Signal to Noise: Connecting with Customers in Tense Times

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The concept of “business as usual” has been turned on its head in 2020 — from the pandemic to the recession and the presidential election. Uncertainty has been a constant this year, and businesses have some tough calls to make: potential budget cuts, recasting business goals and forecasts, and pivoting marketing and sales strategies.

In this new normal, brands are scrambling to cling to their existing customers. But everyone else is after them as well; our inboxes are overrun with a cacophony of early Black Friday offers, messages about the steps brands are taking to ensure our safety and how much we matter to them, and reminders to vote. Simply put, it’s overwhelming. Success in today’s digital world means finding a way to cut through this noise so that brands can sustain meaningful relationships with the customers they’ve worked so hard to nurture.

Community Building and Cultivating Connections
Between endless emails and the fact that nearly every digital channel is currently taxed to the limit, communicating with your customers right now may seem like shouting into the wind. But how you do it makes all the difference. Allowing empathy and patience to guide your business and marketing messaging is key; those who rush to put out self-serving or sales-oriented messaging will not be well-received. Pay attention to your context.

Making mobile connections is at the core of customer engagement these days, but it’s contingent on trust. Brands that prioritize building a community that fosters consumer trust and connections above all will outperform those that don’t.

1:1 Personalization
Personalized messaging is not a new topic but in tumultuous times like these, it’s even more critical — in fact, a recent study found that 69% of Gen Zers, 64% of Millennials and 57% of Gen Xers prefer receiving personalized messages from brands. Strive for hyper-personalized, contextually-relevant communications with one-to-one personalization. At the same time, be extremely thoughtful about how you personalize content or you may run the risk of irritating customers — or, worse, create the impression their personal data is being misused. To avoid this, focus on delivering value that consumers have clearly indicated they want and welcome, rather than utilizing customer data to promote or sell more.

Develop Trust and Deliver Value
After years of data breaches and misuse scandals, consumers are understandably concerned about sharing their data and are wary to receive promotional material from brands altogether. First and foremost, it is important to understand that access to consumer data is a privilege and brands must treat it as such. All companies should articulate how they will provide tangible value to customers who opt to share their data. When analyzed properly, this data can be a lens through which brands can better understand customer wants and needs, right down to the individual level — and with mobile, this value can be delivered directly to consumers on the channel of their choice, on a device they likely already have in their hands.

Two-Way Interaction
Businesses have been slow to provide the high-value, real-time messaging that consumers crave across all channels. Now is the time to prioritize customer preferences for rich media and mobile messaging and facilitate two-way conversations between businesses and consumers: the same study found that 82% of Gen Z/Millennials would find these experiences useful. With two-way conversational messaging, brands can evolve how they proactively reach, retain and engage valued customers. This technology heightens the customer experience by providing a way to initiate communication with the brands they follow. Omnichannel conversation APIs take this engagement a step further by allowing for instantaneous, contextualized messaging on whichever channel (or channels) a customer prefers. The companies that are equipped with this two-way capacity — including through Rich Communication Services (RCS) and AI-fueled conversational messaging — will be more likely to maintain strong, loyal relationships with their customers. When your business stops acting like a robot and starts being more human, you can create enriched experiences that are more authentic and attention-grabbing.

In times of turmoil, it is still possible for businesses to keep going, to pick up the pieces and find a way to make sense of them — even if the end result looks different than the original. Be flexible, agile, and above all, be kind.

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