1. Trends & External Forces

Looking Beyond the Pandemic: 5 Trends in Customer Loyalty and Engagement

Back in the “B.C. era” — you know, “Before COVID-19” — no one expected cleaning and safety protocols would have a featured role in 2020 marketing messaging for so many industries unrelated to cleaning products. But that’s what circumstances demanded, so companies recalibrated their approach with little notice.

Now it’s time to strategize and plan for a post-COVID-19 shift. What challenges and opportunities should customer loyalty and engagement specialists consider as they plan for 2021? Here are five key trends to keep in mind:

Risk Mitigation

During the pandemic, consumers are choosing brands and stores that take their safety seriously. Target, for example, has taken numerous steps to make consumers feel safe: additional cleaning, curbside pickup, limiting the number of in-store shoppers, plus additional holiday safety measures — e.g., checking online to see if there’s a line at the local store and making shopping reservations. Given the continued persistence of COVID-19, safety concerns are likely to continue well into 2021.

Opportunities: Gain the trust of your customers by understanding their concerns (both rational and emotional) and by being transparent about your safety measures. Consider partnering with other brands or suppliers to craft a custom, safety-based experience for your customers.

Wellness

The perceived importance of wellness has grown during the pandemic, especially among Gen Zers and millennials, who report feeling isolated and struggling with mental health. One company addressing this ongoing need is Microsoft Teams, which partnered with Headspace to offer users meditation opportunities beginning mid‐2021.

Opportunities: Consider new partnerships focused on solving a stress point in your customers’ journey map. Connect your customers with each other by creating mini communities centered on common interests, including wellness. Make customer service a priority, particularly focusing on conversation, care, and surprise and delight.

Related story: Cyber Season is Here to Stay: How Shipping Agility Needs to Adapt

Social Consciousness

Consumers increasingly place more focus on the greater good: e.g., racial equity and sustainability. Take Nike’s latest promotion with Colin Kaepernick — the all‐black Icon Jersey 2.0 — which sold out in less than a minute when it went on sale in September. Furthermore, call‐out culture holds brands accountable, and today’s consumers are willing to walk away from brands that fail to uphold their social commitments.

Opportunities: Communicate your company’s values. Invite members to participate in social causes that amplify your efforts. Think local — invest in your community through job opportunities and volunteer hours, and crowdsource local organizations your company could support.

Reinvention

In response to COVID-19, people have changed how they work, shop, access entertainment, and more. During the Great Recession a decade ago, brands such as Uber, Airbnb, and Venmo emerged as disruptors. In 2020, Airbnb, noticing the expansion of local bookings, successfully pivoted its travel messaging with a “Go Near” campaign and new algorithms.

Opportunities: Use advanced analytics and loyalty data to predict how recent behavioral shifts will affect your brand going forward. Consider leveraging technology, such as artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality, to personalize and entertain.

Resurgence

Consumer demand will return after the pandemic. Many will be ready to jump back into life in a big way by traveling, eating out, and spending more time with friends and family.

Opportunities: Stay alert to what’s ahead. Analyze how vaccine distribution will impact your business. Track behavioral triggers to target consumers who are ready to get active again. Prepare for pent‐up demand by building in flexibility, anticipate high loyalty reward redemption, and continue desirable new services (such as curbside pickup and delivery).

With rigorous analysis and strategic preparation, you can help your brand emerge into the post-COVID-19 landscape with deeper insights into your customers’ relationships with your brand and a strengthened consumer experience.

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