Everybody’s dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. This public health pandemic is having a critical impact on supply and demand. It’s times like these that marketers need to be even more aware and sensitive to the expectations of their customers and prospects.
Shopping for major-life purchases (MLPs)—such as a car, loan, insurance, or degree—involves a lot of research, investigation, and comparison. These are big-ticket items that can often get delayed—or even escalated—during uncertain times. Consumers, who have been asked to trade their work office for a home office, are finding they have more time to conduct their research online to search out the best offers. While others, fearful of the economic impact, aren’t shopping at all.
This is not a time to be absent from the market. If anything it’s a time where companies can show they are here to help consumers, who like all of us, are somewhat anxious during this uncertain time. Many companies are already stepping up with incentives to help their customers and the community.
Marketers can embrace this time as an opportunity to help customers and prospects while their attention and focus are high. Educate and expel myths while extending the best offers you can. This approach not only is the right thing to do but it also will help your company build brand awareness and capture market share.
Take mortgages, for example. A few weeks ago, record-low mortgage rates delivered more refinancing demand with some lenders experiencing four times the applications. Then, as interest rates increased from those record lows, mortgage applications fell back. In insurance, special enrollment periods for uninsured individuals were announced in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington state. Insurance companies are on board with this opportunity. We’ve also been seeing a lot of activity in education as institutions worldwide search for innovative solutions as attendance at schools and universities is suspended. Online education could become the new normal.
Now more than ever, it’s critical for marketers to be thoughtful when choosing who they market to and how they drive the outreach. It’s important to understand where your customers and prospects are in their buying journey to send the right message at the right time. By leveraging alternative and unique data sets, you’ll be able to learn more about that journey and create the experiences that connect and resonate.
Utilize Behavioral Insights
Behavioral data helps marketers make real-time decisions about intent. This information is valuable because, unlike demographics, behaviors are always changing and evolving.
As I wrote in Connecting Behavior for More Meaningful Engagements, organizations have historically focused on what the customer looks like based on demographic data. The challenge with this approach is that demographic data doesn’t tell us what the customer wants or needs right now, so there is no timing guidance on outreach or experience. So, while demographic data might help us develop a form of the ideal customer profile (ICP), it cannot help us connect with consumers at the right time with the right message to drive the most meaningful and fruitful engagements.
Behavioral data can help marketers with:
- Prioritization: The right data will provide a broad view of the ideal customer and you can engage with them at the ideal place and time. Having a rich understanding of what data is available within (and from outside of) your organization, and what data is needed, is critical.
- Personalization: Leveraging behavioral data will improve customer experience by informing marketers of the type of content and messaging to use in outreach.
- Performance: Focusing on individual consumers rather than mass segmentation helps marketers send recommendations that drive purchases. Be sure to test and implement different data models to find the right data mix that works for your business.
Focus on the Journey
Many companies have started to create customer journey maps to better understand the phases of making a major-life purchase. The maps include each of the phases—from initial category and brand awareness through research, agent interactions, quote gathering, competitive sales processes, and ultimately new-customer onboarding. The highest-performing companies tend to also include customer retention as the beginning of the next shopping cycle and find ways to get ahead of any competitive shopping their customers might do prior to renewing or repurchasing.
As the key points in a customer’s shopping process are identified, it becomes critical to understand where customers are in the journey and how to influence them when they reach trigger points. Marketers are more successful when they understand segments and prioritize based on where their customers are in their buying journeys. Because one-size-fits-all doesn’t work with these shoppers.
Some of the most common behaviors to look at throughout the shopping journey include the device used (desktop or mobile), IP and location of the activity, time of day activity was seen, and the number of events a consumer has along their journey.
End Result: Exceptional Experiences
Having the agility to time and tailor interactions based on recent behaviors and intent can help consumers during this time of need. After all, exceptional consumer experience is one where there’s engagement at the right time, with a relevant message, while respecting privacy. These efforts can reassure consumers that you share their interests and can help you retain, acquire, and grow your customer base.
The best way to make those experiences exceptional is through data-driven decisions. With the right data, you know when and how to most effectively engage with your customer, which means you and your customer both win.
Behavioral data is quickly becoming one of the most powerful ways to understand what a consumer cares about and what types of actions they are most likely to take next. So, laying the right data foundation will set you on the right course to know who your customer is and what they care about, especially in uncertain times like these.