This post was done in partnership with Salesforce.
We are living in an all-digital world where customers expect more from brands to deliver experiences that are personalised and uniquely relevant. According to Salesforce’s latest fourth edition “The State of the Connected Customer” report, today almost 88% of customers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives because of COVID-19. With digital engagement showing no indication of slowing down, companies must digitise their operations for multichannel, high-touch interactions.
This, of course, relies in no small part on the use of personal information, and customers are now loudly calling out for enhanced transparency and stewardship. All of these dynamic new changes, layered with economic uncertainty, pose a range of new challenges to businesses while presenting them with the opportunity to rethink and reset how they engage customers.
Leaders agree customer experience is imperative
During a recent roundtable discussion on CX practices, McDonald’s Asia regional marketing director Eugene Lee said branding plays a big role in driving sales. “Marketing communications is divided into priming and nudging. Priming is about big brand executions that make customers fall in love with the brand and nudging is more about tactical work,” explained Lee. At the end of the day, both have to work hand in hand to drive revenue. “Your marketing calendar cannot just be 100% focused on one or the other,” he said. Lee added that amidst the pandemic, McDonald’s data showed that the markets that were able to communicate with consumers in a manner that resonated with them and balanced tactical elements were the ones that saw the most success.
Chris Jordan, regional sales director for Digital 360, Salesforce ASEAN, agreed that branding plays a big role to drive resonance with consumers as more and more consumers want to be aligned with brands that take a stand for their beliefs. They want to be by the side of brands that are empathetic and understand them rather than those that believe in simply pushing out promotions or have one-sided conversations.
Jordan shared that according to the Salesforce report “68% of customers expect brands to demonstrate empathy hence you need to have data in order to be empathetic”, explaining that it is necessary for brands to know what their consumers are thinking and care for. He added that often, companies are confused between empathy and sympathy. “Consumers don’t want to just hear from brands they don’t have resonance within a one-way conversation. Amidst COVID-19, many companies sent out communications messaging to consumers they didn’t have a relationship with. But that’s more about gaining sympathy rather than showing empathy. Empathy is derived from a two-way communication and understanding your consumer,” he said.
Agreeing on the point was Moet Hennessy's brand lead Hemanth Jayaraman who said that last year the company decided to not take a reactionary stance through tactical discount campaigns but rather do good for its entire community. The company invested and leveraged on data to understand its consumers and trade partners. “We knew data was powerful but we asked ourselves if the data was just powerful for us, or could it benefit our customers, wholesalers and trade partners, who were also not very data-driven and this has benefitted the entire ecosystem.”
According to Diana Wong, head of marketing for Bata Malaysia, over the past year, the team invested in a partnership with Salesforce to align its data across different touchpoints to bring about a unified view of the customer. “We were working in silos from CRM to eCommerce and social. So we started talking to Salesforce even before COVID-19 hit to unify our data for the future,” she said. She added that this was triggered as Bata Malaysia saw that customers were increasingly demanding the brand to know their needs and wants in real-time.
“You can no longer analyse your customers after the campaign is over. We don’t have the luxury of time to do that. It is either we are in it or we are out,” said Wong.
Hyper-personalisation is the future of customer engagement
Over the past year, businesses are operating in uncharted territory and many marketers were unprepared for the disruption. The playbook or best practices for marketers no longer existed. So where do marketers or brands go from here? How do brands stay in lockstep with customers’ shifting behaviours, outlooks and needs?
To continue to respond and adapt to evolving customer needs and expectations, marketers and brands must look beyond basic personalisation to hyper-personalisation, using customer data to drive nuanced, custom experiences. Having the ability to really know your customers, understand their needs, and even anticipate their wants to proactively solve their problems—and maintain an ongoing dialogue with them—is now the key differentiator for brands and crucial for a business’s survival.
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