to the COVID disruption, take a look at the importance of customer experience (and imagine how much more so this is true now)
- Companies that prioritized and effectively managed customer experience were three times more likely than their peers to have significantly exceeded their top business goals in 2019. (Source: Adobe/Econsultancy)
- CX drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty, outperforming brand and price combined, according to CX leaders. However, over 70% of CX leaders said they struggle to design projects that increase customer loyalty and achieve results. (Source: Gartner)
- Speed, convenience, helpful employees, and friendly service matter most to over 70% of consumers. Companies that get it right prioritize technologies that foster or provide these benefits over adopting technology for the sake of being cutting edge. (Source: PwC)
- About two-thirds of survey respondents said they have a senior CX leader and a centralized CX team in place. Of those organizations with a centralized team, one-third have 11 or more full-time CX employees. (Source: Qualtrics)
- Improving CX can be massively worthwhile. For example, for mass-market auto manufacturers, improving CX by one point can lead to more than $1 billion in additional revenue. (Source: Forrester)
- CX covers a range of activities, from voice of the customer (VoC) to customer journey mapping and user experience—and we see them more often consolidating within marketing. Between 49% and 56% of marketers said their functions are solely responsible for these activities. (Source: Gartner)
- Measuring customer retention and customer satisfaction are considered the most effective CX metrics for about two-thirds (65%) of marketing professionals. Customer lifetime value is also an effective metric for 41% of those surveyed. (Source: Ascend2)
- Forty-two percent of consumers worldwide would pay more for a friendly, welcoming experience. And among U.S. customers, 65% find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising. (Source: PwC)
- A fundamental organizational change of mindset that focuses on the customer, along with operational and IT improvements, can generate a 20% to 30% uplift in customer satisfaction and a 10% to 20% improvement in employee satisfaction. (Source: McKinsey)
Customer-centric marketing begins with a solid foundation of data insights. This includes anything from basic contact information, to behavioral insights and past and present purchase history. By collecting and integrating this data, brands can better understand their customers’ priorities and preferences.
Additionally, brands should supplement CRM data with third-party data enhancement to correct wrong information and append missing details. This also includes adding demographic or firmographic insights and in-market purchase behavior.
A comprehensive customer view will not only help you see what your customers have done, but it will also help you figure out where they might be going next.
By maintaining a consistent customer view, this data can be used to drive better forecasts and more reliable predictive analytics.
In the Merkle research, brands are planning to invest more heavily in first-party data capture. 67% o respondents stated they have implemented new programs and58% are investing more heavily in existing programs.
Marketers clearly understand the importance of marketing innovation to drive business growth at this time and also have an idea of where this spend should take place, such as on customer-centric communications, data collection and data activation. Marketers must continue to recalibrate and evaluate solutions to drive experiences and meaningful engagement with consumers.
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