Envisioning the Ideals of the New Customer Journey for 2021 & Beyond

The way your customers interact with your brands has changed a lot over the past year. This shift in customer behavior is not ephemeral though; it will remain as a new trend in the post-pandemic era and is all set to change the customer journey. 

The marketers who embrace a more customer-centric and data-driven approach will win and thrive over those who revert back to their pre-pandemic practices.

In order to ensure customers’ success and elevate their customer experience management (CXM) indexes, companies must identify how customers want to engage, the channels through which they want to, and when. 

How Have Customers’ Behaviors Changed in the Post-Pandemic Era

Though some of the developments in the customers’ behaviors have been involuntary others have been catalyzed and accelerated by the increased adoption of digital transformation. Behavioral studies and past behaviors can offer answers. 

Behavior and habit changes are also directly linked to the extent of exposure to new environments. The digital experiences of the customers across all industries are at an all-time high. They want a seamless experience across omnichannel and the marketers need to work hard for creating expectations that insurers must meet to gain engagement and drive the conversions. 

Most of the marketers have been very proactive to embrace the challenge of creating positive customers experiences and have also enhanced their MarTech stalk to keep pace with the increased speed of digitization. The investments in logistics and supply chain management have exponentially increased and most of the companies have also widened their product ranges. These changes have been welcomed by most of the target audience groups.

Also, the increased use of digital tools is blurring the lines between social interaction, lifestyle, and work and between domains like mobility, health, and finance. 

Overall, the customers’ behaviors are changing due to the change in mobility patterns, purchasing behavior, awareness of health, and changes in interpersonal behavior. These habits are overlapping & we expect them to continue in the post-pandemic world also:

The figure below illustrates how permanent or temporary we anticipate the COVID-19 induced behavior changes to be:

What Opportunities Do the Change in Customers’ Behaviors Create for Brands

Brands must realize that in order to gain momentum and proliferate their marketing strategies in a post-pandemic world, they need to come at peace with truths that reveal the confluence of strategies, operations, and technologies required to drive growth and flourish. Here are some of the opportunities that brands can bank upon to thrive in a post-pandemic world:

1. Segment Your Customers Into Specific Clusters and Know Those Segments

This almost is a reinforced concept that brands always knew right from the pre-pandemic times. Brands must communicate in very local and precise terms, targeting specific customers based on their circumstances and what’s most relevant to them. 

Besides understanding the situation on the ground, brands must diversify their strategies country-wise, state-wise, and even postal and zip code-wise. For most of the brands, a major part of the focus also lies in tailoring communications by store.

Beyond geographical targeting, marketing messages also must be personally relevant, aligned to an individual’s situation and values, as opposed to demographics such as age and gender. Adopting an emotional and empathetic approach is going to be more paramount for businesses than just sticking to a logical approach. This involves creating a personal human connection within a commercial message that requires defining customer segments that describe people according to multiple dimensions that influence their purchasing behavior – from their psychographics to attitudinal characteristics. 

According to the EY Future Consumer Index which conducted five waves of research with 14,500 individuals in 20 countries since the start of the pandemic, 5 different cohorts of the customers have been identified:

  1. Affordability first (32% of the customers) – This segment is focused on living within their means and budget, focused less on brands and more on product functionality.
  2. Health first (25%) – This segment is more concerned about protecting their health and those of their family members and about choosing the products that they presume to be safe. This minimizes the risks in the ways customers shop.
  3. Planet first (16%) – This segment believes in buying from the brands that reflect their beliefs and try to minimize the impact on the environment. 
  4. Society first (15%) – This segment believes in working together for the greater good, and in buying from organizations that they consider, to be honest, and transparent. 
  5. Experience first (12%) – This cohort is more concerned about making the most of life and adopting an experimental approach to new products, brands, and experiences. 

Utilizing customer segmentation and personas can bring deeper insights to media strategies and creative marketing approaches. Furthermore, these insights can be carried through to inform about the full customer journey.  

2. You Need To Constantly Deliver Better Experiences

Brands are always competing with their competitors. They must, as a rule, compete and win with the last best experience their customers had.

In the post-pandemic era, companies are more focused on amassing and analyzing customers’ data than ever before. Personalization has raised to the level of individualization and brands are focused on delivering personalized experiences across the entire customer journey.

Brand scores have majorly become an important KPI for customer-centric organizations and most of them are focused on delving into real-time analytics rather than relying on snapshots to analyze historical data.

Leveraging the right technological foundation enables the customers to support important use cases throughout the customer journey. Individual and collective goals need to be aligned across customers’ journeys so that any disconnections between functional silos like marketing, sales, and customer service are invisible to your end customers.

3. Customers Want What They Want

Deviating from the customers’ expectations is one of the biggest mistakes that the brands can do in 2021. Customers now expect their experiences to be seamless, free of any frictions, anticipatory, and connected. All they are concerned about is getting what they want and insist that nothing gets in their way. Brands, today, need to focus on placing data and technology at the core of their organization to create more relevant experiences across one or more dimensions of the four Cs including Content, Commerce, Community, and Convenience.

Brands in the quest of refining the extents of personalization being delivered need to use more data and intelligence to drive their decision-making processes. Greater relevance in customer interactions helps build stronger human connections to the brands. 

In a world of spontaneity, serendipity and face-to-face encounters brands must be performance-driven to generate more leads. Brands also need to embrace agile marketing as a fortunate outcome of the pandemic. This mindset of marketing agility is going to be fortunate for marketers and involves continuous customer listening and demand sensing to capture the zeitgeist of customer sentiment. 

Marketing, in the post-pandemic era, has an opportunity to educate the broader C-suite and even the board on the importance of brand values when it comes to differentiating in a post-pandemic marketplace where brand preferences have been upended. 

Embracing the Shifting Customer/Brand Dynamics Can Amplify Meaningful Customer Engagement 

Keeping in view the shift in the customers’ behaviors, brands must focus on delivering value and essentials. Customer sentiment varies greatly across the countries impacted by COVID-19 and keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating and reimagining CX can do wonders for the customer brands. 

In a post-COVID world, adapting to changing customer experiences and expectations holds the key to optimizing meaningful customer engagement and driving conversions. 

Optimizing Omnichannel Interactions 

COVID-19 has accelerated the new thinking for omnichannel. Amidst the shift in customers’ spending patterns and accelerated investments in 2020, the role of omnichannel has enhanced and it is on the top of mind of nearly all the brands.

The investments will pay off post-pandemic and those who haven’t been able to innovate and experiment will pay the penalty. The holistic omnichannel approach has evolved since 2019. The 2020 edition of the Voice of the Retail Industry Survey indicated that the pandemic has forced retailers to prioritize their omnichannel efforts. As the operational challenges for retailers have accelerated, investments in the key components of omnichannel have also amplified. 

The modern holistic redefinition of omnichannel blurs the line between online and in-person purchases and turns increasingly to online partners to drive digital sales to speak to a holistic redefinition of omnichannel. Omnichannel can now be thought of as a full suite of ways a customer can engage with a brand. This includes a marketplace presence, selling on social media, and partnering with last-mile delivery services. 

The modern holistic view of omnichannel requires brands to come face to face with some difficult questions around the extent to which they should give up control of their brands and operations. Building an omnichannel suite involves amalgamating a mix of brand-owned and non-owned touchpoints, including partnering with a last-mile delivery platform or selling through social media sites. To varying extents, these omnichannel engagements require constant trade-offs between maintaining complete ownership of transactions and other features such as convenience and scale.

As brands focus on building their omnichannel suites, each touchpoint must be mapped to a specific purpose, bringing forth shoppers’ engagements in a way that marketers have more control over. 

Brands might place a limited selection of their product portfolio on a given marketplace to reach new shoppers who might be interested in seeing the full line of products on the brand’s website. As the partnership-driven omnichannel becomes increasingly prevalent, these trade-offs and clarity of purpose for each channel will continue to grow in importance. 

Implementing a Data-Driven Approach throughout the Funnel

Implementing a data-driven approach throughout the funnel allows marketers to enhance and personalize the customer experience. Data-driven marketing references to strategies built on insights pulled from the analysis of big data, collected through customer interactions and engagements to derive predictions about future customer behaviors. A data-driven approach to funnel marketing allows for further personalization, enhanced targeting, and precise benchmarking so that marketers can continue to improve their strategies over a while. 

A data-driven approach to funnel marketing offers the following advantages to the marketers:

  1. Personalized Approach
  2. Clear-Cut Clarity
  3. Multi-Channel Experience
  4. Optimized Customer Experience, & 
  5. Better Product Development 

The data-driven approach to funnel marketing requires marketers to choose the right team, bridging the departmental silos and promoting collaboration, commitment, and integration.

To deploy a data-driven approach to funnel marketing marketers must first define their objectives, gather data, collect & organize data, gain insights through data analysis, select their channels, launch their campaign, and measure and optimize their performance. Marketers can deploy automation, AI marketing tools, and tools for analyzing and reporting data.

The data-driven funnel marketing approach includes retargeting campaigns, dynamic advertising, paid and organic digital advertising, optimized paid search, and hyper-targeted email campaigns. 

The modern data-driven approaches for funnel marketing include predictive and artificial intelligence marketing to successfully drive marketing campaigns and effectively address the progressive needs of customers and their expectations for more personalized experiences. 

Focus on Optimizing the ROI of Your Customer Experience Endeavors

Post the COVID pandemic, CMOs are focusing on strategies and tactics to understand the changing customer behavior and to effectively engage the customers to drive maximum ROI. Driving optimal ROI from marketing spend is critical for CMOs in this “new normal” and plays a vital role in reviving the businesses. 

According to Gartner, marketers must be proactive and shouldn’t wait for the signals from the environment to give a green signal for taking action. The strategic maneuvers guided by the right technology and approach allows marketers to dodge the disruptions and outlive the pandemic. 

The biggest challenge is not predicting customer behavior, expectations, and needs in unprecedented times but also defining a plan of action to enable and optimize the conversions in a cost-effective manner.  

To optimize the ROI of their customer experience endeavors, marketers must focus on:

  • Leveraging the Philosophy of Social Listening to Understand the Voice of Customer (VoC)
  • Personalizing the Engagement and Customers’ Interactions for Optimal Conversions
  • Monetizing Customer Loyalty for Growth
  • Optimizing Promotion Effectiveness for Higher ROI

Optimizing the ROI from the customers’ experience optimization endeavors includes a thorough & consistent analysis & optimization of customer engagement, personalization, smart loyalty management, and campaign management, enabled by the latest customer intelligence platforms. The optimal ROI from the customer experience optimization initiatives depends upon intelligent and automated personalized experiences, conversational AI-based commerce, and customer care and loyalty engagement and optimization programs. These strategies, when implemented in orchestration help brands in achieving the top-line and bottom-line incremental business value through increased credit utilization, customer lifecycle value, and process efficiencies and effectiveness. 

Wrap Up 

Modern brands need to possess expertise that covers the entire spectrum of customer engagement, personalization, and customer experience, lead, and loyalty management. They must execute an array of marketing & advertising campaigns for our target audience groups to help them accomplish their business bottom-lines. 

Hope the post helped you understand what a great digital customer experience looks like in the post-pandemic era.

Priya has 6 years of experience in Market Research. Currently, she is working for Valasys Media as a content writer, which is one of the top global business consulting companies. They provide their clients with an array of services such as Lead Generation, Database Management, Information Technology - IMS, Account-Based Marketing to name a few. Their services are personalized to help the clients meet their business goals & optimize their Return on Investment (ROI). She has been preparing several personalized reports for our clients & has done a lot of research on market segmentation, cluster analysis of audiences & inbound methodologies. She has worked with government institutes as well as corporate houses on several projects.