Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why brands need to get out of their comfort zones to add value for their customers in a post-covid-19 lockdown world

By Blaise Keen, Director of Cafeyn

The lockdown has forcibly changed lives for many, if not all of us. For brands, it’s changed the way they are able to interact with their consumers and has forced them to rethink what ‘added value’ really means. Where once this might have meant an enhanced in-store experience, in-person perks, or even an exclusive membership space, now businesses are having to step out of their comfort zones and think more creatively in order to maintain an engaged relationship with their audience.

Lockdown has required brands to pivot not only how they interact with consumers (i.e. digitally), but also rethink the type of products and services they offer to their consumers. This pivot has been two-fold, firstly we’ve seen a surge of digital content during lockdown when it has not been possible for brands to be with customers physically, with marketing technology firm 4C Insights finding a 25% year-over-year increase overall in ad spending on digital platforms for the first half of March.  Fashion brands such as Chanel, Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen we’ve seen a focus on their online presence to engage followers (presumed customers), by facilitating virtual drawing sessions and Spotify playlists. Secondly, we’ve seen brands moving toward additional services outside of their core offering altogether, such as Superdrug, who gave their Health and Beauty card members access to digital newspapers and magazines through Cafeyn, to keep them engaged and entertained while stuck at home.

Whilst many brands may have been forced to pivot early on in lockdown, there’s no doubt this has encouraged new ideas around how to engage with customers while at home or on the go, ideas that they’re unlikely to turn their back on even as we ease out of lockdown. The stickiness of these ideas will be found in their effects on customer retention and engagement rates. 

Adding Value Before Lockdown

Offering bundled products and services for customers is nothing new for the likes of mobile operators. Such companies have, for some years, given customers added extras services to stand out from the competition and add value to their mobile phone deals. For years we’ve seen the likes of O2, Vodafone, and EE offer added extras for customers, ranging from BT Sport or Apple Music subscriptions, to extra cinema tickets etc. Of course, the reason companies do this is partly to attract customers in the first instance, but it’s also because customers respond positively to getting a little extra which in turn encourages loyalty, and reduces the likelihood of them jumping ship to a competitor down the line. While granting digital products & experiences was a priority for some brands pre-lockdown, it can’t be said it was the case for all. That is up until March 2020 when lockdown happened, and perks involving physical interaction with, or between customers became nearly impossible.

Adding Value During Lockdown 

When a full UK lockdown was put in place in March, many brands were left with no option but to venture out into the unknown and come up with new and creative ways to engage their customers. Whilst most industries have been impacted significantly, arguably it has been the hospitality and retail industry that has been hit the hardest. Such businesses were left with no choice but to pivot their offering in order to survive this period. 

One such brand is Soho House, who had to act fast to add value to their customers who couldn’t enjoy the full experience of their properties. So how did they do this? They quickly built up an array of offers that could be enjoyed at home, such as Cafeyn’s digital and magazine subscription service, which opened up a world of content to keep their members informed and entertained.

Another example of a business shifting their content strategy during lockdown is Pizza Express, who have embraced their identity as a family focused brand. The brand has looked to help families at home by suggesting ideas of activities and games to keep children and adults entertained, while at the same time promoting their range of products available in supermarkets.

According to an exclusive survey of 477 UK brand marketers conducted by Marketing Week, almost half (48%) of marketers say their companies have shifted messaging to emphasise digital products and services since the onset of Covid-19. Some 29% of marketers say their business has reallocated budget and attention from acquisition to retention, proving an overall awareness of creating and maintaining a loyal customer base at this time.

The pivot towards digital products is more than just a pragmatic marketing decision for brands but is also a reflection of the changing landscape in consumer demand. Homebound consumers are now turning to digital content providers to meet their entertainment needs. 44% of UK internet users are consuming more content on streaming services due to the coronavirus, according to recent data from Statista. While Cafeyn in the UK has seen the average amount of time a user spends on daily reading increase by 157%. This increase in demand for digital content services demonstrates more perceived value to digital for customers.

Adding Value Post Lockdown 

The lockdown has undoubtedly honed in on the need for brands to put digital content into sharp focus in terms of brand to customer interaction and highlighted the value that is created when brands are able to pivot to offer supplementary digital products and services for their audience. 

Whilst now we’re seeing the lockdown slowly easing, as shops and premises begin to reopen their doors, the global economic situation is still unravelling and the future of the economy is far from certain. For brands, this heightens the need to retain our loyal customer bases and support them with added value and benefits. Customer loyalty cannot be taken for granted. Brands need to adopt a survival of the fittest mentality in terms of building strong customer relationships in order to stand the best chance of retaining customers. There’s no doubt that at a time of financial insecurity customers will be looking for as much value as possible from everything that they buy and subscribe to, and it is the responsibility of the brand to make this worthwhile for them. The pivots that businesses have made should continue to be built upon in a post-Covid world, in order for them to not only survive, but to thrive.