With activity at a standstill during these months because of COVID-19, brands are forced to explore new ways of maintaining the relationship with their consumers and promoting consumer engagement. Brands also look to involve consumers in the reformulation of new products and services. In essence, the lockdown has forced companies to innovate and adapt to new needs and a new regulatory framework caused by the pandemic, as crucial factors for economic reactivation.
There are many questions:
What will the return to activity look like?
How to attract consumers to the brand again?
What will consumers expect of us in the so-called ‘new normal’?
And the answers, particularly pressing for sectors like Tourism and the Restaurant business, which have not been considered essential and are largely dependant on direct contact with consumers, and have therefore been forced to cease their activity.
In the Tourism sector alone, revenue could drop between 50% and 70%, according to a recent study by consulting firm DNA Turismo y Ocio among 600 operators in the sector. The channel horeca estimates a loss of approximately 3 billion euros, according to a sector enquiry by Makro.
In this scenario, proximity, active listening and innovation, understood as a means to provide adequate responses in moments of uncertainty, will gain significance in the new normal and in the confidence brands inspire in consumers.
Consumer engagement: formulate and apply a narrative for COVID-19
The ability to anticipate will be essential for the survival and competitiveness of many businesses. Companies will have to be swift and offer solutions in line with regulatory and consumer needs detected in each phase of easing the lockdown.
Just as important as speed of action will be understanding the context, to act efficiently and responsibly: flexibility and listening will be two values on the rise.
As will be the quantity and, above all, quality of relationships with consumers and other stakeholders in an organization. Proximity, trust and transparency will be key for consumers to remember us during this hiatus before the return to normality.
In short, if consumers were already demanding before the crisis, they will only be more so now: consumers will evaluate companies not only for what they say, but also for what they do.
While restrictions to mobility and economic reactivation remain, companies will need to innovate with new types of consumer relations that promote loyalty and brand memory. And during the various phases of lockdown easing, innovation will be key to customize offers in response to new needs.
Creating a consumer community around a brand can help with this. Our co-creation communities allow companies to work on consumer engagement and listening throughout the different phases of the COVID-19 crisis, finding the solutions that consumers consider essential in the return to business.
COVID-19 has made companies face a scenario where disruption seems to be (at least temporarily) the ‘new normal’
For example, a hotel chain or restaurant business could ask the right questions to its clients and detect common concerns, such as the installation of screens to separate customers, reducing social contact, availability of hydrogel at the entrance to their businesses, or other hygiene measures…
By allowing consumers to participate in the process, they can contribute some of these solutions directly. But in addition to this, the brand also receives valuable information to understand a new uncertain situation, and can use its community of followers to validate the acceptance of potential measures it may be considering.
Listening to consumers in an open, digital channel reinforces consumer engagement and attracts other potential customers. Co-creation increases the brand’s emotional added value: consumers associate the brand with trust, there is a more human relationship with consumers in times of physical disconnection, and there is an appeal to a sense of collective responsibility, to that which unites us in the face of this crisis (my actions take you into account, they protect my business and other people).
We have witnessed a change in consumer habits during these months of pandemic, and do not know whether some of these changes are here to stay, or for how long they may last.
Consumer apprehension over personal health, or that of their families, greater safety regarding what is consumed, or greater traceability control in the chain of social contacts, are some examples of the new concerns shared by many consumers.
The reduced radius of action enforced by confinement has helped to identify some of these new habits. With lockdowns now easing down, however, this will become more difficult as the range of options available to consumers expands, in an unknown scenario.
The fact that urgencies will probably vary in the different stages of the lockdown scale-down, will put even more focus on the need for continuous tracking between brand and consumer, as well as innovation as a basic pillar of the process that will bring the return of economic activity.