December 17, 2020

The 3 Stages of CX in a Pandemic Holiday Season

Nothing is normal right now, and that goes for brands that are still trying to figure out the best ways to reach consumers in a pandemic that’s disrupting every marketing norm. Traditional routine is off the rails, giving way to a significant change in media consumption: Brands that have caught onto this shift are not just winning the moment, but the time surrounding the moment, across their media, communications and marketing efforts.

Brad Simms

CEO & President

While Amazon Prime Day was kept to two days in October, it wasn’t long before that FireStick was back on sale, and other popular items added to Amazon’s “Holiday Dash” daily deals. At the start of November, Starbucks unveiled its holiday cups line and seasonal drinks while baristas switched to wearing red aprons. But in the absence of traditional cues that typically signal key “moments” to consumers, such as the cancelations of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and New Year’s Eve ball drop gathering in Times Square, and people largely staying put and not traveling for the holidays, how should brands eventize their marketing and cue consumers, without coming off inauthentic or ill-timed?

As we approach the holidays, New Year’s and beyond, here’s how we’re looking at what a brand’s marketing mix should consist of: it’s about creating a structure around the different stages in the new customer experience (CX) cycle: the lead up, the moment, the follow-through.

The lead up: As humans, we still need wayfinding when it comes to our interactions as shoppers. Seed the moment with a relevant and timely first step (e.g. a thoughtfully crafted email and offer, or OTT placement before an episode of the next buzzworthy TV show). Amazon had encouraged people to add to their shopping carts and ran promotional sales well ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, while other popular retailers like Walmart, Home Depot and Wayfair unveiled their Black Friday sales more than two weeks ahead of time. Gone are the days when people had to show up at midnight to take advantage of the Friday sale.

The moment: Strategically pick your tentpole events. Find moments that matter authentically to your brand. Is Christmas the best time for a swimsuit retailer to promote an upcoming line? How should airlines continue to adjust their promotions and policies through new waves of COVID-19 and potential new lockdowns? Brands should caution against marketing for the sake of spreading messages far and wide; the lesson should always be quality over quantity.

If done right, shoppers, having experienced more relevant brand interactions, and had (even more) time to be thoughtful about their budgets, wish lists and sales, are more ready to make commitments to purchase when the moment arrives. Use behavioral data to inform the right move to get customers over the finish line: a follow-up email, a push notification, a text nudge.

The follow-through: What is the post-purchase move to extend that engagement? It can be a simple thank-you email, a follow-up promotional offer, or a survey to gauge product or CX satisfaction. Make your communications stand out through great design and engaging writing. Every brand touch matters.

At a time when people are not walking around shopping, brands have to adjust their timelines, and move up their efforts to capture attentions earlier on, and through multiple avenues. What does an email or text message look like when people are working from home? Is the fact that they’re home an opportunity to up the direct mail game? How do you capitalize on increased social media breaks? As we mentioned before, brands should know their customers well enough in order to deliver the right message, in the right place, at the right time.

By taking targeted audiences into account in each of these stages of the purchase experience, people can come away knowing they were acknowledged early on, empowered to participate, and feel good about their decision afterwards.