Three Keys to Consumer Experience during the Pandemic     
By Kayla Siegmeier

While many industries have been shuttered in efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the consumer packaged goods industry is experiencing the opposite. In fact, the demand for products like cleaning supplies, personal care products, and food and beverage staples has scaled at unprecedented levels. A vast majority of Americans believe CPG and the workers who create it play an essential role in fighting this pandemic.

While everything else in their lives is totally upended, your customers are seeking places of positivity and connection to help make sense of the world. Companies must adjust to these new customer behavior patterns to thrive in an unstable business environment.

Alongside providing needed goods, CPG companies should also consider how they can use their marketing channels to build customer engagement. By providing engaging experiences for them, you can build customer loyalty and find true advocacy on the other side of this pandemic.

Adopt Agile Online Engagement Tactics
Your customers want to participate in a community. For now, that community exists completely online. If you haven’t yet developed your online community, take the time to do so. It’s where your customers will live for the foreseeable future.

As you build your online presence, you’ll need to adopt agile marketing principles to constantly build your brand’s reputation. Help get your different departments on the same page when it comes to communicating with customers. And let your customers’ needs serve as your guiding star. The pandemic situation is changing quickly; your marketing tactics should be equally adaptable.

For customer engagement right now, try new channels and deliver messages of positivity that your customers crave. Highlight the essential work your employees are accomplishing. Tell stories around the people using your products to help others in the community. Then share that content with your online community through digital channels like social media. You’ll create emotional connections with your customers, which will generate positive brand perception later.

Build Customer Loyalty with Experiences
With so much negativity appearing in the news and online, your customers treasure positive outlets as small bites of escapism. CPG brands can fill this positivity gap by creating fun and engaging experiences that will also help out your marketing efforts.

For example, you could run a small survey on social media asking people what essentials they keep in their cabinets and include a creative sweepstakes for participants. Not only can you provide a moment of positivity in a customer’s day, but you can also gather zero-party data willingly shared by customers that’s usable in future marketing.

These experiences also offer chances to deepen your emotional connections with your customers. If your brand can help alleviate some of your customers’ concerns, even for a short time, you create a more meaningful connection. Ask your customers what would be helpful during this time, and have an honest conversation around it. For customers working from home, offer discounts or free shipping on your products. Your customers will remember how you helped them once the pandemic passes.

Commit to Long-Term Engagement
Like all marketing activities, engagement isn’t a one-and-done activity, you’ll need to plan how you’ll continue engaging customers. It’s vital you build on your customers’ brand perception through positive activity. They need to see the good work you’re doing and have the chance to interact and participate in it.

If your company is uniquely positioned to support people affected by this crisis, share your efforts with your customers. For example, AB InBev’s Busch Beer line has partnered with local animal shelters to give free beer to people who volunteer to foster senior dogs during the crisis. Kellogg’s has encouraged customers in its loyalty program to use earned loyalty points to purchase meals for families in need. And L'oreal and LVMH have opened their factories not to produce luxury goods but rather manufacture hand sanitizer.

These companies and others have deployed their resources to help people through this pandemic. And they’re ensuring their customers see and engage with these experiences, too. Customers will remember these efforts, and it will help these CPG companies drive product demand and build customer loyalty as the world turns back toward normality.

This crisis is fast-evolving, and brands need to stay agile when responding to events. But the principles of great customer engagement are still the same: create a positive and empathetic experience for customers and let them serve as your guiding star when deciding what to do next. Through the experience you craft for customers, you can build brand loyalty and true advocacy on the other side.

Kayla Siegmeier is the Customer Advocacy Manager at Cheetah Digital where she manages client-related content and strategic communications along with client advocacy and analyst relations.

CPG VIEWPOINTS             
                                                                   Early June 2020
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