Headlines have been blaring pessimism about the economy for weeks. “Crisis looms.” “Markets down.” “How bad will it get?”
So, it’s no surprise that consumer confidence is slipping already. New results from the Siena Research Institute indicate that the nation’s consumer confidence plummeted 7.8 points in July and that most Americans now expect prolonged economic trouble.
What can marketers do to counter these negative trends? How can we keep our customers upbeat when the news about the economy is anything but?
Here are a few suggestions:
Stay close. Consumers are weighing choices carefully, so you need to keep your brand in front. Make sure consumers are aware of special features that make your product/service unique. Plus, help them feel savvy for choosing your brand. Social media can help. Use social media listening techniques to learn about consumer needs and how customers are responding to your product/service. Then, incorporate this information as you refine your messages and engagement.
Offer special discounts and incentives. This is a great time to appeal to your loyal customers with coupons and special promotions. A digital marketing strategy that includes data collection and analytics allows you to identify your biggest brand advocates and how you can provide services specifically for them. Once you’ve made the connection with your brand advocates, it may be possible to leverage their enthusiasm even more. Why not turn advocates into influencers with additional discounts and/or other incentives that recognize their status?
As Maggie Starvish points out in her article Customer Loyalty Programs That Work, the most important component by far is customer engagement. Most companies are only beginning to realize technology’s enormous potential to boost the effectiveness of rewards programs, but Starvish highlights Nordstrom’s, CVS and Stop & Shop –retailers who are leading the way with well-run customer loyalty initiatives.
Keep it relevant. Whether the economic news is good or bad, spam tries everyone’s patience. Don’t waste your customers’ time with offers that aren’t relevant. Every CMO has to keep an eye on the budget, but stay committed to research. Don’t cut corners. You have to know the pulse of your customers, so you can be sure you are delivering what they want, when and where they want it.
Detailed customer data is key to automated segmentation and targeting, and consumers have shown over and over again that they are willing to provide information in return for coupons and other promotional materials that are meaningful to them. Buy Buy Baby and Weight Watchers offer “exclusive” coupons to a limited distribution list, creating buzz, loyalty and a robust customer data base.
Integrate –internally and externally. Combine data across digital channels to create a more on-depth view of each customer. Then, present a seamless approach across platforms –both traditional and digital –to eliminate confusion, reinforce credibility and widen your appeal.
Nurture customers after the sale. Marketing today doesn’t end with the sale. Are your customers talking about their purchase online? Have you reached out for their input? Stay connected. Long-term value and customer service are more important than ever.
It certainly looks as though the economy is going to continue to sputter for awhile, and that means consumers may be sitting on their wallets more than we’d like. Your best bet is to be sympathetic to their anxiety and attentive to the frugal mindset. The ride ahead may be bumpy, but there’s some comfort in feeling like we’re all in this together.