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.”