Even with 2020 in the rearview mirror, it’s readily apparent disruption levels in the retail industry will remain high for quite some time. Formerly reliable approaches to business simply won’t work in this new and rapidly changing environment. 

One of the most important things to realize is customers have gained a significant level of power, especially over the past year. Providing them with the best experience possible should be your top priority from here on out.

By saying consumers have power, we mean they have an incredible influence over the purchase choices of others. Thanks to social media and the reliability of word-of-mouth marketing, one happy buyer can result in increased demand for your product or service. Of course, the contrary is also true. The bottom line is customer retention and loyalty are the keys to business success.

Understand the Current Business Landscape with These Statistics & Key Takeaways

To offer a clearer picture of the current relationship between businesses and consumers, we’ve examined some of the latest studies on customer experience and retention so you can stay up to date on the best practices. Take a look at some of the most important takeaways for 2021 below.

1. The importance of customer service has leveled the playing field. According to Gartner, 81% of businesses compete primarily on customer experience.

2. Most companies understand the importance of going digital. In fact, Gartner reports that 67% of business leaders believe their business will no longer be competitive without embracing digital transformation. If you’re not part of this group, you may find you’re quickly left behind.

3.Understanding your Net Promotor Score (NPS) is key. A study by Bain & Company suggests differences in Net Promoter Score explain between 10% and 70% of the differences in revenue growth between direct competitors.

4. Consumers value a great experience, perhaps more than they value a bargain. According to PwC, customers are willing to pay up to a 16% price premium for a great customer experience.

5. As a business, you can’t count on being given a second chance. With 32% of customers willing to walk away from a brand they love because of just one bad experience, there’s little room for error. (Source: PwC)

6. In a study by Salesforce, 80% of customers say the experience businesses provide is just as important as its products and services. Therefore, businesses should view the experience they offer as part of their product.

7. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of customers state tailoring future interactions based on past engagement is key to winning their business. As a result, it’s clear personalization is an essential part of a great experience. (Source: Salesforce)

8. Bad experiences often have greater ramifications than positive ones. Since customers tell an average of 9 people about positive experiences, but an average of 16 people about negative experiences, businesses need to go the extra mile to prevent negative outcomes. (Source: Deloitte)

9. Business Wire offers a slightly different statistic, claiming satisfied US customers will share their positive experience with 11 different people. As this is no small number, word-of-mouth marketing may be more important now than ever.

10. Loyalty and points-based programs are having a major heyday, with 72% of US adults belonging to at least one loyalty program. (Source: Oracle)

11. Americans aren’t just willing to sign up for loyalty programs. They actively enjoy taking part in them. eMarketer suggests 58.7% of internet users believe earning rewards and loyalty points is one of the most valued aspects of the shopping experience.

12. The vast majority of consumers are open to trading a certain level of privacy for greater personalization. Bond reports that 87% of Americans are willing to have various details of their activity tracked in exchange for more personalized rewards and brand experiences.

13. Consumers have high expectations for brands that go well beyond the value of a simple product or service. A full 75% of consumers expect brands to make more of a contribution to their well-being and quality of life. (Source: Havas)

14. Customer service can make or break customer retention rates. A total of 69% of US consumers say customer service is very important when it comes to their loyalty to a brand. (Source: Microsoft)

15. Repeat purchases are also significantly affected by customer service experiences, with 93% of consumers more likely to make repeat purchases at companies with excellent customer service. (Source: HubSpot)

16. Although customer service is of the utmost importance, it seems not all businesses have gotten the memo. HubSpot reports that more than half of consumers, 54% to be precise, say they’ve had at least one bad customer service experience in the last month.

17. Businesses are still trying to figure out how to leverage technology to provide the kind of personalized experience their customers desire. A whopping 69% of US marketers believe technology has made it harder for them to offer customers personalized experiences. (Source: Acquia) Therefore, it’s clear that getting the formula just right could put you miles ahead of your competitors.

18. Loyalty is not a trivial concept, but rather a lasting relationship that can have a huge impact on both your brand’s reputation and the bottom line of your business. InMoment reports that 77% of consumers say they stayed loyal to specific brands for 10 years or more.

19. While the above statistic shows loyalty can be long-lasting, it is never a guarantee to be taken for granted. HubSpot offers evidence that 50% of US consumers have left a brand they were loyal to for a competitor that better met their needs.

20. One repeat purchase does not make a loyal customer, especially in the eyes of the consumer. Yotpo claims 37% of consumers feel they need at least five purchases to consider themselves loyal to a brand.

21. Freebies may mean more to your customers than you think and can actually play a role in building relationships. AP News reports 61% of consumers think surprise gifts and offers are the most important way a brand can interact with them.

22. Your customers want to know you value their opinions. According to Microsoft, 77% of consumers say they favor brands that ask for and accept customer feedback.

23. You don’t have to box yourself into traditional methods of customer service. Why not take advantage of new platforms? After all, 65% of customers aged 18-34 feel social media platforms are an effective channel for customer service. (Source: Microsoft)

24. Millennials aren’t willing to put up with bad customer service and are more than ready to go elsewhere after a negative interaction. Business Wire shows 74% of this age group will switch to a different retailer if they receive poor customer service.

25. The past year has been tough for customer acquisition, leading many brands to shift their focus to customer loyalty and retention. As a result, 90.2% of US consumers feel equally or more loyal to a brand than they were a year ago. (Source: Yotpo)

These statistics can help you begin thinking in terms of customer experience and better understand how important it is to focus on consumers’ needs during every step of the purchase journey. While one small misstep can cost you dearly, investing in customer experience is proven to reap tremendous rewards.

When it comes to local marketing, precise targeting is key. In order to connect with the right audience, marketers must carefully target consumers based on their behaviors, where they live, and a number of other demographic characteristics. Of course, local marketers often only have a modest budget to work with, meaning they have to be particularly careful about how those marketing dollars are used.

For these reasons, programmatic ads and retargeting strategies are excellent options for local marketers. Unlike traditional display ads of the past, programmatic ads offer a range of capabilities, including a precise level of control over who sees them. By pinpointing the right consumers, these ads can increase both your rate of conversion and your ROI.

Programmatic ads are also an exceptional tool for retargeting users. Targeting previous customers dramatically boosts your likelihood of making a sale. In fact, you have a 60-70% probability of selling to an existing customer, while your chance of converting a new lead is much lower at 5-20%.

How to Use Programmatic Ads & Retargeting to Boost Customer Retention

As programmatic ads are so flexible, they can be used in a number of ways to increase customer retention rates and thereby stretch your marketing dollars. Take a look at our tips below to learn how to use programmatic ads to help your local marketing campaign achieve its full potential.

Keep it Consistent

Programmatic ads fall into the category of visual media, offering tons of flexibility and creative control. However, it’s important to ensure the visuals used in these ads convey your intended message. 

In addition, the look and feel of these ads needs to be consistent with other visuals used by your brand, such as on your landing page, email blasts, and other ad types. This will ensure previous customers instantly recognize your ads and pay attention to the messaging they contain.

Create Custom Audiences with Facebook

Facebook is an incredibly powerful resource, both for understanding your target audience and advertising to them. With Facebook, you can upload an email list to create a custom audience including your existing customers and possible leads. This can be done in the Audiences tab of the Facebook Ads Manager.

This custom audience function offers in-depth information about your customers, including details such as age, gender, profession, location, and interests. Relevant data can then be used to target both existing customers and potential leads through Facebook Ads. 

Facebook Ads are affordable and allow you to connect with your audience on a more personal level. This means they shouldn’t be overlooked in their effectiveness for retargeting consumers.

Minimize Shopping Cart Abandonment

If visitors to your site often fill their shopping carts but fail to actually make a purchase, you’re not alone. According to Statista, 88% of online shopping orders were abandoned in March 2020. Even if you’re able to reach just a fraction of the customers who have items waiting in their shopping carts and convert those items into purchases, it could make a huge impact on your sales!

Retargeting these in-limbo users can help you achieve this goal. A follow-up email with details about a discount, bonus, or reduced shipping rate may be the nudge abandoning visitors need to finally follow through with their purchase.

You can also encourage follow-through with remarketing ads, which target users who have previously visited your site. As these types of programmatic ads have incredibly high click-through and conversation rates, they’re an excellent way to keep your brand top-of-mind with both existing and potential customers.

Give New Platforms a Try

Stand out from the competition by trying something new. Many popular platforms are becoming saturated with programmatic ads, making it harder to cut through the noise. However, on platforms where programmatic ads are new or underutilized, your brand can be seen as a trailblazer. For example, OTT-CTV advertising is one option to look into to have your ads displayed via streaming services and devices.

Selling to existing customers is often cheaper and more straightforward than generating new leads. Therefore, targeting this audience should be a top priority for any local marketing campaign. 

With programmatic ads and retargeting strategies, it’s easier than ever to keep your brand front and center for the consumers who are most likely to make a purchase!

 

With so much hubbub around the importance of social media in brand marketing and customer interaction, it’s easy for brands to let their websites go by the wayside. However, your website plays an essential role in your customers’ experience. It’s the central hub around which both potential and return customers congregate, providing you with ample opportunities to secure new business and build customer loyalty.

Your website doesn’t only offer a space to showcase your offerings and tell the story of your brand. If you view your site as a one-way street of information, you’re not taking advantage of its full potential. 

Your website doesn’t only offer a space to showcase your offerings and tell the story of your brand. If you view your site as a one-way street of information, you’re not taking advantage of its full potential. 

Building Blocks for Customer Loyalty on Your Website

Wondering how you can transform your website from a two-dimensional information station into an interactive experience for your customers? These four building blocks create a solid foundation on which you can use this platform to develop relationships with customers.

1. Customer Testimonials

With the right widget, customer testimonials add a personalized feel and attractive flair to almost any website. Requesting testimonials from customers makes them feel appreciated and emphasizes the fact that their opinions matter. When they see their words on your site, they’ll begin to view themselves as a representative of your brand.

Testimonials don’t only reinforce customer loyalty among existing customers. They also draw in prospective customers, providing them with the kind of trustworthy, experience-based information they’re looking for about what to expect from your brand.

Of course, testimonials aren’t only trophies to look at. They should be acted on as well. Any insight you receive from customers about their purchase experience will help you better understand what’s working and what’s not.

2. Customer Experience Analytics

While testimonials offer a written account of the customer experience, analytics represent the digital body language of customers. Customer experience analytics are vital to ensuring your website is effectively reaching customers and providing them with a smooth purchase journey. By facilitating a positive experience, you’re increasing the likelihood customers will return and develop loyalty to your brand.

With customer experience analytics, you’ll have access to a detailed analysis of how customers interact with your website. From the most frequently visited pages on your site to the products customers keep returning to look at, you’ll quickly see the most popular elements of your site. 

You’ll also learn about the types of content customers find uninteresting and any areas of friction that repeatedly come up during the purchase journey. Understanding these patterns can help you increase conversion and customer retention. 

As you make any necessary changes, you’ll also have the ability to measure the difference your adjustments are having on your overall bottom line.

3. Valuable Content

You put a lot of time and effort into your content. That’s why it’s important you’re producing the kind of content your customers want to see. With fresh, useful content on your site, you’ll have a better chance of customers making repeat visits to check out what’s new.

The goal is to become a trusted source of information for your customers, a kind of authority within your industry. That way, you can ensure they return to your site, even if they’re not yet ready to make a repeat purchase. 

By providing relevant content that’s useful to both prospective and existing customers, you’ll increase the likelihood they become vocal advocates for your brand.

4. Customer Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs offer customers an incentive to keep coming back for more, make them feel appreciated, and inspire word-of-mouth marketing. Using your website as the hub for your customer loyalty program will open opportunities to catch their attention and encourage repeat purchases.

As they visit the public-facing side of the site, they’ll have a chance to browse what’s new. Then, they’ll log in to a members-only area where they can check their points, cash in on rewards, and view members-only content. 

Personalizing this area of the website and giving it a unique feel with notifications for events, discounts, and reward eligibility will drive proactive engagement from customers and promote greater levels of interaction.

With these building blocks in place, you can work on developing a loyal following who sees your website as a portal into a community of other brand advocates. Over time, you can transform your website into a two-way street that attracts customers not only for its wealth of information but also for its opportunities to connect and engage with your brand. 

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just resulted in changing consumer behaviors and a new economic environment. It has also pressured businesses to question how they interact with customers and respond to their needs.
Customer retention in normal times was always a primary focus for businesses. However, in this new normal, it’s more important than ever for businesses to figure out how they can position customers at the heart of both their marketing strategy and their business model.

Adapting Your Customer Retention Strategy
With fewer chances to personally interact with your customer base, you may wonder how you can possibly maintain your relationship with them and continue to build their confidence in your brand. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to innovate and improve during these uncertain times.
Below, we describe the most important areas you should be focusing on when it comes to navigating the realm of customer retention in this new and unfamiliar business environment.

Build Relationships Using the HEART Framework
The Harvard Business Review offers guidelines for building relationships with consumers during a crisis through its HEART framework of communication. These guidelines call for business owners to

• Humanize their companies
• Educate customers about changes in their operations
• Assure stability to inspire consumer confidence
• Revolutionize their offerings by adapting to the new environment
• Tackle the future by determining a timeline for reevaluating and updating changes as needed

Above all, the HEART framework emphasizes the need to reach out to customers not with new marketing efforts but with information and support, providing them with much-needed value and building relationships in the process.

Make Targeted Changes to Customer Experience
Chances are your customer experience has been dramatically altered over the course of the pandemic, for better or for worse. You may have had to make spur-of-the-moment decisions regarding how customers interact with your business and receive your products and services without fully thinking through how these changes would affect customers’ overall impression of your company.
Now is the time to take stock of changes that have already been made and those that still need to be made in the face of long-term shifts in consumer behaviors. Throughout this decision-making process, focus on meeting customers where they are through innovations in online interactions and expanded home delivery options or contactless operations.
One of the easiest ways to assess customer feedback is through surveys. You can gather a significant amount of information with questions as simple as:

• How likely are you to recommend our service?
• What did you like about our services?

Additionally, now is an excellent time to survey your customers about their feelings regarding the reopening of your business. Find out where their concerns lie. Are they interested in seeing your staff wearing masks? Do they expect to see hand sanitizer at multiple locations within your store? Are they anticipating special business hours for seniors or those compromised immune systems?
At this critical time, it’s also important to listen to employees who have the closest interaction with customers, as they’ll have particularly valuable insight into how changes are being implemented and received.

Understand What’s Most Important to Customers
Customers’ priorities are changing—fast. Since the pandemic has altered their lives seemingly overnight, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that what they’re looking for in brands has changed significantly as well.
In order to gain a better understanding of how these changes have impacted consumers’ trust in brands, a recent survey reached out to more than a thousand consumers in the U.S. to learn more about these new priorities.
The results showed that this crisis has led consumers to take on a more community-focused mindset. Consumers are most concerned with how brands are making the well-being of their employees and customers their focus, rather than taking advantage of the situation to maximize profits.
In other words, consumers aren’t looking for empty words of hope and optimism. What they want is for brands to demonstrate more concrete support for their customers and employees—not their bottom line.
These factors are likely to have an impact on customer loyalty and brand reputation for as long as the pandemic is an influential part of Americans’ lives, and should thus be a major consideration as you make changes to your business going forward.

Keeping the “Non-Essential” Essential

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis may feel like anything but an opportunity for small businesses. Nonetheless, changes in purchasing patterns and consumer behaviors offer businesses a golden moment to stand out.
By taking the initiative to innovate as you navigate this uncharted territory, you can help ensure your business is in a stronger position to compete against other well-known brands as consumers develop new habits and the world enters a new normal.
In these difficult times having a solid digital marketing strategy is key to keeping business afloat. So, how can you use digital marketing to integrate into consumers’ purchasing patterns and make a strong comeback as social distancing guidelines are loosened?
Read on for our tips to help keep your business relevant in an ever-changing environment.

Tip #1: Offer a Solution
Attracting the attention of customers set in their ways once required a tough, and often costly, fight with big-name brands. However, in this day and age, it’s obvious that customers are willing to forgo brand loyalty and change their habits.
The population is shopping in new ways, trying out new brands, and venturing out to unfamiliar shops to purchase essentials. And this isn’t just anecdotal information. In fact, a study presented by MIT Sloan Management Review reports new brands accounted for over 30% of surveyed shoppers’ purchases.
As shelves are emptied of many sought-after items, what consumers are searching for is not necessarily brand recognition, but the particular features of a product. Instead of delaying purchases to wait for a preferred brand to arrive on the shelves, customers are now willing to stock up on something new as long as the unfamiliar product performs the same function as the familiar one. In this context, it’s not so important for brands to focus on why their product is the ideal version, but rather how it offers a solution to the customer’s needs.

Tip #2: Stay Visible
It’s easy to get a customer to try your product if it’s the only one of its kind left on the shelf. But what about online, where the options can often feel limitless? That’s where digital marketing comes in.
Now especially, it’s crucial you invest in a digital marketing strategy that helps build your brand’s virtual presence and facilitates familiarity and trust among your audience. Here are some of the main components of a well-rounded digital marketing strategy:

SEO Marketing
Engaging in Search Engine Optimization, known as SEO, is one of the best ways to ensure your website appears on the results pages for relevant searches. Since SEO is a long-term strategy, it’s important to understand that any efforts you put in now to optimize your website are going to pay dividends in the future. Using keyword optimization, improving the format of sitemaps, and using structured data are a few of the ways you can improve search engine rankings and help position your product or service as a solution to consumers’ queries.

Social Media
With physical social distancing a must in many communities, people are turning to social media for both social interaction and information. This offers a great opportunity for brands to engage with their audience in a way that feels natural and helps bolster their presence online.
Remember that many people use social media as a form of escape, meaning they’re more open to humorous or uplifting content on these platforms. This isn’t the place for strictly promotional content, but it is a space where you can organically build a community around your brand without blowing your marketing budget.

Online Ad Campaigns
If your company has always relied on word-of-mouth marketing, how can it survive in a world where people are increasingly isolated from one another? Running an online advertising campaign is one way to spread the word about your brand as consumers spend more time in front of their phones and computers.
PPC ads allow you to insert ads in search engine results based on specific keywords. This kind of strategy is accessible to almost all businesses and makes it possible to target the right audience for a better return on your investment.

Tip #3: Adapt, Innovate, and Evolve
Now’s the time to show just how agile you can be. As you take your business online and reach out to a more open customer base who is willing to try new things, it’s important you’re ready to roll with the punches. Government guidelines and consumer preferences will change and the market will always evolve, but one thing will stay the same: businesses that choose to innovate in the face of uncertain circumstances will continue to thrive.

Many companies fail to take the time to understand the true needs and feelings of their customers, especially during periods of major upheaval. Before investing in product development or altering services in a way that could completely change the customer experience, it’s important for innovators to ensure any adjustments they make accurately reflect the voice of the customer (VOC).
The VOC process is a form of marketing research that aims to understand customer expectations as well as their likes and dislikes. This process offers insight into customers’ needs and desires—both the ones they consciously speak about and those they’ve yet to even identify themselves.
The VOC technique also makes it possible for brands to learn how customers make decisions and the specific “pain points” that may stop them from making a purchase. In addition, it offers information about how customer preferences change over time.

Changing Approaches to VOC During the Pandemic

In 2020, companies have seen customer preferences change drastically. From a sudden decline in income to new regulations that dictate their daily interactions, there have been a number of influential factors causing the pendulum of customer preferences to swing wildly.
Some of the changes have been lasting, while others haven’t. Keeping up with these shifts has given many businesses whiplash. But others have proven to be stronger than ever. The key to success in this situation is knowing exactly what customers are thinking and feeling and using that information to dictate key decisions for your company.

While many VOC collection techniques have typically been conducted in person, such as interviews, focus groups, and observations, this is no longer a safe option in the wake of COVID-19. Thus, having an effective digital feedback collection method has become more crucial than ever.
At Listen360, we’ve seen many of our brands succeed in implementing changes to how they gather and analyze customer feedback during the pandemic. Below, we’ve listed a few of the different ways they’ve adjusted their digital feedback collection strategies to understand customers’ changing preferences and respond in a way that strengthens customer relations and promotes brand loyalty.

Keeping an Ear to the Ground

With customer engagement software that allows you to analyze customer feedback in real time, you can quickly get a handle on your customers’ current needs and frame of mind. While in the past you may have only checked customer feedback on a casual basis, now is the time to increase the frequency with which you gather, monitor, and respond to customer opinions and reviews.
Not only will doing so ensure you keep your finger on the pulse of a changing situation, but it will also enable you to make quick changes based on customer reactions. For example, if you receive a comment expressing disappointment about your company’s approach to COVID-19 safety measures, you can immediately look into the problem and resolve it so no other customers have the same negative experience. The most dynamic software packages alert you of such feedback right away, giving you the chance to quickly fix the problem and retain customers you may otherwise have lost.

Adjusting Text Analytics

Once upon a time, your text analytics may have been tuned to identify issues regarding customer service or specific aspects of your products. Now, depending on the types of services you offer, you should most likely be tuning your analytics to seek out words such as “PPE,” “COVID,” “masks,” “social distancing,” “pandemic,” and any other phrases that customers may be using to express their feelings and observations about the current situation.
With the right customer engagement software, you can easily adjust your text analytics at any time to include these words. With this proactive approach, you can find and address COVID-related feedback as quickly as possible. Remember, this feedback won’t always be negative. You’re also looking out for positive customer experiences that show you’re on the right track to providing customers with a purchase process that helps them feel safe.

Assessing the Needs of Different Demographics

At this point in time, customer sentiment may vary drastically depending on where they live. Rather than looking at your customer base as a whole, you’ll likely get a better understanding of what’s going on by segmenting feedback data to pinpoint certain states, regions, or demographics.
Using a customer listening solution, like Listen360, brands can take a detailed look at how different segments feel about their products and services as well as their approach to health and safety. Region, location, customer age, and customer tenure are some of the categories that can be used to filter data and highlight important patterns. Thanks to this tool, segments of your customer base that require extra attention won’t go overlooked.
During volatile times, your customers’ voices should lead the way. When you realize your customers only want to be heard and feel safe, you can work to meet these needs in real-time and build relationships that endure beyond this challenging era.

Social media campaigns can be tough for businesses to get right even in good times. In the era of COVID-19, it’s especially difficult to know how to use your social media presence in the most productive manner.

Ignoring the pandemic will make your brand seem either oblivious or tone deaf. On the other hand, posting too much COVID-19-related material will only overwhelm your audience and drown out the broader message your brand wants to promote.

With so many questions surrounding the use of social media during COVID-19, you may be tempted to step away from your social media campaign altogether. However, that’s not really a solution, either. Even with all that’s going on in the world, there’s still room for your brand to play a role on social media.

By this point in the pandemic, it’s much clearer how companies can use social media in a way that is mutually beneficial for both brands and consumers. Read on to gain a better understanding of what you can do to help your business’s social media campaign change with the times.

Reevaluate Your Audience:
You may think you know your target audience. After all, you’ve probably already invested time into analyzing the demographics of your customer base. While you may know who your customer is in normal times, do you know the types of challenges they are facing due to the pandemic? How have their lives changed? What are they thinking and feeling?
Reevaluating your audience’s current needs will help you strike the right tone and ensure you are marketing your product or service in a way that is relevant to their current needs and lifestyle. Some changes that may have occurred over the past few months include:

  • Time management. Lockdowns have left some individuals with more time on their hands, while others are busy simultaneously working, parenting, and schooling.
  • Health. Most people’s approach to health has changed, extending to both their hygiene practices and their fitness routines.
  • Budget. Many families are reigning in frivolous spending to make more room in their budget for essentials.
    This is also the time to assess whether your target audience has grown during the pandemic. Has the current situation made your product relevant for different needs or a different segment altogether? There may be new opportunities to tap into and new needs to meet that you’ve yet to consider.

Look at Data Differently:
Currently, purchasing patterns are in a constant state of flux, and you simply may not see the ROI you would have expected in the past. Nonetheless, there are many valuable metrics to consider at the moment other than conversions. Overall, your engagement metrics, including likes, shares, and comments, are going to show consumers’ interest in your brand even if they’re not able to make a purchase right now.

This means you should emphasize developing and maintaining relationships with customers, both old and new. Instead of focusing only on ROI, aim for better engagement so you can be at the front of customers’ minds when their buying behaviors return to a more normal pattern.

In order to gain a big-picture understanding of what’s actually going on with the metrics, you’ll also need to change your timeframe for looking at data. Although year-over-year reporting and analysis may have made sense before, these types of measurements aren’t going to hold the same level of insight in the current climate of change. You may need to shorten your time frames to quarterly comparisons or even month-over-month.

Forget What You Knew:
What were once standard patterns of social media use as far as timing and frequency of use have gone out the window. Many people’s routines have changed drastically as they shift to working from home, caring for school-aged children, and more regularly dining in. This means the best times to post on social media have changed as well.

Fluctuations in lockdown regulations have meant these changes aren’t necessarily the new norm, but there is definitely an overall pattern being formed. For example, as people skip their commute and work from home, they’re also waking up a little later and are less likely to engage on social media in the early mornings. While before Sunday was once the worst day to post, this day now sees a high level of activity on social media as people look to connect with loved ones they may not be able to see in person.

Explore New Avenues:
If you’ve always been curious about how a new content type or channel would go over with your audience, now is the time to shake things up. Whether the experiment is successful or not is almost less important than the insights to be gained by trying something different.

Here are some avenues to explore:

  • Posting more frequently
  • Using videos to inform or entertain
  • Trying out a new platform such as Snapchat or TikTok
  • Encouraging user-generated content
  • Soliciting feedback through polls

Whatever you try, chances are it’s not going to be perfect. There’s no rulebook for these uncertain times, and you’re not alone in fearing a misstep. Rather than being paralyzed by uncertainty, focus on moving forward, even if that means making mistakes along the way. Both your successes and failures will guide and inform your future decisions and strategies. So get engaged, get posting, and get social!

The lines between the offline and online experience are becoming blurred. As consumers’ interactions with businesses are increasingly multi-faceted, it’s important to maintain a digital marketing strategy that also helps improve the customer experience as a whole. For franchise brands, this often means taking a localized approach to digital marketing that allows franchisees to claim their own space online with the overall support and backing of the corporate brand.

Understanding the Digital Customer Experience in Context
Whether we use a phone or a laptop, an app or a website, has an effect on our experience with a brand’s digital touchpoints. Our experiences are also influenced by our intention; are we just browsing, looking to purchase, or seeing a way to communicate?

But our interactions with businesses aren’t always restricted to either the digital or the “real world.” Technology is such an integral part of our lives that there is no “switch” between digital and analog, but rather a fluid integration.

As a result, there’s also no one “digital” customer experience. The true customer experience is the total sum of experiences a customer has with a brand across all points of contact. This can make it hard to close the gap between how you perceive your customers’ experience and how they actually feel about interacting with your business in the digital arena.

It’s not always possible to put yourself in their shoes when you’re also running a franchise with multiple locations. That’s why it’s crucial to have a strategy in place for improving the overall customer experience, including the digital aspect of that experience, without losing sight of your brand’s end goal.

By using the right digital marketing tactics, you can ensure customers have a smooth journey from the initial search all the way through to conversion.

Reinforcing Customer Experience Through Digital Marketing
These issues are often compounded when it comes to digital marketing for franchise brands. While the franchise model allows brands to increase their footprint quickly, it can be tough to implement a digital marketing campaign at the local level that is totally in sync with the brand as a whole. Since brand marketers often have limited control over the local marketing efforts of franchisees, they can’t prevent local marketing campaigns from being executed in a way that clashes with the brand’s ultimate aims or even its specific style preferences.

The only way forward is for brands to make communication with franchisees a priority while also laying out clear goals and guidelines. In addition, franchisors must ensure franchisees have the resources they require to succeed in their marketing campaigns, whether financial in nature or related to training and ad creative. In return, franchisees should commit to running local campaigns that align with the brand’s overall goals and preferred message. After all, it’s a win-win for both brands and franchisees when any marketing campaign, whether local or national, delivers results.

The next step is to implement specific digital marketing strategies that have been proven to work for franchise brands. Below is a brief overview of the types of initiatives that help franchise businesses stand out on a local level.

Websites, Channels, and Pages Under the Brand’s Control
Consumers tend to prefer to engage with businesses on the local level rather than reaching out to the corporate brand. That’s why it’s important to make all opportunities for owned media location specific. Here’s how:

  • Local business listings. Local business data from aggregators, search engines, social media, and other places where these details appear should always be available and up to date.
  • Unique landing pages. Optimized landing pages for each franchise location boost local SEO results and offer more relevant content for consumers.
  • Content marketing. Franchise locations can maintain blogs of their own or share content from the corporate level to inform and engage consumers.
  • Social media profiles. Maintaining active social media profiles for each franchise location encourages customers to interact with the brand and keeps it relevant at the local level.

Advertising on Third-Party Sites
Localized ads provide an opportunity to geo-target consumers in a specific radius in each franchise location’s service area. These types of ads can easily supplement a national paid search campaign, and their hyper-local nature ensures any advertising dollars spent are being used in the right places.
Google AdWords offers a series of ad types and features that are great for franchise brands looking to target specific locations:

  • Local bid adjustments increase bids when a consumer in the area of a franchise location searches for specific keywords.
  • Location extensions help consumers find a franchise location when using a search engine.
  • Local inventory ads display real-time inventory at nearby franchise locations.

Voluntary Mentions by Consumers
This category is all about consumer engagement through word-of-mouth marketing and online reviews. Some of the best advertising money can’t buy includes positive words from a current customer. Franchise brands should manage earned media in the following ways:

  • Responding to reviews. This is often easier said than done, as reviews can end up on countless sites and platforms. However, there are many tools available to help manage and process reviews to ensure they’re all seen and responded to.
  • Promoting positive feedback. Nudging consumers to leave a positive review if they’ve had a positive experience is an art that’s worth spending time on.
  • Direct interactions on social media. Maintaining a social media presence isn’t only about posting regularly. It’s also important to engage with your audience by responding to comments and direct messages to build relationships and keep an eye on mentions.

During the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of Google’s basic reviews functionality took a backseat to critical GMB listing updates for essential businesses. In addition to focusing Google’s resources on where it mattered most, Google also likely wanted to avoid the spread of misinformation and unwarranted negativity during the onset of COVID-19.

As we reported in our previous blog, Google temporarily stopped publishing new reviews, review replies, and Q&A. Customers were still able to write and view their own reviews, but these reviews were not verified or posted for the general public to see.

We are happy to report that customer reviews are coming back to Google. This is an important development as businesses begin to reopen and consumers start searching for various services online.

On Google’s support page, they specifically stated:

“Review replies are now available. New user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will gradually return by country and business category.”

In addition to announcing that reviews are coming back, Google also noted that businesses can add a “COVID-19 update” to their Business Profile. You can learn about how to create a COVID-19 post here. Businesses can upload media and add things such as:

  • Hours of operation and temporary closures.
  • Changes to how the business operates, such as takeout or delivery only, call for details, or others.
  • Updates to how the location is being managed as it relates to safety and hygiene.
  • Requests for support.

We hope you found this information helpful. As always, Listen360 will continue to share updates and tips as we learn more. Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for live updates.

Businesses are struggling to keep up with the impact of COVID-19 and Google is no exception. As organizations work to maintain the accuracy of their Google My Business Listings, Google is also focusing their resources on verifying the quality and reliability of information on Google Search and Maps. 

In addition to publishing information on how to keep consumers informed during these unprecedented times, Google also announced some temporary limitations to Google My Business functionality, including a short-term change to reviews.

Here are the highlights:

New reviews, new review replies, and Q&A are temporarily unavailable

Google will not publish any new reviews, review replies, or Q&A until further notice. Customers can still write a review (and view it), however, the review will not be verified or posted for the general public to see.

Google hasn’t specified whether or not the reviews will be visible at some point, however, based on Google’s new post-review confirmation, it looks there is simply a delay and it’s safe to assume the reviews will eventually appear.If this is a concern for your business, you may want to consider asking for reviews on other sites such as Facebook. Listen360 allows you to customize the sites listed on your review request, as well as the order in which they display.

Maintaining the Accuracy of Google My Business Listings is Critical

Keeping consumers informed during this difficult time is just one way your business can continue to provide standout levels of service. Google announced that they are prioritizing critical updates for health-related businesses so you may see a delay, but we still recommend updating your listings.

Here are some helpful tips:

Our hearts go out to all the businesses and individuals that have been impacted by COVID-19. Listen360 will continue to share updates and tips as we learn more. Connect with us on Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter for live updates.