In a pandemic, subscription brands are using analytics-driven engagement to prevent churn

By Scott Howe, CEO, LiveRamp

When stay-at-home orders went into effect in early March, the business community was left guessing. What would the long-term economic impact of this global pandemic be? What would this mean for already struggling sectors, and what new opportunities could actually arise? Just a few months later, a number of indicators are already revealing the answers to some of these questions. 

Most people generally agree that COVID-19 is acting as an accelerant, fast-forwarding changes that were already taking place. On a macro level, what marketers are really seeing right now is a glimpse into the future, and the data is clear — even during stay-at-home orders, companies with strong digital strategies, ones that can reach and provide people with services, experiences and the ability to enable personal connections are not only surviving, but thriving.  

These companies have a golden opportunity to capitalize on a sudden influx of new customers, earn their trust, their loyalty and convert those relationships into long-term gains. This starts with recognizing the recent and dramatic evolution in consumer behavior. 

New consumer behaviors are here to stay

Forced to do more inside their homes, people around the world have changed the way they work, exercise, educate (and entertain) children, visit the doctor and much more. Not surprisingly, retail e-commerce has flourished in the last few months, as has video conferencing providers and streaming services. Many are predicting these shifts will become permanent, with adoption happening faster than otherwise would have occurred without the health crisis.

A recent IAB study found that 25–33 percent of all consumers intend to reduce major out-of-home activities after the crisis ends, shifting their spend to in-home items like household care products, home gym equipment and convenient food pick-up and delivery services. According to the CSP Daily News, an estimated 17 million U.S. households plan to continue grocery shopping online after the pandemic ends, buoying the fortunes of players like Walmart, Instacart and Amazon. 

Intense focus on key business metrics

Leadership teams are normally vigilant about the numbers, but never with the same existential intensity as now. For any company that finds itself in the enviable position of being ahead of the curve at the moment, it’s critical to capitalize on the opportunity and plan for long-term success, especially during this unprecedented and volatile period.

Take, for example, two highly publicized brands: Peloton and Zoom. While the global pandemic has impacted the economy as a whole, these subscription-based services, and others like them, have experienced strong tailwinds resulting in sudden and strong gains in customer acquisition. However, with so much information and choice at their fingertips, this new generation of consumers is more empowered and less brand loyal than ever. 

To avoid a possible downturn, these companies must create a stable foundation for their new positions and reduce the potential for mass post-pandemic cancellations.

Getting ahead isn’t the same as staying ahead

To protect newly won market share, prevent churn and continue to drive growth, organizations must double down on understanding and engaging new customers to develop valuable long-term relationships. They need to find out why people bought, what they expect from the brand and whether they intend to stay after the crisis is over. 

At a fundamental level, maintaining a healthy customer base requires the ability to more effectively utilize and connect customer data in a privacy-conscious way across the entire organization. This means building trust with the consumer by providing transparency about what data has been collected and what they will be used for, and then connecting the data securely to inform all the areas involved in customer experience. From marketing to product development, from call centers to web analytics, understanding the actions of individual customers wherever and whenever they choose to engage the brand is the only way to create a holistic view, and to deliver the seamless experience native digital users expect.

By unlocking data silos, companies also immediately develop the capacity to more effectively analyze data and ingest other data sources. These brands can leverage customer insights to seek out partnerships that have relevance with their growing customer base. For example, imagine if Peloton and a streaming music service with overlapping customers worked to diversify their exercise playlists to appeal to their new audiences? Or, what if Zoom partnered with a food-delivery service so family and friends could eat together? Such complementary partnerships can be mutually beneficial, and can ultimately increase the value of the service to the customer.      

New data sources can be used to build and scale the right audiences and enhance measurement to better understand which tactics are moving the needle on key business outcomes. Leveraging other first- and third-party data sets can unlock targeting capabilities and optimize critical media investment. 

There are only a few simple rules to staying ahead — keep wooing your customers and remember that in today’s new world, developing long-term engagement and customer loyalty requires privacy-first data connectivity. 

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