Categories
Strategy

Strategies For Pandemic-Winning Businesses to Maintain Momentum After COVID-19

2020 will go down in history as a year that vastly changed customer behaviors, expectations, and needs for good. And while that was bad for some industries and businesses, others whose products and services were ripe for digital-only and socially distanced environments saw major increases in customer acquisition, engagement, bookings, and overall sentiment.

 

For example:

 

  • Companies like RVshare & Cruise America saw an 846% increase in bookings, as homebound individuals and families sought out adventure and reconnected to nature.
  • Vacation and short-term rentals including AirBnb, VRBO, and AvantStay saw their numbers reportedly triple, and struggled to keep up with the demand.
  • Subscription services experienced immediate growth just weeks into the pandemic, seeing monthly customer acquisitions increase as much as 85%.
  • Grocery stores saw “double digit profits” compared to 2019.
  • The pandemic reshaped the fitness landscape as health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubled from March 2020 to October 2020.

But, as the world returns to some sort of normalcy and consumers begin to venture outside their homes, pandemic-winning businesses are forced to answer the question: What strategies will help sustain recent customer acquisitions and growth? As consumers get tired of doing things they were forced to do during the pandemic, and a resurgence of options become available, pandemic-winning businesses will have to rethink the customer journey and uplevel experiences to avoid their recent success from tapering off.

Business who opt to maintain rather than innovate and improve customer experiences, risk being left behind.

6 Ways Pandemic-Winning Businesses Can Carve a Path Forward

1. Identify Industry Changes & Trends That Will Continue Past the Pandemic

Understand what changed within your industry due to COVID-19, but more importantly, focus on identifying what the staying power of new and emerging trends really are. This will help ensure your business’s time, money, and energy is focused on creating change where it matters most, rather than reactively and wastefully catering to temporary trends that won’t drive long term ROI.

 

For example, according to an analysis conducted by the budgeting app TrueBill for The Washington Post, subscription boxes and services aren’t going anywhere. “Power subscribers” – consumers with 10 or more recurring payments that add up to an average of $145 spent per month – is growing exponentially. In fact, the subscription economy is predicted to grow by $1.5 trillion by 2025, says financial services firm UBS.

 

By understanding the staying power that subscription services have, you may be able to find ways to incorporate unique and convenient subscription-based experiences. Creativity is key. Take for example Tripadvisor. In an attempt to bounce back from hits the travel industry took during COVID-19, they’ve launched a $99 annual program that offers exclusive deals and dedicated service lines to subscribers as a way. Six Washington, D.C. restaurants found a way to play in the subscription economy by joining forces and creating a “supper club” that delivers gourmet meals prepared by different chefs each week to subscribers’ homes.

 

If there’s a will, there’s a way. And there’s a lot of money you may be leaving on the table if you don’t take time to identify trends that are here to stay.

2. Reevaluate Consumer Groups & Update Your Ideal Customer Profile

Consumer groups have inevitably changed, due to COVID-19. Whether it’s just the needs and wants of your existing customers that have evolved, or you find that a completely new customer mix now engages with your products or services, it’s crucial to understand exactly who you’re serving, and how you can create better experiences for them in the future. By gathering and mining audience data, you can uncover new behaviors and update your core personas and customer profiles to inform future customer experience design.

 

For example, the experience and relationship restaurant owners need and want from their produce suppliers changed due to the pandemic. As part of a larger customer journey initiative to better understand everyday business needs and experiences of existing customers, we created and executed a customer survey focused on 1-2 restaurant locations segments for a food distribution company. The intent of the survey was to understand unique attitudes and behaviors that could provide more opportunity to focus on increasing share and loyalty, and to further understand segmentation differences within customer groups. By gathering insights directly from our clients’ customers related to technology and tools, COVID-19 impacts and competition, and perceptions associated with our clients’ existing services, we were able to update attitudinal segmentation within their customer mix and uncover future opportunities for improved experiences.

3. Consider New Customer Behaviors & Usage

With limited options during the pandemic, many customers found new ways to use products and services than originally intended. For example, many rental homes that were typically reserved pre-pandemic for short-term vacations turned into long-term homes away from home. Cars that were previously used to get from point A to point B became safe-havens and temporary escapes for overworked parents. Video communication softwares such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype evolved from connecting business colleagues to hosting virtual game nights, happy hours, and family celebrations.

 

As you mine audience data to uncover new and update existing consumer groups and personas, it’s also important to pay attention to how behaviors or usage shifted during the pandemic. Did customers engage with your products or services in new ways? Were they seeking new results or using your business to complete unprecedented tasks?

 

Use this information to expand the customer experiences you provide by designing, imagining, or inventing new uses for your product or service that provide added value.

 

Also read: 6 Factors Influencing Customer Behaviors in 2021 (With Original Research)

4. Pinpoint ‘Aha!’ Moments Within Your Customer Experience

The “Aha!” moment is when your customers truly “get it.” They understand the value that your product or service provides and realize why they need it – or simply want it – in their lives.

 

Evaluate and pinpoint where “Aha!” moments take place within your current experience by mapping the customer experience using both qualitative and quantitative research methods . Then, using the map, identify ways to either optimize, improve, or manufacture completely new “Aha!” moments to ensure continual value creation and engagement.

 

It’s important that customers perceive value at every stage throughout the customer journey to ensure repeat behavior. Don’t miss opportunities to drive an emotional bond and connection and establish a healthy customer-brand relationship by closing the loop too soon. The experience doesn’t end at the purchase point – the experience you provide creatively continue to drive value far beyond that.

 

Also read: 9 Quantitative Research Methods With Real Client Examples

5. Create New, Innovative, and Added Value For Customers

This is where we bring things full circle, and if you opt to maintain rather than innovate and drive your customer experience further, you’ll get left behind.

 

Through evaluating consumer groups and updating customer profiles, you may find that your business acquired new customers during the pandemic that wouldn’t have considered your product or services in a different time. As they start to return to pre-pandemic norms and habits, how can your businesses ensure you can convert newly acquired customers into repeat customers long-term? Well, using your customer experience map and analyses, look for ways to add value.

 

For example, new customers may not know how to use your product or service fully. If that’s not intuitive, you need to add value in the form of content (think opt-in texts, email nurture strategies, website quizzes and tools) or A.I. assistance to help customers use or leverage your product or services in new ways. By doing this, you can help educate consumers and push them closer to realizing value without selling them anything new.

 

Also, find ways to build community. Now more than ever, people are craving connection and want to support brands whose values align with their own and they can see themselves in. Consider connecting with and reaching new and existing customers by leveraging platforms such as Instagram, and TikTok to start conversations, allow people to attend offline events digitally, provide a look into your business “behind the scenes,” and more. The more authentic and human you can make your community and digital presence, the strong connection and support you’ll forge.

 

Also read: Developing Nurture Strategies That Decrease Time to Value 

6. Help Customers Navigate & Transition Into a Post-Pandemic Landscape

Lastly, be helpful. This is just another version of value, but in this case, it’s selfless. It’s not about acquiring, upselling, or converting. It’s simply about doing what’s right and holding empathy for your customers by extending value beyond the reason people are (or were) forced to use your products or services during the pandemic.

 

Play a part in helping them navigate the bounce back to pre-pandemic life in a way that feels aligned with your brand but puts the wellbeing of consumers at the core.

 

Need help envisioning and implementing strategies to maintain success in a post-COVID world? We can help. Contact us today.

Categories
Value Realization

Defining & Maximizing Value Realization For Customers

But when and where does value realization occur? Well, that depends. Value realization can vary by product or service, and – depending on the priorities and needs of the consumer – can be very subjective.

 

Take, for example, a new pair of Nike running shoes. Value realization doesn’t typically occur at the purchase point within the customer journey. Instead, the customer realizes the true value of the shoes when he or she looks in the mirror and thinks, “Wow, these look great!” Or takes them for that very first run and notices an improvement in comfort and support. Or wears them about town and receives a compliment from a stranger or friend.

 

For CPG products like Coca-Cola, value realization may occur when customers take that first sip to quench thirst or receive a caffeine-boost of energy.

Value realization is the idea that there’s some point within your holistic customer journey when the value of the product or service is fully realized. It’s that realization that can illuminate the path for future and ongoing engagement, retention, and opportunities for upsells. Each business has to find and understand where value occurs for their customers and try to measure the moment by proxy. This unveils opportunities for change and innovation to then bring that moment of value realization further up the funnel.

Value realization isn’t always a metric. Oftentimes, it’s more of a concept. It’s an idea that there’s some point within your holistic customer journey when the value of the product or service is fully realized.

Pinpointing Moments of Value Realization

As with most things, you must start the crusade for quick value realization by going back to the basics and evaluating your business’s offering and delivery method inside and out.

 

More often than not, businesses and brands create products and services with their own goals and ideas top of mind. While this may result in experiences that please internal stakeholders, it isn’t always optimized for the customer or end user that you’re trying to engage and reach. Instead, you need to create a customer experience and evaluate value delivery from the perspective of the intended consumer. And in some cases, you may have to manufacture and intentionally test moments to pinpoint specific opportunities to drive or accelerate value realization.

 

For example, we work with a SaaS company who developed an AI-powered search and discovery platform. Right now, they – like many software companies – provide a compelling free trial that strives to demonstrate value in quick, small ways in order to convert trial users to regular users. While they may be able to leverage data to quantify users’ activities, and track and understand customers, an upgrade or purchase doesn’t actually reflect value realization. In fact, a conversion doesn’t guarantee a user has even had a customer experience that includes that coveted moment of truth, yet.

Instead, to truly gauge opportunities for value realization, they may consider building an interactive tool that comes pre-loaded with several data templates. In doing so, a product developer and potential customer can quickly approximate how the tool might work with their environment and enable them to realize the value right away. Airtable and Asana, for example, do this very well.

 

A proactive approach like this can help eliminate ambiguity associated with value realization and give businesses back the reins, by allowing them to manufacture (and measure and iterate!) a singular moment of truth.

 

Also read: How to Holistically Map Your Customer Experience

Understanding the True Value of a Product or Service For Customers

This is easier said than done. It seems simple – most business leaders and innovators think they know the bottom-line value being offered to consumers – but when in the thick of things, striving to grasp the big-picture and bring it to life, the actual value that’s felt by customers can get lost in the larger dream.

 

Also read: Data Driven Insights Into the Evolving Customer Experience

Instagram is a great case study of this. The now-immensely popular and profitable app was first brought to life in 2009 under the name Burbn by Kentucky whiskey lover and hobbyist coder Kevin Systrom. In Its first life, it functioned as a location-based app (inspired by Foursquare) and allowed users to check-in at places, make plans for future check-ins, earn points for visits, and post pictures of get togethers. The thing was – it had so many features that it was too complicated, and therefore, not all that successful. But it had potential. Systrom analyzed and evaluated how users were engaging with the app over time and then brought in a second programmer – Mike Krieger – to help. By leaning into analytics and mapping user behavior, Systrom and Krieger discovered that the check-in features were a complete flop. No one was using them. They were, however, enthusiastically using the photo-sharing feature. So, with a new sense of clarity, Systrom and Kriefer stripped the app down, studied new potential competitors, and released Burbn 2.0 – an easy photo-sharing app named Instagram. The rest is history.

 

Considering that example – where did value realization occur? Systrom brought an innovative idea to life: He enabled people to check into locations, discover new hot spots, create future plans, and earn points by basically drinking. But while he saw value in all the knick-knacks, users didn’t care. It required too many hoops for them to jump through. What they cared about – where and when they perceived value – was in sharing photos that other friends would like. That simple series of actions ­– the intentional sharing and passive yet instant gratification of acknowledgement back – delivered users an emotional and addictive customer experience. That was the singular moment of truth. And value realization, it seems, lay hidden in a much more simplistic experience than Systrom originally thought.

 

With that being said, how can you and your team identify the moment of truth that delivers value realization for customers? And then bring that further up to reduce the amount of time and effort required to recognize value? Here’s a few ways we help our clients do it: 

  1. Apply quantitative and qualitative lenses to your customer journey to determine where moments of truth may lie – not just to convert users into customers, but to drive repeat purchases, upsells, and lifetime satisfaction and value.
  2. Break down quantitative data to uncover moments of customer churn and identify thresholds that transcend customers into advocates and encourage more engaged, continual use.
  3. Interview and engage customers in conversation, both ones who have disengaged and ones who chose to repeat, to outline differences between the consumer groups and identify moments that formed their perceptions.
  4. Artificially manufacture and design moments of value realization that doesn’t necessarily reflect the materialistic product or service, but more importantly, demonstrates the value. Execute competitive analyses to identify opportunities to accelerate time to value.

Create customer experiences and evaluate value delivery from the perspective of the intended customer or end user.

The Bottom Line

Over the years, consumers have grown more differentiating and discriminating about the value they’re receiving and feel less loyal to brands. That means businesses must not only continually improve products and/or services, but truly optimize value realization to occur earlier in the customer journey to maintain wallet share, grow their consumer base, increase customer engagement, and lead the market.

Categories
Strategy

What Is CX & Why Does It Matter

Just like life, CX is a compilation of moments. Not to be confused with UX – which describes experiences delivered through singular interactions, such as finding information, completing a task or searching a web page – decisions made in CX design are done so in a more holistic, long-term and enduring way that creates long-term trust and good will. When done right, it drives differentiated value and results in one million touch points over the course of a lifetime that empowers meaningful bonds with customers.

Often measured by overall experience or likeliness to continue use and recommend to others, CX is ultimately about making people feel good. It’s the new dark horse consciously and subconsciously driving buyers’ decision-making. With so many options and more power than ever to choose, customers can be more discriminatory about who they spend their time with and reward their money to. Simply put, if they don’t like you, they probably won’t continue to support you. On the other hand, if you give them an experience that is personal, memorable, and connects with them on a deeper level, you’ll win more than just their wallet share.

Simply put, if they don’t like you, they probably won’t continue to support you.

What does good CX look like & entail?

Good CX aligns purpose with value, is consistent, builds trust, and adds ease and enjoyability to every touchpoint and stage. It creates lasting impressions that drive customers – and employees – to shout your praises from the rooftops.

 

Crafting experiences is less about designing and controlling every single interaction. That’s not possible. It’s more about crafting the conditions in which certain types of interactions – ones that result in a positive and feel good impression – can happen consistently and reliably over time. That type of work takes data, commitment and, perhaps most importantly, strong cross functional collaboration.

 

Also read: How a Powerful Brand Works as Insurance

It all starts with your customer

You can’t have a great customer experience without understanding your customer – not to only understand what they think, feel and value, but why they think, feel, and value the things they do. It’s this type of data gathering, analysis and segmentation that enables brands – despite the industry or legacy longevity – to personalize their entire customer journey to satisfy customers’ unique needs.

 

Using both qualitative and quantitative strategies to gather information and compiling psychographic profiles as well as demographic ones can give you powerful insights into what your customers value most. The energy you invest into getting to know and truly serve your customers is the energy they’ll give back to you.

Then it takes heart

CX encompasses both internal and external stakeholders – in other words, employees, and customers – and when crafting CX, brands must prioritize human needs before business needs and work from the inside out. That means taking a hard look at the culture and experience provided for employees and mending areas of friction, breakdown or inconsistency with the brand’s core values.

 

Also read: Why Customer Experience Can’t All Be Data Driven

 

Part of cultivating a positive culture is empowering cross functional collaboration, a crucial component of integrated success that directly impacts external CX. Each person and team must understand the goals and play towards the same result. Crafting operational CX is like conducting an orchestra – each player contributes to the final product. No singular team can be the designated driver of CX. It takes collaboration between different functions to provide a holistic experience from the surface to the core that stays true to the brand’s purpose and delivers consistent messaging and predictability across all touchpoints, channels, and platforms for the end user.

Core Messaging Framework | Tallwave

Never stop evolving

Just as people evolve and grow over time, so should CX. Doing so requires a commitment to establishing feedback loops and signals that tell you how you’re doing, as well as a commitment to iterating and improving the areas of your business that impact CX. These include your personas, content, design experiences, marketing channels, product developments, and your employee-customer interactions. Doing so will ensure you will continue to deliver unforgettable moments that increase loyalty, build community, keep competitors at bay, and plant seeds for future growth.

 

Investing in excellent customer experiences is just that, an investment, but if done right, it can create a snowball effect of success.

 

Also read: How Companies Are Adapting Their CX During COVID-19

Stats That Prove the Importance of CX

Many studies have been completed around customer experience and sentiment through the years. Here are a couple stats that prove just how much a good CX strategy can impact business:

  • A PWC survey found that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for products and services that deliver positive customer experiences.
  • A Globe News Wire segment survey found that personalized experiences motivated 49% of buyers to make impulse purchases.
  • Out of 15,000 surveyed, PWC found that 1 in 3 consumers would abandon a brand they loved after just one bad experience; 92% would abandon after 2 or 3 bad experiences.
  • Customer service is dictating purchasing habits. A Salesforce survey reported that 73% of people who experience CX from one business raise the standards they hold other companies to. 

And with more and more companies investing money into improving their customer experiences each year (79% of surveyed executives told Simpler Media Group that improving digital CX is a very or extremely high priority for 2020 & on), some are already leading the way. Companies including Drift, AirBnB, and Lululemon continuously set the pace and expectation standards for their markets and are always looking for the next best way to personalize journeys to their customers’ needs.

The Bottom Line

Not every business or brand needs an altruistic mission but it does need to connect with its customers and be cognizant of how it makes customers feel at each stage in the user journey. “Experience is everything” is not just our rallying cry at Tallwave, it’s where we see consumers moving and where consequently brands need to move, as well. Companies who deliver exceptional experiences and make consumers feel good about their interactions will be the ones who become and remain relevant. It takes work and it requires continual commitment, but if the relationship with your customers matters to you as a brand, then it’s a commitment that should be fun and well worth it.

Categories
Uncategorized

Real People Told Us What They Want From Healthcare in 2021

Despite good intentions, healthcare has been a point of contention for those who work in it and those who receive it far before the pandemic knocked down our doors. Through numerous stakeholder interviews, we’ve seen, heard, and felt this first hand. Practitioners and patients often believe that healthcare no longer lives up to its ideals of putting and serving humans first – which is precisely the kind of business we’re in. 

 

But the question remains: What do we do and how should it change? There’s no time like the present and zero time to waste. Organizations in every marketplace, especially healthcare, must answer the call to evolve. Despite challenges, we believe the way forward is to return to serving the patient first by rethinking and redesigning experiences that can ultimately help rebuild trust.  All internal and external customer experiences must be evaluated with the organization’s core values in mind or risk being left behind as the new normal (namely Telehealth, concierge medicine and digital therapeutic offerings) stakes its claim.

“The churn and burn business of medicine is doomed to fail us all.”

Where Do We Start?

The answer to this question always lies in the same place: In the hands of the people to whom it impacts the most. 

 

So to kick-off our solution mapping journey, we asked patients and practitioners to share what pain points of the industry curtail their customer loyalty and experience the most. After just a few hours, we had hundreds of responses from both sides of the aisle, and that’s not all that surprising. Health is a crucial corner of interest for every human being (and every living thing) on this planet.

While some frustrations were unique to the individual, most were ubiquitous. Here is a summary of what we heard:

From the patient perspective: 

  • Patients don’t believe their time or business is valued
  • They consistently feel tricked and lied to for monetary gain
  • They feel judged for their appearance, sexuality, lifestyle, or lack of knowledge 
  • They feel like a means to an end when it comes to monthly quotas – not seen, heard, and appreciated as humans
  • They worry they’re misdiagnosed for time’s sake and ultimately uncared for
  • They feel overwhelmed by complexities involved in navigating health solutions and don’t know who to turn to or trust
  • They feel easily forgotten and largely unimportant 

“I feel like the healthcare system is up to me to figure out solo. For example, if I never went to a doctor again, no one would care. No one would even know.”

From the practitioner’s perspective: 

  • They feel they aren’t given enough time in the day to provide patients with the care they want to give
  • They worry the educational materials they’re provided to share with patients is too general and doesn’t actually deliver the information that’s needed
  • They feel overlooked when important organizational decisions are made that will inevitably impact the their work
  • They don’t believe enough functional and progressive options for patient communication are available
  • They don’t feel they’re given proper tools to enable and empower patients to ask the right questions in tumultuous situations
  • They believe the world quickly and technologically advanced, but the way health is provided is behind

If you look for patterns or trends in the concerns we received, you’ll notice that the challenges patients and practitioners reported circulate around the way their experiences with healthcare made or make them feel. Healthcare patients and practitioners alike are craving more connection, understanding, and transparency, and feel they’re being let down at nearly every turn. 

 

 

But does it have to stay that way? Of course it doesn’t. The healthcare industry is just suffering from a bad customer experience problem – and luckily, we can change that.

Also read: Our Unique Approach to Successful Businesses

What To Do Next

We believe that true innovation happens when you solve human needs first, business needs second, and that all experiences (which encompasses every workflow, process, and deliverable!) should be crafted with intention and care. Even though the underpinnings of the healthcare system and healthcare organizations are complex, to a patient, it’s all about their own personal end to end experience. 

 

By implementing data- and technology-driven processes that enable practitioners to meet patients where they are, you can begin to craft customer experiences internally and externally (remember, your employees are customers, too) that increase overall satisfaction and loyalty, and in turn make positive impacts to your bottom line.

Here are just a few approaches to keep in mind: 

Do Your Research

Execute in-depth market research and interviews to redefine audience personas, pain points, competitors, and growth opportunities in the given industry. Using these qualitative and quantitative insights, come up with strategies to reach your ideal demographic more often and improve retention and engagement throughout the entire patient lifecycle. Pro tip: Look to other industries for innovative ideas and solutions.

Figure Out Where You’re Falling Short

Compile data related to search results and social conversations to identify when, where, how and why your organization is showing up the way it is. Uncovering your audience’s motivations and behaviors – what matters most to them, what they actively search for, how they make key decisions – will help inform new and improved strategies to reach, acquire and engage more of your core and adjacent audiences. Let these learnings not only improve reach, but differentiate your organization’s identity, offerings, and voice. 

Discover the Root Cause

Identify communication and decision-making breakdowns that impact the customer experiences for patients and practitioners alike. Then  explore and implement solutions to mend bridges and fill those efficiency-barrier gaps. 

Strategize New Ways of Operating & What They Would Entail

Reimagine business operations through a streamlined lens exploring options for subscription models, virtual care (also known as telehealth), easy-pay and other technology-driven practices that lend to a more functional customer experience.
 

Develop & Implement New Products

Based on your previous learnings, develop and implement new telehealth offerings, scheduling apps, and A.I. tools focused on providing general health information, mental health assistance, patient-practitioner connection, and nutrition advice related to managing chronic diseases from a whole-person perspective.

Lean Into Digital Content

Ensure your website is structurally sound through a content and SEO strategy that provides cleaner data results and enables you to grow faster. This strategic planning will build on itself, reducing the need for continued high dollar investments in other channels like paid search. Pro tip: Don’t forget that the words you use and how you use them on your website impacts patient acquisition and retainment, too.
 

Evaluate Your Digital User Experiences

Evaluate and redesign external customer mobile and web experiences for easy navigation, clear communication, customized patient portals and visual differentiation and identity. Simultaneously, implement new internal data-focused dashboards to cut through bureaucracy and siloes, enable cross-functional collaboration and inform decision-making and provide real-time updates related to monthly, quarterly or yearly goals. 

Find Progressive Ways to Connect Patients & Practitioners 

Use social media and technology to increase transparency via digital events, educational seminars, interactive practitioner profiles, video live streams, 24-hour question portals, and more. 

“I want to see what kind of person you are. What are your hobbies and what makes you unique? I want to know these things so I can decide whether or not I think we are going to jive.”

Also read: How Successful Companies Adapted Their Customer Experiences When COVID Hit

The Bottom Line

Healthcare is innately and uniquely personal to each individual. From the moment each of us are born, we must interact with it in some way. But just because healthcare is organically woven into the fabric of our lives doesn’t render it safe from evolutionary needs. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Now more than ever, healthcare needs to meet humans where they are which means crafting experiences and related processes in transparent, uncomplicated and truly thoughtful ways. Doing this isn’t easy – it requires a lot of work – but the final end product drives more meaningful results for everyone and everything (including the bottom line) involved. 

 

By choosing the road less traveled to innovate and solve for the root cause, healthcare organizations will set themselves apart and ultimately contribute to enriching the lives of the patients, employees and communities they serve – just as they initially set out to do. 

 

So, are you ready to get to work? 

Be the change you want to see. Tallwave can help you reimagine the future and holistically transform. Contact us now.

 

 

*Stats pulled from a report compiled & published by Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease: Vision For a Healthier Future

Categories
Strategy

How a Powerful Brand Works as Insurance

 

COVID-19 may be the business disruption on everyone’s mind today. But business disruptions can and have occurred for many reasons, including cataclysmic weather events, terrorist actions, major economic setbacks/recessions and many more. When you think about the past couple of decades, events like these come along once every few years. Whatever the curve balls thrown at your business, there’s always one thing that can help you shake off disruption. And that’s a strong brand.

 

A powerful brand creates safety, giving customers a sense of consistency and security in times of uncertainty. A strong brand also creates loyalty, allowing businesses to pivot to new products and services when the circumstances warrant it. The best brands are able to do this simply because what their customers are buying is not the product, but the actual brand itself.

Nearly a century’s worth of brand momentum puts the ‘+’ in Disney+.

Since its origins in 1923, The Walt Disney Company has been building powerful emotional connections with multiple generations of consumers. In March 2018, Disney undertook a strategic reorganization and created a Direct-to-Consumer division in anticipation of integrating 21st Century Fox’s assets. One of the first new products to be announced by the division was the OTT streaming service Disney+.

 

Such was the level of anticipation for the new service, Disney+ was the top trending Google search term in 2019 in the US. The service launched on November 12, 2019 and by the end of the year had already achieved 26.5 million subscribers. By April, Disney+ had reached 50 million paid subscribers, and 60.5 million subscribers as of August 4, 2020 –– less than nine months after its launch. To understand the scale of this accomplishment, consider it took Netflix nearly 10 years to achieve 60 million subscribers.

 

On first glance you may think, of course, Disney+ would be this successful. But there are countless examples where businesses tried to make a similar jump with brand extensions and fell flat. Colgate Dinner Entrees, Cosmopolitan Yogurt and Harley Davidson After Shave are just a few memorable examples. The reason we believe Disney was able to do it so gracefully was due to their remarkable brand affinity.

Starbucks serves up outstanding experiences and OK coffee.

In 1989, author Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase ‘The Third Place’ in his influential book The Great Good Place. The notion of the third place — with home being the first place and work the second — was enthusiastically embraced by then Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz who made sure his fast growing coffee chain offered an attractive and comfortable environment in which to sit, use the wi-fi to surf the web, talk on the phone, get a little work done and drink a coffee or two.

 

Schultz didn’t exactly blaze the trail of the notion of the third place; arguably the British created the original third place with their public houses or pubs hundreds of years earlier. He didn’t have the best coffee either — Consumer Reports ranked the coffee at Dunkin Donuts both better and cheaper than Starbucks. But what Schultz and his team built was a world-class experience that consumers loved,  embraced and returned to time and again.

 

As was the case with the Disney example above, it wasn’t about the product, unless you define the product as the entire experience. But it’s this experience that has given the Starbucks brand permission to broaden their offerings from coffee and tea to sandwiches, wraps, salads and other food options and even beer and wine in the evening at some locations that include stages to become live music venues.

Patagonia resonates with its audience through shared values. 

Patagonia, a manufacturer of upscale outdoor clothing, is known for its various environmental sustainability efforts. The company has been known to promote wearing used clothing and in its 2011 Holiday campaign even asked consumers to think twice before buying its products. In spite of what appears to be an anti-marketing effort, the company saw its revenues grow about 30% to $543 million in the following year. In 2019, the company achieved over $1 billion in sales.

 

Patagonia has built a strong emotional and tribal connection to its customers which not only protects the brand but also allows it to succeed even as it adopts an alternative course to what most manufacturers would consider the established best practice. For example, Patagonia has led an effort to expand the useful life of its products, an effort that is at odds with the planned obsolescence approach of most manufacturers. It seems the company’s environmentally friendly efforts have resonated with the sort of consumer it targets. More of these people are buying Patagonia products as they see the company’s long-lasting wares as a way to demonstrate and express their values.

“Don’t Buy This Jacket.” 

With consumers becoming more frugal during the Great Recession and its aftermath, they were less inclined to buy on impulse and tended to shop more for value. Consumers were becoming more interested in goods that lasted a long time, and Patagonia saw an opportunity there to promote its own long-lasting wares. 

 

The marketing strategy led to the company’s running an advertisement during the 2011 Thanksgiving season that read “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” The advertisement talked about the cost to the environment of one of the company’s best-selling fleece jackets, asked consumers to reconsider before buying the product, and instead opt for a used Patagonia product. 

 

What resonates with Patagonia customers is that the company doesn’t just talk the environmental talk. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, an accomplished rock climber, also backs up the company’s talk with its actions. The company donates a portion of its revenue to environmental causes and uses recycled, “Fair Trade” certified, and organic material in its clothing. It also uses solar energy at its company headquarters in Ventura, Calif., and it is one of the founders of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a group of companies that has promised to reduce its environmental footprint.

 

The company’s message has resonated with the sort of environmentally conscious and upscale consumers that Patagonia sees as its target audience. These sorts of consumers like the idea of buying a product that is made by an environmentally friendly company in an environmentally friendly manner.

World War II was just the beginning of the battle for Jeep, one of America’s most admired brands.

Jeep’s early history and its role during World War II is the stuff of legend. On the battlefield, it was fast, nimble and tough and could handle nearly any terrain. It could ford rivers and traverse lakes. But even as Jeep became hugely popular in the post war period, the brand was held back by a succession of weak corporate owners. From Willys to Kaiser to AMC to Chrysler, each corporate entity that acquired Jeep subsequently failed and some entered into bankruptcy — for reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with Jeep.

 

It was the strength of the Jeep brand that ensured it prospered even while a succession of corporate parents did not. It was Jeep that pioneered the development of the enormously popular SUV category which is a large part of what attracted former owner Chrysler and current owner Fiat S.p.A. to acquire the brand.

 

It speaks to the enormous power and affection that exists for the Jeep brand that it can survive that many missteps and changes in ownership. For 80 years now, Jeep has made its mission to provide “Vehicles enabling life’s extraordinary journeys.” And fulfilling that mission has taken the brand on an extraordinary journey of its own.

 

Ready to build a strong, resilient brand for your company?

 

If you’d like to protect your business from business disruptions and stagnation by building a strong brand that resonates with your customers and employees, give Tallwave a call. We’d love to discuss your objectives and show you how we’ve helped other brands prepare for and respond to changing circumstances in their business and marketplace.

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The COVID-19 Diaspora: What’s Driving City Dwellers to the Suburbs

Following decades of densification of urban living, recent data points to an outmigration of urban residents in 2020 the likes of which have never been seen (at least not in our lifetime). In a recent New York Times article, FlatRate Moving reported a 78% increase in moves from New York City to Connecticut; a 48% increase to Long Island; and 38% to New Jersey from March 15 to April 28, 2020, compared to 2019. 

 

In a pre-pandemic state, living in the city made everything wonderfully accessible. Workplaces, apartments, your social circle—and the eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues where you mingled with them—were all close at hand. Add a pandemic and a shutdown to the mix, and the city suddenly doesn’t seem quite so compelling. At the time of writing, the majority of workplaces for office workers are still closed as are all those bars and restaurants. Plus, you can no longer spend time with your social circle and that apartment with no private outdoor space is making your cabin fever worse the longer you’re forced to shelter-in-place there.

 

An online Harris Poll of 2,050 U.S. adults nationwide from April 25 to 27 asked whether they would consider moving to less-populated areas once the pandemic ended.

 

  • Nearly 40% of U.S. adults living in urban areas indicated they would consider moving “out of populated areas and toward rural areas,” compared to 29% of overall respondents. 

  • Forty-three percent of urbanites – a significantly higher percentage than of suburban (26%) and rural (21%) residents – said they’d recently browsed real estate websites such as Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com for homes or apartments to rent or buy.
supporting data graphic

What’s enabling this trend?

If you think about it on a human level, it’s easy to understand some of the forces that are driving this flight to the suburbs. Let’s imagine for a moment you’re a Millennial couple without kids fortunate enough to hold down two safe, well-paying jobs that allow you to live in an apartment on the Upper West Side. If you further imagine you have a dog, that’s almost 30 round trips each week in a small elevator to get her outside for a walk. Whereas if you were in any number of airier, greener spaces outside the city like Maplewood, NJ, Greenwich, CT, or Westchester County, chances are you could just open your back door to let the dog out.

 

Similarly, if you’ve spent the past four-plus months working from home with no loss of productivity, how important is it to be a short 1 Line ride to your office in Bryant Park? If the plan for the future is to attend the office in person once or maybe twice a month and work from home the rest of the time, perhaps it’s fine to be an hour or so away from Grand Central on the Metro-North.

 

There are financial implications to this movement as well. In a recent study, Zillow found that homebuyers can expect to pay 26.5% of their income each month for a median-value home in a city, compared to 20.2% for a similar home in the suburbs. 

 

COVID-19 has forced us to think differently about our safety and to make changes where we can to preserve our physical and mental well being. And while the examples above focus on the Northeast, this is not a New York or even a coastal cities issue. Even in landlocked Dallas, apartment occupancies are falling in city center markets but rising rapidly in the suburbs. Suburban apartment communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area saw a 40% rise in searches in recent months, according to a study by Apartments.com.

 

“Shelter-in-place orders have driven renters in tiny city-center apartments to wish they had more space to move around inside, a yard to play outdoors or even a quiet neighborhood in which to exercise,” said the Apartments.com analysts.

The rise of blended service models in response to this migration.

Many aspects of everyday life are predicated on the high-density lives some people are now attempting to leave behind. Significant adjustments and innovation will be required as businesses and other organizations adapt to a shrinking geographical customer base. They’ll be forced to deliver their existing service/value or new forms of service/value through new digital means that don’t rely so heavily on in-person interactions. While this investment is potentially daunting, it also poses an opportunity for businesses to reach entirely new audiences and customer bases. They’ll also be much more resilient and able to better withstand future challenges with blended service/value models.

 

Consider the rapid emergence of Telehealth. While gradually growing in acceptance before the pandemic struck, it has made remarkable progress in recent months. Philadelphia’s Jefferson Health network went from conducting a few dozen telemedicine sessions per week to scheduling 500-600 such visits per day in March, reflecting an effort by the network to move outpatient visits to virtual ones.

 

Aside from its safety benefits during a public health crisis, could telehealth be a mechanism to lower the cost of providing primary healthcare services? The potential would appear to be there. The demand is most certainly there. A survey by Sage Growth Partners and Black Book Market Research found that 25% of consumers had some experience of telehealth prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifty-nine percent of consumers reported they are more likely to use telehealth services now than previously, while 33% would be prepared to leave their current physician for a provider who offered telehealth access.

 

Back to our fictional Millennial couple. These telehealth developments would give them the option to maintain their relationships with their primary care physicians in Manhattan even while they head to the suburbs. At the same time, providers in their new environs will be happy to welcome them to their practices which would help with advanced and critical care should specialist treatment or hospitalization be needed, for example.

59% of consumers reported they are more likely to use telehealth services now than previously

Will the shift to the suburbs be sustainable? Or will it pass when COVID is somehow controlled?

This pandemic has forced much introspection as to what really matters to us as individuals. The flight to the suburbs is a flight to quality—specifically, a flight to an enhanced quality of life. If you think back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from your Psych 101 class, the needs at play here are what Maslow describes as ‘deficit needs,’ meaning we are only focused on them if they are absent or threatened. Serving physiological and safety needs may be what drives people out of high-density urban environments in the short term but will likely not be what keeps them in their new surroundings in the longer term. We would expect the lifestyle enhancements of having more personal space and a better environment to enable permanent work from home arrangements to be the key drivers moving forward.

 

As has been the case in earlier population migrations, it’s likely that if Millennials head for the suburbs in the coming months and years, their places in the cities will eventually be taken by members of the upcoming Generation Z once safety is no longer a primary concern.  

At Tallwave, we see the challenges facing businesses to understand and innovate around these societal changes as an opportunity. If you need help thinking through how your business should respond, give us a call. We’d welcome the chance to work with you to evolve your customer experiences to help you prosper in the new paradigm of customer care and service delivery.