The coronavirus pandemic has changed businesses forever. Companies have been pushed to the brink of crisis, resorting to cutting staff and budgets if they were unable to adapt to the new digital-first environment quickly enough. Consumer expectations and behaviors have also been transformed -- people are now spending more time at home, leading to a surge in buying related to in-home activities, as well as an overall increase in eCommerce spending on everything from food to entertainment to everyday essentials. And consumers are expecting more from these digital consumption experiences from brands across the board.
Due to shifting consumer expectations sparked during the coronavirus pandemic, brands have needed to prioritize -- and will continue to need to prioritize -- speed, agility and experimentation. The speed part of this three-pronged approach entails acting quickly to recognize issues and obstacles, quickly deciding how to address these issues and quickly executing solutions. Agility and experimentation involve being alert to a need for change and developing a number of possible solutions to execute on these changes.
To understand why speed, agility and experimentation have become so essential during the pandemic, let’s look at two different case studies. Etsy is an example of a company that embraced speed, agility and experimentation early on in the pandemic -- and it paid off handsomely. Etsy CEO Josh Silverman heard in early April that face masks were going to be a key part of public health guidelines for how to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Silverman advised his sellers to begin creating masks ASAP, and with days of the new public guidelines being released, more than 20,000 Etsy sellers had face masks ready for purchase. Etsy sold 12 million masks in April — 17% of its total gross market sales for the month — while other retailers were barely managing to survive.
Speed, agility and experimentation were all key to Etsy’s success in this case. Being agile and acting quickly gave the e-commerce company a major advantage over competitors who were bogged down by supply-chain constraints, warehouse closures and manufacturing and shipping delays.
On the other hand, Peloton failed to act with speed, agility and experimentation when demand for its in-home exercise bikes exploded early on in the pandemic. The company could not keep up with the demand, and with delivery delays of six to 10 weeks, many customers canceled their orders.
What went wrong? First, CEO John Foley failed to act with agility. He underestimated the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and the rapid pace at which it would spread, so he did not begin ramping up production ahead of the demand. Next, there were issues of speed. Peloton failed to make decisions quickly and take actions quickly enough to solve the issues that were causing supply chain bottlenecks.
In order to keep up in this new consumer environment, brands need the right technology and integrations that enable agility and speed. It’s not enough to simply “go digital.” Prioritizing eCommerce and online shopping, and launching mobile apps and digital customer loyalty programs is now only the baseline. Brands need to reach the next level of digital maturity to keep their company relevant and competitive.
Brands can increase their speed by automating as many manual processes as possible. One way to do this is via an offer optimization platform. These platforms can utilize existing customer data and translate it into customized and relevant offers that react to a customer’s changing behaviors and needs. The platform can ensure that each offer is delivered, tracked, fulfilled and measured in real time, so there’s no lag time in meeting changing customer demands.
This level of speed will be necessary to attract and retain customers in the new consumer landscape. Consumers want products and services to meet their immediate needs, and an offer optimization platform can help ensure that the offers being presented to a consumer are what they want right now.
The pandemic has underscored the need for a business to change and pivot on a dime; businesses need to be agile in responding to crisis and uncertainty in order to survive. The only way to pivot and respond to changing customer behaviors and motivations is by understanding customer data, acting on those insights and continuously optimizing and experimenting.
This is especially true when it comes to marketing and customer loyalty offers. Traditional segmentation models are now outdated; for offers to be successful, they should be innovative and uniquely personalized. To move from microsegmentation to full individualization, brands will need to continuously analyze customer data and use this data for offers that are relevant and provide value to individual customers.
An offer optimization platform allows a brand to experiment quickly and easily by creating new offers and variations that target different audiences. Once offers are active, the platform measures how consumers are reacting to these offers, enabling a brand to learn and change offers in an agile way.
In 2021, the stakes for brands across industries have never been higher. Well-known companies are filing for bankruptcy, brick-and-mortar retailers are going out of business, restaurants are closing and travel is at an all time low. Brands need to adapt to the changing consumer landscape, and they must do so quickly to stay afloat. Utilizing technology and integrations that allow for brands to meet consumer needs with speed, agility and experimentation will be necessary to survive and thrive in the New Year and beyond.