I think we all might have hoped that 2021 was going to start a little differently. The news pre-Christmas of vaccines was quickly overtaken by the new variant and lockdowns. Any optimism for launching into a New Year with renewed vigour has quickly been forgotten.
We must now, with the vaccinations underway (and seemingly going well), look toward Spring/Summer and prepare to maximise the forthcoming opportunities.
Covid has been about survival. It's been about being entrepreneurial; it's been about riding out multiple back-to-back storms, continually rolling over the waves and taking a big breath as you go back under, praying that you get another chance. It’s been, and continues to be, fucking exhausting.
Some good has come of it, other things not so. Without a doubt though, behaviour has changed, both with the consumer and for operators:
There’s going to be a job to do to keep some of these channels alive, but innovation was required in the sector and it's been delivered. I for one would be disappointed if I can’t buy a box from Hickory's at Home, Pizza in the post from Rudy’s or Dishoom Bacon Naan in a year's time.
It's widely acknowledged that the proliferation of dark kitchens on the back of Covid might bring further pressure on the sector or that they simply will not survive. In my own mind, I can only think that delivery will need to be the cheaper alternative in the future as personally, I’d much rather eat out than in.
A lot of people have built up savings that they wish to enjoy. Brexit and the fear of other countries’ Covid rules will ensure people holiday within the UK. The tourist industry will take time to recover but staycations will boom.
The adoption of technology is important, not only to engage consumers open to change but also due to the void in new data gathered during this period from WiFi, booking, loyalty apps and feedback.
We’ve yet to see how much of the above will remain post-Corona. Truthfully, we simply don’t know right now, however we can encourage some stickiness.
The news on the vaccination rollout is positive (but we have learned not to get overly excited). Boris has constantly over-promised and under-delivered, but hopefully the vaccination programme will buck that trend.
Everything is pointing at spring into early summer for the return. We all know it's going to be a slow-ish burn back to normality, but right now I’ll pretty much take anything we can get.
We’ve defined five stages to work on. These should revolutionise your digital strategy and ensure that you come out as strong as possible:
We bang on about this a lot, but it's really important and will help your overall strategy succeed. The value exchange is simply the branding around your digital strategy. It's what you offer your customers in exchange for them engaging with you. It could be a club, family or friends of.
It can also encompass a customer charter, how you will treat them and what they might expect. Your brand has a story. Post-Covid, it's time to embrace it and bring it to life.
Your engagement rates will have taken a bit of a hit over the last 12 months; journeys have been turned off and on and, in some cases, sequences shortened. You’ll need to start working on re-engagement campaigns to bring your customers back into your brand fold.
There’s going to be a deluge of activity to try and lure customers to brands. Those returning to offices are likely to be doing so slightly differently, maybe for fewer days a week. The urge to eat on the run may reduce, in favour of catching up with friends and colleagues that they haven’t seen for a year. Competition will be fierce.
Our recommendation is to start, by the end of January, with your engagement campaign and use every channel to engage with current customers. If you have mobile numbers stored within your CRM, start with email but if after four attempts with different content you aren’t engaging a read, switch to a different method.
For a while now customer journeys have been far too limited. Now’s the time to think like an ecommerce business and build out more triggered journeys.
You’ve new technology that can be marketed to customers within the journeys. For instance, think about serving up a journey that can only be redeemed through your click & collect or order-and-pay solution. You’ve invested in this new technology and hopefully it's proven that it can help you grow sales (if it's not, then you might want to look at a different solution).
As a guide, our recommendation is circa-eight emails as a welcome sequence. You’ve plenty of time to set in place renewed journeys for welcome, birthday, retention as well as the smarter stuff around feedback, customer rewards and referral.
Back to the earlier point around decimated databases, now would be a good time to plan in a data boost. Over the years, campaigns to recruit new customers have become less important with digital engagement growing however, with the lack of channels this year, this has not been the case.
We’d recommend that this comes slightly later than the engagement so that comms are clear for new customers and the engagement comes closer to getting back to normal.
Social media audiences offer a great route for data build - taking your existing customers and uploading to create a look-a-like audience targeted geographically around your locations. It's the hook that’s going to be important (thinking back to the value exchange). My own advice is to go hard and go big rather than death by a thousand cuts (or discounts in this case) . Recently our client Turtle Bay gave away a £10 digital gift card through a splash page on their website and had significant results.
I said at the start that I’d be talking about gift cards as a tool for loyalty and this is it. I’m going to go into some simple detail of what we’ve got coming out in the next month or so through Toggle.
With such a change in customer behaviour, there's never been a better time to think about delivering a simple loyalty plan that drives up a frequency of visit.
Many companies fail to implement loyalty because it ends up being too complex. Gift cards offer an incredible opportunity as an entry to new customer acquisition as well as deliver loyalty.
The last year has been extreme. We can only be grateful that if (when) it happens again, the world will be more prepared.