In a year of massive disruption, businesses had to rapidly pivot how they went to market and how they engaged their customers. Yet, even as many brands accelerated their digital and loyalty transformations, which were well underway before the pandemic, there are gaps between customer expectations and experiences like never before.
As business leaders make plans for the return to the office, they’re adjusting to some of the permanent shifts the pandemic has left us: it’s out with closed cubicles and small personal desks and in open collaborative spaces and touchless coffee machines. However, it’s not just physical spaces that need a rethink, but the big intangible: organizational culture. Across sectors, CEOs and executives are grappling with tough questions:
Diversity is about celebrating and valuing the different perspectives and lived experiences of all people, and it’s a core belief at Bond. To kick off our new “Shared Stories” series and to celebrate Black History Month, we recently hosted an inspiring talk by history maker and football legend Chuck Ealey.
It’s too facile to say that COVID-19 changed everything when it comes to brands and customers. Everything was changing already. What COVID-19 did change was time, which by definition is a function of distance and speed. Both aspects not only changed, but they also changed rapidly.
Time is More Than Speed
Math and science aside, relationships between brands and customers were reflecting fundamental shifts that were already well underway pre-COVID-19. But the magnitude of the change, in terms of both distance and speed, accelerated. Even as the world emerges with vaccines and immunity, things are not going to reverse, nor will they slow down.
Time was already a new loyalty “currency” thanks to Amazon Prime and its shipping benefit, and the advent of BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store), which quickly evolved to BOPAC (buy online, pickup curbside). Time as a loyalty driver is not only about faster fulfillment and a more seamless customer experience, it also relates to how brands value customers’ time—think customer service and wait times for voice, email, SMS, and chat support.
At the onset of COVID-19, we could all be patient, as we had little choice. Not anymore. A year later we expect brands to deliver—literally and figuratively—on time. On our time.
Time for Brands to Be Loyal
One aspect of time’s value over the last year centers around digital acceleration. Virtually every brand had a digital roadmap pre-COVID-19 but the time that the brand leaders shredded to shorten the distance over the past year was, to use an overstated expression, unprecedented. Nothing illustrates this better than Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, moving to contactless payments by the end of March 2020.
Seamless experiences reflect a brand’s commitment to valuing customers’ time and at least implicitly showing loyalty to them, a prerequisite for customer loyalty in return. That loyalty from the brand is what begins to solidify trust, another dimension of loyalty that saves a customer time in deciding to engage and do business with a brand. Showing loyalty to customers extends this trust by recognizing them, informing them, rewarding them, making it easy for them to solve their “jobs to be done.”
With Synapze™ DNA, Bond’s customer genome solution, brands can unlock value from their data faster and more cost-effectively.
If there’s one thing 2020 taught the business world, it’s that companies can move forward faster on their roadmaps, or even nimbly change directions altogether. Across sectors, and even in the most siloed, complex companies, the COVID-19 crisis propelled organizations to work in ways they hadn’t before, bringing about years of change in mere months.
While companies are no longer operating at survive-or-die speed, there’s no turning back to business as usual. If there’s another realization from 2020, it’s that consumer needs and behaviors are changing faster than ever, too. They’re rapidly embracing omni-channel retail, switching allegiances and trying new brands, and expecting brands to not only understand their needs, but also to anticipate them.
Big tech and privacy are the words on everyone’s lips these days when it comes to data. The conversation started gaining major momentum when Facebook’s entanglement with Cambridge Analytica was revealed in 2018—and has continued to stay top of mind on everything from smart speakers to fridges that let us know when we’re out of milk.
In the pre-COVID-19 world, the long-standing debate between customization and privacy seemed to pivot on the question of “if” consumers desired one or the other. A year into the global pandemic, however, that question now seems to have shifted to “how”: How can consumers experience hyper-personalization in their daily lives without feeling an infraction of trust?
At a CES 2021 session, host Resha Karnik, VP of MediaLink, prompted this and all other questions to Hamish Kinniburgh (Global Chief Strategy Officer, Universal McCann), Matthew Spiegel (EVP Marketing, TransUnion), Jay Stevens (President, Hudson MX), and Lisa Valentino (EVP Client & Brand Solutions, Disney) at CES 2021 .
In 2020, the world went into mass hysteria as a then unknown virus touched down on almost every continent on the globe. Citizens, brands, governments, and manufacturers around the world quickly pivoted to tackle what was soon to become one of the largest pandemics to have ever been recorded in modern history. What most people didn’t know was how long it was going to last and how it was going to change their lives. With more people at home, we saw businesses focused on the home quickly flourish and businesses reliant on people out of the home quickly perish. One thing is for certain: your morning commute, at least in the western hemisphere, has changed from sitting in traffic in your car, listening to podcasts and radio, to rolling out of bed to your dining room table or home office (if you’re lucky).
As the role of the home changed, so did the role of the car. According to the Center for Automotive Research, 90% of people will not be going back to an office full-time. How will drivers continue using their cars? Households are busier and louder than ever, and with the introduction of connectivity, panoramic sunroofs, and enhanced sound, the car is becoming the new, mobile office. How will automotive manufacturers continue to plan features to support the future role of the car, as post-pandemic life currently remains unpredictable?
At CES 2021, representatives across the automotive industry, including GM, Panasonic, Audi, and Robert Bosch all agreed on one thing: the pandemic has provided the greatest opportunity to not only optimize automotive technology to fit the new lifestyles of global consumers, but to also personalize the experience to move the car from the third most utilized space to the second. One example of this discussed by Panasonic Automotive is the concept of private sound bubbles, whereby passengers in the same car can all listen to their own music without disrupting the other passengers, while drivers are equipped with "Whisper Agents" that will share driving directions quietly in their own zone.
The Consumer Electronic Show this year was a fully prerecorded virtual affair, with ubiquitous floating people in squares on our screens. The keynote events had nearly natural scripts presented by one of the conglomerates convincing us that our daily world will change for the better. One word comes to mind when I want to summarize the technological acceleration and business pitches that percolated through every panel discussion: adoption.
With the online holiday shopping frenzy just around the corner, Bond announced our truly exciting partnership with Uber Direct, Uber’s retail-focused delivery service that just launched in Canada.
Holding on to customer loyalty will be a steep hill to climb as the sale of MEC will see it become a privatized company. This is a critical change to the type of business MEC had promised its customers who essentially are their owners – taking away their democratic decisioning power and putting its core promise of a socially conscious retailer at risk.