Sam Stanhope, Content Manger at GO!, explores how the pandemic has changed the way brands interact with customers, and what communication trends we’re likely to see continue going into the new year

The ways that brands are communicating with their customers is constantly changing. Advances in technology and shifts in society all dictate how we, as customers, want to interact with the companies we are buying from. Sometimes, these changes are gradual and are hard to notice. Sometimes, as we have witnessed recently, they are sudden and seismic.

There's been a litany of challenges facing brands in the past 12 months - companies no longer being able to drive customers in-store, small businesses with little-to-no online presence also hit particularly hard. Nevertheless, businesses - and the people within them - have adapted.

So, looking ahead to a somewhat uneasy start to 2022, what strategies will brands be focusing on to communicate their message to customers in the new year?

Discover The Major Marketing Communications Trends for 2023: Authenticity, Loyalty, and Reputation

Brand Communities

Customers who engage with brands just beyond their products is a great sign of a loyal brand communities, and with the pandemic making people focus on community-spirit more than ever before, brands should be eager to build out their own communities in order to make themselves stronger as a result.

Download: Introduction for brands

Certain brands have been putting community building to the test for quite some time, so what does it look like in action? Social media influencers as brand ambassadors, blog content, reward programmes, the use of hashtags, user-generated content and charity work/partnerships are some of the ways that brands can build out their own community and keep customers engaged.

Gym Shark are a good example of a brand who has built up a strong community

Acquiring new customers is always important but retaining ones that are already engaged should be an equal focus for brands in the current climate and building up a strong community is a good way of doing this.

Mobile-friendly Communication

Whilst it might seem an obvious thing to say, more businesses are discovering different ways to communicate with their customers over their mobile phones. Social media companies are creating new ways for businesses to sell on their platform beyond just paid and organic advertising.

Did you know that as many as 20 billion messages are sent between people and businesses on Facebook Messenger each month? Messaging apps have overtaken traditional social media platforms when it comes to selling. Not being able to go into shops and interact with brands in-person drove customers to use messaging services to reach out on a deeper level with businesses.

By allowing communications and sales through messenger services, including WhatsApp, brands can make good use of the next point on our list…

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Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

It’s predicted that by 2024, chatbots will facilitate around $124 billion of consumer retail spend, an increase of over 400% from the $2.8 billion in 2019.

With potentially thousands of customers reaching out to companies online, responding to all of them in-person would be a monumental task. Queue chatbots, the friendly, automated service that allows customers to find answers to their questions without ever having to interact with a real person.

It’s an effective way to optimise operations, but businesses should always be clear about what customers want before configuring a chatbot. Do away with complicated jargon, make responses clear and concise and give your customers the chance to speak to a real person if they need. Integrating a ‘Contact Us’ option in your chatbot can greatly improve customer satisfaction.

Personalisation of Content 

When it comes to engaging with customers, brands are continuing to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the most effective way of going about things. Customers care more now than ever about their experience with the companies they are buying from. They don’t want hundreds of generic emails clogging their inbox that aren’t relevant to them. Customers want communication and an experience that is relevant to them. 

Thanks to the advances of AI, hyper-personalisation is now very much achievable. Things like dynamic content based on search terms, targeted messaging, product recommendations based on previous purchases and live chat functions can all be used to improve a customer’s experience with your brand. A study found that 91% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that offer relevant recommendations and a personal experience. 

So, as you can see, as the worst of the pandemic and lockdowns are thankfully (and hopefully) behind us, the impact that it has on how brands communicate and interact with customers is likely to be much more permanent.

Read now: 5 Tangible Ways to Build Customer Experience into your Strategy

Augmented Stores

In a time where customers were unable to go in-store to try on an item of clothing or see how a piece of furniture would fit in their home, brands had to come up with a way to allow customers to do these things from the comfort of their own homes. Cue augmented reality and 3D technologies, the ability to overlay digitally created content onto a real-world environment.

There are five main types of augmented shopping experiences. 

  • Augmented reality (as described above) – the ability to overlay content into real-world environments.
  • Augmented shopping - allowing customers to engage with brands and products through digital experiences (trying on clothes, personalise a product virtually, interact with a product.)
  • Virtual reality – a fully-rendered digital environment that can be used to recreate stores and real-world spaces.
  • WebAR – AR experiences through a web browser without having to download a third-party application.
  • 3D assets – three-dimensional versions of physical products that can be interacted with (see at all angles and all sizes etc.)

View: Web Development 101 - Optimising your Website for a Successful 2023

There are more than 1 billion devices in the world that can deliver augmented experiences, and there are over 100 million consumers who prefer using augmented reality while shopping, so brands should consider investing in if they want to keep on top of consumer preferences.

View our upcoming events calendar - to get involved in the expert-led workshops around key marketing challenges and trends in 2023

If you’re wanting to get ahead with your communications but aren’t where sure to start, or need agency support, contact one of our team today here

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