As Darwin taught us, the species that survive are not the strongest but those that know how to adapt to their environment. At the beginning of the crisis, we all witnessed companies that were able to completely revise their business model to adapt to the new reality. They were quick and agile. Exit approval processes! On March 12, 2020, every business became so to speak a startup.
Now that we are in lockdown lifting mode, we must maintain the same attitude. We need to strike a balance between responsiveness and proactivity. On one hand, dealing with the changing context, on the other hand acting by making more fundamental changes to get ready for the future.
To do this, the key success of your reopening plan must be based on 3 fundamental elements:
- Monitor: Be on the lookout more than ever to identify changes in your customers’ behaviour. However, you must be able to distinguish a fad to an emerging trend.
- Act: Based on what you observe, make changes quickly. Identify quick wins and prioritize actions that require greater efforts.
- Adjust: Once an action is taken, measure its impact and quickly adjust if the expected impact is not achieved.
1. Identify key metrics and track them effectively
As we know, since the beginning of the crisis, business managers have had their eyes glued to their cash flows. Revenues and expenses are scrutinized under a magnifying glass. What else do you need to watch out for in these times of uncertainty?
Take the time to identify what really matters to your business. You need to make up as much of your turnover as possible. At the same time, you must adapt to new rules while dealing with a more limited budget. In short, you must know how to identify the actions that will have the greatest impact at the lowest cost.
Knowing that, how do we find our way around? First, make sure you have dashboards or reports to effectively track your key metrics. If you already have them, clean them up to focus on the KPIs that really matter. Too many indicators and you end up not tracking anything at all. Moreover, you were looking at once a month before, now track it weekly and quickly identify emerging trends. Also, make sure you have reports that allow you to drill down into your key metrics to validate whether a trend is generalized or not. For example, drill down by customer segment, by geographic sector, by product category to better understand where the variations are coming from. But most importantly, keep in mind that approximate information at the right time is much better than perfect information that is late. Being nimble is key.
2. Analyze your customers’ behaviour before – during and after lockdown
Be on the lookout for any changes in your customers’ behaviour. There is no denying that online business has taken a huge leap forward since March. But with the reopening, what is happening? Which customers bought online during the lockdown? Which customers will continue to do so after lockdown lifting? Was the shopping cart different? What about after the reopening of the physical stores? What behaviors have changed after the reopening? Are there products that are better suited for online shopping? Even if you follow up on a regular basis, be vigilant and do not be too quick to make changes. You need to know how to distinguish ephemeral jolts from new trends.
In addition, a good practice is to follow the evolution of your customer segments. Did your best customers remain loyal to you during the lockdown? Have they returned since the reopening? How has the crisis changed their customer experience? In fact, it is your loyal customers who will help you detect these changes. Occasional customers are too sporadic to make meaningful observations.
3. Listen to your customers
Active listening has a positive impact on the customer experience, which greatly contributes to customer loyalty. By maintaining open communication, you can keep up with your customers’ changing needs. As a result, it will be easier to identify problems, make better decisions and act more quickly.
As we are witnessing the gradual opening of businesses, think about surveying your customers. Surveys are a great way to gather feedback. If you continued to offer your products and services online during the lockdown, be sure to tailor your questions. You need to address customers who remained active differently from those who left you. This will allow you to better understand each other’s motivations.
Make sure you hear as many customers as possible. To do this, gather customer feedback from your different channels and touchpoints. Once you have gathered this feedback, measure and analyze it to take action, resolve issues and improve. The purpose of this analysis is to identify trends. However, be careful about noise and isolate what is anecdotal from what represents a real trend. To do this, categorize the comments and identify their frequency. Depending on the number of comments collected, you can classify them manually. Alternatively, opt for a more automated sentiment analysis solution. These solutions allow you to classify positive, negative, or neutral comments by theme.
4. Reconquering its base first and foremost
If you have not already done so, identify your best customers, both in monetary terms and in terms of engagement through RFM segmentation (R: Recency; F: Frequency and M: Monetary Value). You may not know it, but a large part of your sales (between 70% and 80%) comes from a small part of your customers (between 20-30%). Needless to say, even before you acquire new customers, make sure you win back your best customers who have left you. In this sense, and especially in this context, a win-back program generates a very interesting return on investment. For those who have remained loyal, be thankful! To better illustrate the point, would you buy a gift of the same value to your best friend as you would to a distant acquaintance? But that does not mean ignoring others. Make sure that your promotional and communication budgets are allocated according to the value and potential of your customer segments. This would be a quick win to implement. That said, while you are encouraging your existing customers to come back and visit you, there is nothing stopping you from continuing to acquire new customers online. Doing so reduces pressure on physical channels while pursuing a vital acquisition strategy.
5. Testing for quick adaptation
In a crisis, we are subject to rapid change. Adopting the right strategy, developing better offers, and finding the right message can become daunting tasks. Implementing an A/B testing strategy can greatly contribute to your success in recovery. Rather than relying solely on intuition, A/B testing execution allows you to measure the difference in performance between two versions of a marketing component. It can be an offer, an execution channel, a pricing strategy, or a call to action for example.
In the test, half of the target audience is exposed to version “A” and the other half to version “B”. This way you can measure the performance of each version and see if the behaviour has changed between these two groups.
With the changes of the last few months and those to come, a strategy that worked before may not work now. But testing will help you understand what works best and thus adopt the right strategy with confidence.
6. Manage your inventory efficiently
There is a tendency to dissociate the supply chain from the customer experience when we know that a product that is out of stock can be a major irritant. That is even more so true if customers have to wait in a queue before entering the store. Demand forecasting is particularly difficult at this time and will be just as difficult, if not more so, when business resumes fully. The sales history of the last few years is not very useful now. Knowing this, the history of the last few weeks, or even days, can tell us a lot. In this context, a balance must be struck between anticipating increased demand (to avoid stock shortages) and overstocking (hindering your cashflows). Moreover, to better understand demand, we need to be able to estimate the impact of stock-outs and not just the volume of products sold. With e-commerce, an out-of-stock condition can mean that a customer will abandon his entire shopping cart if an item is missing.
It will also be an opportunity to review your demand forecasting methods. Machine learning models can detect jolts in demand more quickly and efficiently than traditional, commonly used techniques (and subsidies to companies are available for this purpose).
7. Adapt your communication strategy
Your customers, employees and partners need to know that you are there for them and that you support them. Now more than ever, it is important to maintain clear, transparent, and regular communications with them.
Be transparent and empathetic: Everyone is affected by the current crisis. The important thing is to be transparent and honest. Clients expect clear and concise information about any changes in your organization that may affect them. Use a fair and humane tone, while staying true to your brand.
Communicate regularly: In times of crisis, how often you communicate is as important as what you communicate. The idea is not to flood your clients’ email inboxes. Communicate with them at appropriate times. Let them know about health measures, undertaken initiatives and any changes to your products and services. Remember that the same information should be available and consistent throughout all channels.
Promote dialogue: If communication is important, dialogue is even more important. Disseminating information one way, without ever engaging in dialogue with your customers, can greatly damage your image. Online chat tools are a great way to dialogue with your customers. They allow you to quickly answer your customers’ questions and help them in their purchasing process. In addition, they can contribute positively to customer satisfaction and give you access to valuable information.
Measure and be prepared: It is essential to know when and what to communicate. To help you make the right decisions, measure the response to your communications, monitor comments and questions from your customers and employees. You may not have the answers to all questions but follow up on all communications appropriately.
Finally, stay tuned and adjust as the situation evolves. If you cannot predict the future, you can prepare for change. Things are changing rapidly right now, so stay agile.
8. Adopt an omnichannel strategy
Periods of crisis cause turmoil and change, thus generating several opportunities for innovation. With social distancing measures in place, consumers are increasingly present online. Their expectations are increasingly high. A study conducted before the crisis indicates that 75% of consumers expect a consistent omnichannel experience, while 73% are likely to switch brands if they do not get it.
If your company does not have an omnichannel strategy, it is high time to make this shift.
An omnichannel strategy is not just about offering e-commerce. It unifies the customer experience by allowing your customers to interact with different channels with ease. It strengthens your brand signature and adds differentiator. A simple image to illustrate it all: the ability to have store-bought pants that needed alterations delivered to your home or return the dress purchased online to the store.
To begin, identify the issues that are blocking you and solve them one by one. You do not have to be on all fronts from day one. Use your data to identify your target customers and the channels they interact with the most. Segmenting your customer base can help you better understand your audience and map customer journeys. . That way, you can better respond to their specific needs. You will also be able to prioritize your efforts around the most profitable segments and those that represent the best potential for your organization. In addition, you will be able to identify the first channels to be integrated into your ecosystem. Also take the time to identify the systems that are blocking you and the solutions that will allow you to adapt.
Adopting an omnichannel strategy will allow you to collect more data about your customers. This data will enrich your strategy over time. Loyalty programs can also contribute greatly to your omnichannel strategy. These programs allow you to associate more easily buying behaviors with customers and thus accelerate your knowledge of your clientele.
Data will allow you to monitor, act and adjust with confidence.
BIO: Andréanne Rondeau is an accomplished loyalty marketing specialist. Over the last 15 years she has led several successful loyalty program projects from original idea to launch phase in various sectors. Deeply passionate about every aspect of customer loyalty, she has found stratLX in 2018, a company providing loyalty consulting services.
BIO: Sébastien Giroux is seasoned analytic strategist also well versed in marketing and loyalty with over 20 years of experience in various sectors. His passion: help address business issues through tailored AI solutions. In 2017, he joined SolutionStat, based in Montreal, where he is the Vice President of Consulting services and Operations.