In today’s volatile economy, it is important to find innovative ways to ensure customer continuity, loyalty, and profitability.
Customer acquisition, as most business professionals know, is challenging enough during healthy economies.
In 2020 and beyond, however, those challenges will become even more difficult.
Below, we’ll explore some of those challenges, then look at five ways to ensure customer continuity in the years ahead.
Why Customer Continuity Strategies Must Change
There are several forces that are fueling change in customer expectations and behavior. And those changes, in turn, compel businesses to change their own customer acquisition and continuity strategies.
Here are three of the biggest trends affecting customer behavior today:
- Digital transformation. Advancements in digital technology open up new avenues for technological innovation and digital transformation. Those innovations, in turn, create new forms of customer value, drive change in the marketplace, and force companies to rethink their customer continuity strategies.
- COVID-19. The novel coronavirus took the world by storm and resulted in one of the largest financial crises in the past century. Among many other things, that pandemic resulted in changed customer behavior, changed customer needs, and much more – all of which require companies to reimagine their approach to customer continuity.
- Natural evolution of customer needs and expectations. Another factor that forces companies to adopt new customer continuity strategies is natural changes in customer expectations. For instance, cultures, beliefs, and preferences all evolve naturally over the course of time, which means that companies must adapt their approach to customer continuity.
Together, these three trends are driving significant, rapid change across the economy.
To keep up with the resulting shifts in customer behavior, it is important to rethink the approach to customer continuity.
5 Ways to Ensure Customer Continuity for the Modern World
Here are five strategies that can help organizations maintain their customer base during difficult and volatile times.
1. Prioritize the customer experience
Many businesses recognize the importance of the customer experience.
After all, we live in a digital economy where companies can easily reproduce digital products – or even manufactured products.
In such an environment, the customer experience is often the sole differentiator between brands, products, and services.
To differentiate one’s own brand, it is important to focus on every aspect of the customer experience, including:
- Customer care
- Product onboarding
- Product design
- User feedback
User-driven design, as we will see next, is one of the best ways to ensure that experiences, products, and services stay relevant to the customer.
2. Design products and services around the user
User-centered design is an approach to design that builds products and services on top of user feedback, data, and input.
In this design method, elements such as users’ needs, product functionality, and the user’s environment all drive the design process.
- Products and services that are more relevant, useful, and usable
- Improved user experiences
- Greater customer continuity and longevity
Ultimately, as with many of the strategies covered here, user-centered design can improve customer value and directly add to the bottom line.
Personalization refers to the customization of a product, service, or process to suit an individual’s needs.
When applied to the customer experience, personalization can be applied in many ways.
- Marketing can personalize content to individual users’ tastes and preferences
- Customer service can use customer data to deliver more relevant solutions and answers
- Recommendation engines can offer up more relevant products and services
When applied properly, personalization can significantly improve the customer experience, their perception of a brand, and ultimately their lifetime value.
4. Rapidly evolve product strategies
The trends covered above all have a significant impact on customer needs and behavior.
Technology-driven innovation, for instance, introduces new products and possibilities into the marketplace. Those new possibilities, in turn, shift customers’ fundamental expectations and demands, which then drive further marketplace innovations.
Other disruptions to the marketplace, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can have an equally profound impact on customer needs and behavior.
To keep up with those changes, it is necessary to take an agile approach to product development.
To that end, companies should:
- Continually evaluate competitors, customer sentiment, and the marketplace as a whole
- Have systems in place that enable them to respond quickly to changing conditions
- Be able to rapidly prototype, test, release, and refine new products
This type of strategy is essential for maintaining healthy relationships with customers, especially when customer demand is likely to change rapidly.
5. Plan for the future and pivot now
In 2020, the economy changed forever as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet those changes are just the beginning of a long road towards an uncertain future.
To adapt to that future, it is important to pay close attention to the trends mentioned earlier – and, more importantly, it is critical to take action now.
Maintaining customer continuity, in other words, means:
- Understanding how current marketplace trends will shape the future economy
- Monitoring customer sentiment closely and forecasting how tomorrow’s economic landscape will affect customer behavior
- Planning for multiple scenarios and implementing those plans as early as possible
Agility will become one of the most essential traits in the years ahead, since many experts predict more volatility in customer behavior, demand, and the marketplace as a whole.