Pause, Play, Fast-Forward

How to stay connected with your consumers in challenging times. COVID-19 is invading the world rapidly; therefore, many of us have hit the ‘pause’ button and retreated to our homes. Needless to say this new reality comes with many challenges, not only for individuals and families; think video meetings with kids running around – but also for brands.

There is no manual on how to connect and interact with your consumers in these uncertain times. But one thing is clear: with the right approach, great brands will succeed in creating new opportunities and building equity. Hence, the time has come to start thinking about how your brand will stay close to your consumers in the coming days, weeks and months; care and listen, adapt to the current reality, and prepare for tomorrow. In other words, brands need to pause, play and fast-forward!

PAUSE | Care & listen

As a first reaction, many companies have sent out newsletters and emails ensuring business continuity. Although a lot of effort has been put in these communications, they often lack consumer-centricity, and end up as a poorly disguised and potentially ill-timed corporate message. How many of these emails started with a genuine interest in consumer well-being; a simple: how are you doing? Consumers want the know that brands are there for them in these challenging times.TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel platform, has well-understood this approach and states. “We care deeply about your safety, whether you are at home or traveling”, referring to their dedicated COVID-19 discussion forums.

Many consumer-centric brands (e.g. L’Oréal, Sony) are using their online insight communities as an additional platform to reach out to consumers; providing them with an outlet to share their current experiences and worries. Insight communities function as additional touchpoint and provide an opportunity to gather consumer understanding of the current reality, as well as ensuring that research topics do not get swallowed by COVID-19 discussions.

PLAY | Adapt today

Pausing alone is not enough, however; brands need to act upon the changing reality and ensure brand relevance. Times of crisis demand a rapid anticipation of emerging frictions and needs. Materialise is a provider of 3D printing software and services for medical and manufacturing. They developed a hands-free 3D-printed door opener to help avoid the spread of the virus, and has shared the design files via their website. The COVID-19 measures have impacted the day-to-day reality of many consumers. They are also challenging brands to rethink their customer experience. The Wiener Staatsoper, for example, is now opening its livestream archives, so that music lovers all over the world can enjoy opera and ballet.

These extraordinary times demand from all businesses that they learn and adapt, regardless of their size, industry or sector. Online insight communities can help brands keep the finger on the pulse, by identifying and contextualizing unmet needs, frictions and aspirations, to enter a mode of fast decision making.

FAST-FORWARD | Prepare for tomorrow

The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters, i.e. ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. The latter brings us to the third pillar, where brands should not be blinded by today; they need to dare think about tomorrow. The COVID-19 days will pass (and hopefully soon). It is essential to keep on innovating, and to consider the current reality as an opportunity for the future.

This is where online research communities play a pivotal role, allowing brands to understand how the current situation has an impact on consumers’ beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. Whether it is for ad testing, mapping emerging needs to fuel innovation or understanding post-corona consumer journeys, community research will support brands to co-create this new reality, together with consumers.

It’s (more than) okay for brands to take the time to hit ‘pause’. But they need to listen more than ever to the beat of their consumers when pressing ‘play’ – and be relevant today. They should also ‘fast-forward’ – and be prepared for tomorrow, and even the day after tomorrow.

To help brands navigate through these fickle times, we’ve created a dedicated COVID-19 online community approach. Intrigued? Get in touch and we’d be happy to start the conversation and listen to your challenges!

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