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Innovators Q&A: How Genexa Is Challenging the Pharmaceutical Industry & FDA

Welcome to our first of many interviews with innovators, mavericks and leaders across the globe who are challenging convention and changing the CX status quo!

 

To kick off the series, our Partner Robert Wallace who leads Tallwave’s strategic market and growth opportunities interviewed Kelli MacDonald, Chief Marketing Officer of the world’s first clean medicine company Genexa. Founded in 2014 by two dads who were concerned about the ingredients in their family’s medicine bottles, Genexa has one simple mission: To put people over everything. They believe in expanding health education and improving accessibility to clean medicines for all. And in 2021, they’ve got some pretty big goals – some backed by data, and others inspired by their ‘StoryDoing’ ethos. 

 

Learn how Genexa plans to evolve from start-up to household name, Washington D.C. lobbyist, and the brand that changed the over-the-counter (OTC) industry for good. 

Q&A with Kelli Lane MacDonald, Genexa CMO

Robert Wallace: To start, I think it would be worthwhile for you to give us a brief overview of your background and an introduction to Genexa.

 

Kelli Lane MacDonald: Sure! I [started my career cutting] my teeth at various different advertising agencies up and down Madison Avenue, if you will, in New York City. I went back to school while working at one of those agencies to really dig into customer experience, human centered design – to expand my knowledge.

 

Through that process, I landed at a brand strategy firm that really focused on putting the person at the center of the experience. [They] hung their philosophy on this idea of ‘StoryDoing’… [it’s] the concept that you [not only] need a really powerful story and mission – you need to do that story in the world. The best brands in the world – [the ones that] are most famous, impactful and giving back to society – are the ones that follow that kind of philosophy. So, through that work – through my previous agency where I was the Managing Director – we started working with Genexa to help them finalize their brand and really take them to the next level with the launch into stores – 40,000 different retailers like Target and RiteAid, Walgreen, Whole Foods and many others. So, I bring a lot of experience with marketing, communications and consumer insights – how to speak with, touch and provide value to consumers everyday.

 

What really drives me every morning to wake up and [makes me] excited to do this job with Genexa is what they’ve built. The founders of Genexa, David Johnson and Matt Spielberg, are two dads. About five years ago, they looked at what was in their children’s medicine and couldn’t believe the artificial dyes, colors and ingredients – literally the poisonous ingredients in substances like Antifreeze – that are being used in micro-doses in our medicines and we ingest to make us feel better. They felt there had to be another way and so they embarked on a journey to really create alternatives that are just as effective and have the same active ingredients, which is the reason you take a medicine – acetaminophen, diphenhydramine… the reason you take Tylenol or Mucinex or Benadryl – but take out all of the dirty, inactive ingredients and replace them with organic, non-GMO alternatives. Our whole company is built around this philosophy ‘People over everything…’ That everyone deserves access to cleaner, better for you medicines. And you know, we’re thankful to all of our retail partners who are helping us bring that to everybody.

"Our whole company is built around this philosophy ‘People over everything…’ That everyone deserves access to cleaner, better for you medicines."

RW: Thank you for that. It’s a really interesting concept. When you looked or are looking at building out Genexa, do you take into consideration any specific touchpoints in the over-the-counter buying journey? What user experience components do you believe to be most critical to customer conversions and loyalty? 

 

KLM: That’s a great question. There’s really two kinds of OTC drug shoppers and all of us are those two personas depending on the situation that we’re in. There’s the emergency situation: Your child has a 103 degree fever. It’s 11pm at night. You need to go get relief for them to bring that fever down. Or you are not in a moment of crisis and are thinking about how to improve your health, be prepared and clean up your medicine cabinet or find alternative options.

 

As consumers, there’s been a clean revolution in all kinds of industries – food, beverage, beauty – to me, it’s actually the most counterintuitive thought in the world that the medicine we put into our bodies to make us feel better would be the products that are still dirty and have dirty ingredients.

 

As we think about those two personas – the emergency shopping persona versus the non-crisis but trying to prepare [persona] – there are different needs, right? If you’re in an emergency situation, [you’re] not ordering something online and waiting two days for it to [arrive]. It’s not useful, at that point. Where as.. If you’re thinking about how to live a less stressful life or help with sleep at night because of the changing of time zones, you’re more in that reactive mode. Because of that, we made a really conscious decision to be the only pharmaceutical company that sells omnichannel. We, obviously, have an in-store presence with retailers. We have a .com, we have Amazon, we’re selling through instacart. [We’ve made] a conscious decision that we never want to force a consumer to shop in a way that is not natural or useful for them, and, therefore, we had to build out sales and marketing strategies that supported that.

RW: How did you come to those realizations that it needed to be a 360 customer experience or to understand that those were the two primary personas that you were looking at? Did you do audience research?

 

KLM: Yes, we did quite a bit back in [quarter one] of last year. To give my counterparts that run sales internally at Genexa credit – they started having retailer conversations long before the marketing team did tons of audience research and segmentation and said this was the right decision: To go have those conversations. I think, originally, like any entrepreneurial culture, there’s probably a little bit of gut feeling, a lot of talking to people in aisles. Everybody on our executive team walks into retail aisles and just talks to customers – well before COVID. We don’t do that currently. And so, it starts by understanding the customer – we used research to validate that – and also find additional insights to understand how to reach them, how to add value and [to uncover] what their need states were.

 

Also read: What Is CX & Why Does It Matter

RW: How did you identify or evaluate which channels to go after first? You have DTC, big and small retailers, instacart – how did you prioritize those or even think of those when crafting omnichannel funnels? What was most important to you and your strategy?

 

KLM: It’s chicken and egg, honestly, because from my perspective, depending on who you are as a brand – that’s where I think you need to really start: Do some soul searching, figure out what is authentically you. Then use that to inform how you think about your business and where to build, invest time, money and effort first. But I think the egg side of that is – especially with more entrepreneurial startup environment – you have to get your product into people’s hands. So, really organically, our sales team went to the Erewhons and the Sprouts in LA [where it was founded] with backpacks of product… and just asked for some time with the decision-makers of those stores.

 

But I also think, coming back to the brand point, part of what makes Genexa so different is that we call ourselves the only human funnel. We are pharma with a face. Our founders phone numbers are on every single product on the box. We have Founder Fridays where our two founders actually call customers. Our customer service team are people, they’re not robots or offshore. They sit in the office with the rest of the teams. It was really important to us to make sure that, when we’re thinking about where we’re going to show up, we do that in a way that ladders back to the brand and that humanity.

RW: Is that a good example of ‘StoryDoing?’

 

KLM: Yes! My team gets tired of me saying this, but I constantly say, ‘Living out our purpose is not the job of just the marketing team.’

In order for a company to be successful – [for] a brand to be built and have long-term loyalty and really impact change in a society – every single person in the company, whether in quality or compliance or legal or sales, they need to understand what mission we’re on and they need to shape and drive their actions accordingly.

"Every single person in the company, whether in quality or compliance or legal or sales, they need to understand what mission we’re on and they need to shape and drive their actions accordingly."

RW: I agree. You think about brands people truly love – truly covet – and have an emotional connection to. Those people that have that kind of affinity, they don’t talk about it in terms of a product thing or a customer service thing or a marketing thing. It’s a brand thing and that means every touchpoint has to be right in line. You’re making a promise as a brand – you have to question if everything else is fulfilling that promise.

 

KLM: Right, [you have to consider] every interaction [a person has] with the brand: Opening the package of a medicine bottle, where [they shop for that, calling customer service or, obviously, the social impact work that we do. All of [those are] our brand touchpoints. [They’re all] opportunities for consumers to create a relationship, good or bad, with the brand. The companies that are doing it poorly are only thinking about advertising – they’re talking, they’re not walking. It’s those that are on the flipside of that – that understand that purpose has to be embedded into everything you do as a business – that are most successful.

 

Also read: Real People Told Us What They Want From Healthcare in 2021

RW: It’s that idea of authentic awareness. It’s not just about doing a mass market campaign, but doing something authentically that actually speaks to people in a way they care about. It’s not just driving eyeballs, that’s only part of it. So, you have the authentic awareness part of things, you have the culture storytelling… you obviously have a product that’s cleaner, better and healthier for people. Those are departures from other OTC brands out there, but is there anything else you’re doing that’s different from other legacy brands you’re competing against? Not that those two alone aren’t enough.

 

KLM: Yes. We’ve been working on a [longer term] impact strategy, so we’re going to have a couple of pretty significant initiatives kick off this year that are in service of driving change at a systemic level. So, with the FDA – I don’t know if you know this but Europe actually has the European standard, which is the equivalent of the FDA in Europe, and the standards that they put out are incredibly more strict than they are in the U.S. All of the ingredients that are on Genexa’s ‘X List’ – which is our growing list of ingredients that we vow never to put in our products and are in our competitor’s products – 98% of those are banned in Europe. So, it’s not even a question for European products. That really gets you thinking. How come European citizens have access to carte blanche better products than there are in the U.S? It doesn’t seem sensible. So, Genexa is really leading the charge. I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re going to be partnering with some other brands that you know and love to really drive that change at a systemic level in Washington D.C. [and with the FDA.

 

We’re also really looking at – I said the word access earlier – [increasing] knowledge. First and foremost, people don’t know that these ingredients are in their medicines. Then, [it’s about getting people] access to the actual product. We’re standing up an initiative that will help bring education and actual products to communities that otherwise don’t have access, have been forgotten about or are often overlooked because – especially with clean products – I think marketers realized a couple decades ago that they could mark those products up to be premium pricing. Genexa does not believe in [in that]. Our products are more expensive to source because they are better-for-you products – they’re not synthetically made in a lab – and so what we’ve done is kept those price points as competitive as possible. They’re never more than 15% of the leading skew. That’s really driven by this idea of ‘People over everything’. Everybody deserves knowledge and access to better products.

Genexa Instagram post

RW: How do you measure ‘People over everything’? You have this idea of people – it feels qualitative… super important but qualitative – but then you have to measure that somehow. How are you measuring your impact or how are you using data to measure whether you’re on the right track or not?

 

KLM: There are some really incredible brand impact partners that have built out tools to help do that. I think there’s probably a more formal way to do that, which we’re working on standing up.

 

I think informally, we do donate quite a bit of product to different organizations – new moms that don’t have health insurance… Baby2Baby does a lot of really good work with new moms. We don’t shout it off of the rooftops. We feel we’re privileged enough to be in a position where we can give the product to people [who] need it. And that’s our duty, we are fortunate to be in that position. Two years back, we actually built a clean water well in Central America because access to clean water is really the fundamental starting point for good health, or better health.So, we’ve really acted out quite a few initiatives over the past few years that we can more informally measure.

 

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

But to answer your question, there are tools that – when you design your brand impact strategy – you look at societal and cultural health and there are all these different metrics that you can measure the impact your brand is having over time to help move that needle. One of our goals over the next few years is to start getting the FDA to cross out previously approved ingredients in all medicines, [so] Genexa [is not] the only [brand] that has better ingredients. That’s a tangible measurement. If we can get five of those products removed – or however many ingredients removed – across the U.S., that’s longterm going to incrementally have an incredible impact on people’s health.

 

RW:  If you’re successful in what you’re setting out to do, that will disrupt the OTC market quite a lot. Do you feel that disruption is a prerequisite of innovation or do you think that you can innovate and do cool things that aren’t necessarily disruptive but still effective?

 

KLM: The latter. If you go back to the famous Henry Ford quote of 1920-something, when he said ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ He wasn’t necessarily looking to disrupt horse and buggy [businesses], he was identifying an opportunity to create a better product, a better experience. [He was identifying] a need state for people. So, I think disruption is one way, but I also think consumer insight – understanding where people are and what they need most – [can be disruptive].

 

I love the Swiffer example, too. They went in people’s houses and looked at how women, primarily, homemakers were cleaning floors. One woman wet a paper towel and mopped up the coffee grounds off the floor. Again, not setting out to disrupt vacuums, but trying to define a better option. In-between the vacuum happens to be a Swiffer.

"It was really important to us to make sure that, when we’re thinking about where we’re going to show up, we do that in a way that ladders back to the brand and that humanity."

RW: I love that example. The spinbrush is another one. So, this has been a big year for everyone, obviously: 2020. But Genexa went through a rebranding, released a new line of products, launched some campaigns and even established a partnership with Nintendo. That’s a big year. What do you see as your mandate as CMO for 2021?

 

KLM: To make 2020 feel like it was just a step on the journey. This year is all about growth. Last year was about foundation and reinforcing foundational elements and starting to put the pieces in place for serious growth. Obviously, getting a presence in 40,000 doors is growth, but it was really just starting to reinforce that foundation. This year is about taking us to the next level. Ultimately, I want Genexa to be a household name. I want everybody to understand that they don’t have to settle for less than acceptable ingredients in their medicines. Then we can start thinking beyond just OTC… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

RW: We’re marketing people. It’s what we do. Thank you so much, Kelli! I love what Genexa is doing. I love your passion for it and I love the idea of really being authentic in how you’re doing your business and at scale. Genexa looks like it’s well on its way.

 

KLM: Thank you, Robert!

Want to learn more about Genexa? Visit their website and check out their latest advertising spot below.

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This Week In CX: Brands Put Humans, Connections & Post-COVID Plans First

In a week like the one we’ve all had, it’s hard to sit down and write a blog with banter and applause. In fact, many of us at Tallwave have had moments of staring at our computer screens in astonishment, disappointment, disapproval, and tears. And while we try to move forward and learn from every experience we face, we know that being sad is more than okay. It’s absolutely crucial to take breaks and allow space to breathe. To question, ponder, and search for, “What next?”

 

The fact is, something unprecedented happened to all of us – it impacted our friends, families, communities and democracy. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we can not stop trying to be the positive change. We can’t let divisiveness, ugliness, or hate win. We must support one another with empathy, put our fellow neighbors and citizens first, and evaluate the role we play and want to play in our ever-evolving world.

 

In honor of looking for the helpers – in this case, the people and brands who are doing some good – here are the biggest business, tech and data developments that occurred this past week and will most certainly impact how we design and deliver the customer experiences of tomorrow.

If we put humans first and work together to create positive change, we can and will prevail.

Bringg & Uber Announce Partnership to Enhance Delivery Capabilities For All

Shopping has changed immensely since the onset of COVID-19, and so have business demands on retail delivery.

 

Well, to answer the troubles and tribulations felt by many business owners who strive to deliver exceptional customer experience – which involves availability of delivery providers and proper operational engineering of delivery workflows and driver engagement (ahem, because employee experience impacts customer experience) – Bringg (a leading delivery and fulfillment cloud provider) and Uber announced their plans to join forces for one common good.

 

“The world is rapidly changing, and retailers need to adapt to meet customers where they are,” said Niko Avrutov, VP of Alliances at Bringg. “Our partnership with Uber provides retailers with more flexibility in the delivery cycle, not only ensuring that our customers get their orders when and where they want, but enables them to do so without compromising quality or profitability in the delivery cycle, which is key to an excellent customer experience and maintaining a healthy business.”

But the partnership isn’t only beneficial for the delivery cloud provider; it will enable Uber to expand its services into the retailer space, as well – and fast.

 

“The partnership between Bringg and Uber is neat,” Tallwave’s Senior Product Designer Alyssa Hayes thinks. “It demonstrates how two different companies can find opportunities and adapt their services to suit this rapidly changing landscape. By leveraging and combining their respective strengths and products offerings, they’ll be able to provide a better experience for their own customers (businesses), which in turn enables those businesses to confront the challenges of access and fulfillment for their customers.”

 

The partnership is a perfect silver lining result of the new normal we’re all living in.

 

“By not being able to go into stores as easily, as frequently, or even at all in some cases, our shopping experiences may extend across days and weeks as we now depend on the abilities and bandwidth of couriers to facilitate the hand-off from store to buyer,” explains Alyssa. “For some, this is simply a minor inconvenience of being forced to delay gratification between purchase and use. For others, it has caused significant issues in not being able to access essential and necessary items for daily living. And for businesses, this has created friction in the ability to maintain sales and get products delivered quickly and easily.”

"They'll be able to provide a better experience for their own customers (businesses), which in turn enables those businesses to confront the challenges of access and fulfillment for their customers."

The Bringg-Uber partnership will help to resolve this. According to Alyssa, strategic partnerships like this – ones that create stronger, more efficient and more flexible delivery networks – will help people get what they need, when they need it. “Think prescriptions, medical supplies, or food for those without access to their own transportation,” she says.

 

And it may even make way for people to support local businesses more. “I would love to see this as a way to potentially help people shop smaller and sustainable businesses in their community rather than leaning on Amazon as the go-to for (literally) everything.”

 

Alexa, you can take a break. We’ll order our goods elsewhere.

Also read: Solving For the Lack of Diversity in CX

Connection Still Matters. New Survey Reveals 46% of Consumers Still Want to Shop In Store

The days of in-person shopping aren’t over – or at least, consumers don’t want them to be. A new survey conducted by Raydiant found that 46% of respondents, when given a choice, would choose to shop in-store rather than online. Now, while this figure is down 9% compared to 2020, it’s vastly better than many businesses were expecting.

 

The most crucial takeaway from the survey, though, was the emphasis on a store’s in-person experience and its impact on a customer’s likelihood to return. Sixty percent of respondents said they’d abandon a retailer after a poor offline shopping experience. Conversely, 65% said they’d likely support a business both online and in-person after a good in-store experience.

 

What makes a good experience, you ask? The top five factors contributors were reportedly quality of service, variety of products, store layout and organization, health and safety procedures, and checkout efficiency.

These survey results weren’t a huge surprise to Tallwave Chief Operations Officer Ed Borromeo. “In-store and in-person experiences are still very important to overall brand experience,” he says. “While we’ll continue to see this shift to digital, I’m witnessing some of the most progressive brands – even those that started as digital-only – strongly consider and implement useful and valuable in-person experiences. In the post-pandemic world, those who can integrate health & safety into seamless in-store experience will have an advantage.”

 

The question is, as businesses attempt to return to some version of normalcy in 2021, how will they ensure the trust and safety of all shoppers who wander in, whether they’ve been vaccinated or not? Be it a phased approach, mask mandates regardless of vaccination, continued limited capacities or badges that signify vaccination, we’ll have to see. One thing is for sure: It’s no longer “Shop ‘til you drop!” It’s now “Shop ‘til you feel your health is at risk.”

"In the post-pandemic world, those who can integrate health & safety into seamless in-store experience will have an advantage.”

Scotiabank & Cineplex Join Forces to Enhance Loyalty Programs & Serve Customers Right

In more partnership news from overseas, Scotiabank and Cineplex announced their plans to collaborate on an improved loyalty program that will deliver more desirable benefits and rewards for users. Not only will points be redeemable for entertainment and dining, but members will soon be able to use them to purchase brand-name merchandise, book flexible travel, or pay off credit bills.

 

This is big news because loyalty programs are where it’s at in 2021.

 

“Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to leverage their interactions with brands,” says Tallwave’s Senior Consultant Jason Edwards. “As price variations in many markets like entertainment, travel, and retail becomes tighter, brands are looking for ways to further engage with their customers. Loyalty programs have the ability to provide a boost.”

 

But, there’s a catch.

 

“The structure of the rewards plays a very important role in the success of a program. The opportunities to ‘earn’ rewards along with the ability to ‘burn’ (redeem) earnings are key elements to creating the right loyalty program,” explains Jason.

While Scotiabank and Cineplex are certainly on a fruitful, consumer-centric path, there’s a new key element Jason says they – and any consumer brands – may want to consider incorporating into the near future.

"Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to leverage their interactions with brands"

“Now loyalty programs need to be more than simple ‘earn & burn’ opportunities for customers. There is a limit to the impact loyalty programs generally provide. In part, since customers must spend money to earn rewards, these kinds of programs often don’t provide value to occasional customers or those with lower spending habits.”

 

What does that mean brands that are wanting to improve and innovate their loyalty programs should do? Strategize through a holistic lens.

 

“Consider providing rewards earlier in the customer’s engagement,” Jason suggests. “This could include non-monetary benefits of programs, or by lowering the threshold for reward accumulation. Another way to further empower loyalty programs is to find ways to make the customer feel a part of a group. American Express’s tagline ‘Membership has its privileges’ is a good example of the thinking that brands should be invoking.”

 

Community is everything. Serving humans should be prioritized above all else. Place these values at the forefront of your strategic planning and consumers will celebrate you with their own rewards – satisfaction, loyalty, and long-term support. And, if you ever need a helping hand, Tallwave is here for you.

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Social Media Mission Statements: What Are They & How Do They Help Your Social Strategy?

Year over year we see just how important social media is. It’s where companies can find their ideal clients and customers organically learning, connecting, supporting, and sharing. That’s why brands not only need it, they need to excel at it. But most business persons working tirelessly to improve customer acquisition, engagement, and loyalty have one common question: How?!

 

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there is a singular pitfall that many organizations run into: They don’t spend enough time – or any time – crafting a social media mission statement that speaks to the core of what they want to achieve.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there is a singular pitfall that many organizations run into.

What Is a Social Media Mission Statement?

Simply put, a social media mission statement is a formal declaration that summarizes your reasons, goals, and hopeful outcomes for having a social media presence. It’s a small but mighty sentence (or series of sentences) that serves to inform all your content decisions and activities, including what platforms you pour your sweat, tears, and soul time and effort into. It’s an activity that should be completed in the middle of creating your social media plan.

Where Should You Start?

Before you can develop a social media mission statement – from which you will develop your overall social media strategy – you need to figure out who you want to reach. To do that, start by answering the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What social channels is your target audience most active on and why?
  • What other channels do they follow?
  • How do they typically engage?>
  • What are they talking about amongst their peers and how do they speak? (You want to speak the same language as them!)
  • What resources are most helpful to them?
  • What problems or questions can your company help resolve?
  • What qualities do they look for in companies that they support?

One mistake that brands often make is thinking they must have a presence on every social platform that exists.

Then, you need to define how you plan to reach, relate, and speak to them. The more detailed, the better:

  • What is your voice and tone? (Note: This can vary from platform to platform as they all serve different purposes and audiences)
  • How should your content – written and visual – make your audience feel?

One mistake that brands often make is thinking they must have a presence on every social platform that exists. While that may be nice to have and something you can eventually build up to, it’s certainly not essential to start. In fact, it can be detrimental to your overall reach and impact. By determining your brand’s audience, social identity, and goals, you can narrow down the channels that will work best and ensure energy (and money) isn’t wasted developing the ones that won’t.

How to Write Your Social Media Statement

Your social mission statement should define two things: What a social presence will do for your business and what your channel will do for your audience.

 

First, what you want your audience to do on your social page. Do you want them to like and share? Comment? Buy something? Visit your blog? As with any marketing efforts, you can’t be all things to all people. The more specific you can make your answers to these questions, the more effective you’ll be.

 

Second, determine how you’ll deliver value to not just your current followers, but potential new ones. What type of content will you post? What main topics, categories or messages will your brand support? How will your strategy contribute to the overall customer experience your company wants to design? Most importantly, how does heart inform everything you do? Don’t just make social media about you. Create your overall strategy and mission with the true intention to serve humans first, and increase business needs second.

People are savvier than ever these days – they can sense dishonesty and ulterior motives. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say. To be successful, ensure everything you share and create comes from a thoughtful, authentic, and transparent place with a pure intention to help connect and serve.

 

Now you’re ready to give your social media mission statements a shot! When you feel confident in your answers for the previously listed questions, you can begin to articulate your mission for each individual channel. Here’s a model you can follow:

 

We’re on [social channel] to [summary of activity & purpose], which in turn will [how it will support your company’s goals].

 

It might read like this: 

 

“We’re on Instagram to help companies – big and small – evaluate their customer experiences, which in turn will empower them to make data- and design-driven decisions with humans at their core.”

People are savvier than ever these days – they can sense dishonesty and ulterior motives. You have to say what you mean and mean what you say.

How to Gauge Effectiveness & Performance

Your social media mission statement is not the endpoint of your social strategy, in fact, it’s far from it. It simply should provide a starting point that helps drive what and how to strategically, yet authentically, share content and build community.

 

To be sure you execute against your mission and work toward your business goals, build a comprehensive social strategy that aligns with and serves your new social media mission statement. Surf other successful channels to see what they’re posting and find ways to put your own spin on content that’s performing well. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to give it a fresh coat of paint that’s unique to your brand.

 

Once strategic social posting is well under way, evaluate performance by measuring growth against previously-established key performance indicators (KPIs). There are countless social metrics to gauge your month-over-month social success. It’s crucial to decide which ones are most important to you. Do you want to increase your follower count? Post impressions? Referral web traffic? Share of voice? Clicks, likes, shares, comments, lead conversions… the metrics go on and on. The KPIs you decide are most important should directly contribute in some way to getting closer to your company’s bottom line.

Most importantly, be creative and have fun! Create content that you find inspiring, helpful and motivating.

Keep a running record of your progress and dive deep into what’s working and what’s not. Just like societal trends and expectations seem to change and evolve overnight, so do social media best practices and user behavior. Be prepared to make adjustments to your social content strategy frequently while staying committed to and aligned with your human-centric mission.

 

And most importantly, be creative and have fun! Create content that you find inspiring, helpful and motivating. If you don’t enjoy the posts you’re sharing, it’s likely no one else will either.

 

Need help identifying your ideal audience, creating customer personas, increasing your social media reach or refining your brand identity and voice? Contact us now. We’d love to help!

 

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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

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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.

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The Zoomie Awards: 2020 Winners

It’s been a few strange months of not being around each other every day, but we found a way to get around that. We wanted to create a little engagement with each other while we worked from home, so we decided to create the first ever Zoomie Awards. For these awards, we nominated our co-workers for some fun Zoom-related awards, including “Most likely to turn themselves into a potato” and “Always has the best Zoom background.”

 

Winners of each category received bragging rights and commemoration in the form of this blog post.

 

Without further ado, the winners of our first ever Zoomie Awards!

zoomie awards
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What’s in Store? The Future of Retail in a Post-COVID-19 World

The lockdown and economic fallout caused by the emergence of the novel coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for many industries. While for some industries interruptions to consumption habits may prove to be temporary, some trends affecting the retail industry look set to become more enduring or even permanent.

COVID-19’s Early Impact on Retail

  • Discretionary spending has contracted sharply, down by almost 9% in March 2020
  • Sharply reduced demand for new apparel, footwear and accessories
  • May 2020 retail sales data for the US showed a 17.7% increase—a new record—but more time is needed to understand whether this is an anomaly reflecting consumers unleashing pent-up demand from March and April or if it’s the beginning of a new upward trend
  • eMarketer forecasts US total retail sales will fall more than 10% in 2020 and won’t return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2022
  • eMarketer is also calling for e-commerce sales to increase by 18% this year
  • Coresight Research predicts between 20,000 and 25,000 store closures this year, of which 55% to 60% are within malls—a new record
  • The previous high was a loss of 9,300 locations in 2019 

Even before COVID-19 came along, retail has been engaged in a gradual, decades-long transformation. However, the pandemic has rapidly accelerated many of the changes that were either already happening or inevitable. Retailers must now quickly adjust and prepare for new customer experiences in a post COVID-19 world. 

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Brick & Mortar Stores

As noted above, traditional retailers were engaged in a battle for survival long before the pandemic emerged. Many vanguards of the brick-and-mortar retail world have been closing stores and shedding debt and lease obligations through bankruptcy proceedings for years. To date in 2020, we’ve seen JCPenney, Neiman Marcus,  J. Crew, Stage Stores, Pier 1 and Tuesday Morning all announce bankruptcy. Other venerable names, including Brooks Brothers, a leading force in apparel retailing for over 200 years, are said to be appointing advisors and may not be far behind.

 

Of course, bankruptcy can be an opportunity to regroup, reorganize, recapitalize and, hopefully, emerge as a more viable competitor. Many of the bankrupt retailers will return with a leaner physical footprint and fewer employees. For those who didn’t get their digital footprint and e-commerce strategy right the first time around, they’ll have a welcome chance for a reset.

 

There are other implications for the brick-and-mortar retail landscape, including issues impacting operational complexity and the supply chain as well as what to do with the overbuilt and now unneeded shopping mall space throughout America.

 

The oversupply of mall space has been worsening for decades. Changes to the US tax code enacted by Congress in 1954 encouraged mall development by permitting accelerated depreciation. As a result of this financial engineering, the growth rate of shopping malls between 1970 and 2015 in the US was twice the rate of growth of the population over the same period. In recent times, fewer shoppers were heading to malls. In the period following the financial crisis of 2007-2008, mall visits declined by 50% and have continued to fall since even as the economy rebounded.

 

Fashion and apparel retailers are now stuck with high inventories of the wrong season’s products, having been forcibly closed since the first days of Spring. This not only drives up storage costs but can also contribute to the tendency for retailers to sweep away distressed inventory through deep discounting. The problem is, when consumers become accustomed to buying at a discount they are less willing to consider paying full price again when the economy recovers, as we saw following the Great Recession twelve years ago.

The Impacts of COVID-19 on E-commerce

As destructive as the pandemic has been for traditional retailers, it’s been the opposite for e-commerce retailers. While there is a long-established trend of switching shopping habits from brick-and-mortar retailers to online stores, COVID-19 has accelerated this change considerably. In just three months, it caused movements that may have taken five years to manifest without the tailwind of a pandemic.

 

Italy, the European country with the highest number of infections and deaths from COVID-19, has seen e-commerce transactions rise 81 percent since the end of February. Across Europe, an additional 13 percent of consumers said they would browse online stores for the first time. While in China, large groups of new customers—specifically those aged 36 and above and those living in smaller, less prosperous cities— have begun shopping online in greater numbers.

 

But for all of its growth and potential, online shopping misses out on at least one aspect of in-store shopping— the impulse purchases that take place in-store. 89% of women and 78% of men report adding additional items to their cart during an in-store visit. 

How are Retailers Responding to COVID-19?

With the decline in in-store traffic, it’s no surprise most retailers have seen a corresponding dip in their sales. But there are opportunities to be found and nurtured with services such as curbside pickup and BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick up In Store).

 

These hybrid marketing approaches offer convenience to consumers by allowing same-day (often within two-hour) collection with no additional shipping or handling costs. However, they also create new challenges for retailers in the areas of labor, inventory management, software and point-of-sale systems and even parking lot space utilization. 

 

Orders placed online for collection by these methods increased by 208% in the first three weeks of April 2020 compared to the same period of 2019. They are proving to be a popular choice with consumers who may wish to continue shopping this way even when regulations can be relaxed and stores can fully reopen. It remains to be seen whether retailers will eventually try to de-emphasize these methods due to their higher costs. 

 

Many of the hundreds of thousands of new jobs created by grocery retailers in recent months have been to staff these hybrid shopping models. And while that’s a welcome storyline at a time when millions of American workers have been furloughed or displaced altogether, time will tell whether grocers will continue to bear the additional costs when other options are once again viable.

What Will the Future of Retail Look Like?

Retailers need to evolve by redefining the role of the store and integrating technology at the right points in the customer journey to streamline and improve the shopping experience. 

 

We hope to see more integration of contactless, self-serve technology that allows customers to navigate the store and find what they need as quickly and safely as possible. Already in some retail environments, such as Apple stores, customers are able to make purchases from anywhere in the store rather than gathering in a line at a register. Integrating voice assistants and mobile technologies can assist customers in achieving their goals inside the store with innovations like wayfinding—directing customers to the aisle displaying the products they’re seeking. Elevating the customer experience and improving customer service will be key.

 

The opportunity exists to better integrate the online and in-store shopping experience. For example, customers could engage with content about a styling experience or menu plan online then be able to purchase everything needed conveniently pre-packaged and ready for purchase in the store.

 

Even once COVID-19 is somehow controlled, consumers are likely to respond well to open spaces, or at the very least the feeling of openness. Store layouts need to be reworked for a better flow of customers.

 

In certain areas of retail, it’s possible we could see wider use of some of the concierge-style services luxury merchants previously reserved exclusively for their VIP customers. Personal shoppers, private or semi-private store access and other exclusive privileges could become additional, optional elements of the shopping experience.

 

At Tallwave, we see the challenges facing retailers as opportunities to reimagine a new shopping experience. If you need help thinking through the evolution of your retail operations, give us a call. We’d welcome the chance to work with you to evolve your customer experience and keep your customers coming back time and again.

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Our Unique Approach to Successful Businesses

Successful partnerships help companies innovate and grow. However, choosing a partner is often an overwhelming process because it’s difficult to differentiate among the options. Most agencies, consultancies, and vendors operate with a mindset of doing exactly what a client asks for, often leading to identical approaches, with little distinction other than price. If you’re evaluating primarily based on price, you may be fine with all your potential partners taking similar approaches, but in the end this strategy is short-sighted, narrow minded, and often backfires in the long run.

 

At Tallwave, we take a different approach. Whether you’re a current or future client, we apply a curious and empathetic mindset to all of our work. This often means we ask a lot of questions upfront, bring in diverse team members from multiple disciplines, and seek to put ourselves in our client’s shoes. At times, we even challenge client assumptions. While this process takes a bit more discovery, it allows us to focus our efforts on the right tactics from the very beginning, which yield better long-term results and help build stronger relationships between us and our clients.

 

Whether you’re a current or future client, we apply a curious and empathetic mindset to all of our work.

Here’s our approach to successful partnerships:

We Ask Plenty of Questions to Understand Our Client’s Needs

From the initial interaction with a potential new client, we seek to understand their unique challenges and needs. We may start with the client’s request, but we also take the time to dive deeper and understand how the request truly meets the needs of the business.

 

For example, one of our media clients, who relies on readers to become contributors, recently asked us to develop a custom application to help them recruit and onboard up to 1,000 new content writers per month. After a few collaborative sessions with their team, we realized their biggest challenge was making the self-serve application more user friendly and intuitive for on-boarding writers.

 

Given this knowledge, we decided to focus on redesigning the onboarding experience and leveraged Salesforce for the backend management instead of building a full custom application from scratch. Not only did this approach speed up their timeline, it also cut development costs in half, which could then be reapplied to other critical areas of the build.

 

Ensuring our client’s success is always our main priority at Tallwave. We achieve this by being mindful of the client’s goals and challenges in order to gain a deeper understanding of their business. In the end, the outcome may not be what the client originally had in mind, but this approach allows them to save time and money while still reaching their business objectives. 

 

Ensuring our client’s success is always our main priority at Tallwave. We achieve this by being mindful of the client’s goals and challenges in order to gain a deeper understanding of their business.

We Switch on a Dime When Circumstances Change

As a strategic partner, it’s our responsibility to adapt quickly as trends and shifts occur in the marketplace, whether it’s a new technology, regulation changes, or something much bigger like COVID-19. Not only do we have to understand the changes, we also have to be able to rethink priorities and help clients adapt so they can reach their bottom line.

 

While all of our clients were impacted by COVID-19, several were impacted more than others. A crisis like this could have been devastating for one of our food distribution clients, whose entire business revolves around providing food supplies, goods, and services to small restaurants. The pandemic forced all restaurants, regardless of size, to completely flip their business models – and when you’re in the business of servicing those restaurants, you really have to flip your business plan.

 

Our client had to quickly become a resource for their restaurants. Working with our client, we quickly created a multi-step action plan and resource center that detailed ways for restaurants to transition to a fully-digital presence. 

 

Our plan included instructions and guidelines for Google My Business (GMB) posts so restaurants could clearly advertise their availability for take-out or delivery, while also informing potential customers of their location and updated business hours. We provided recommendations to prepare restaurants for take-out only services, including prioritizing safety while working with third-party delivery apps, eliminating touch points between employees, remaining transparent with customers, and updating their online presence. We even provided a few strategic ways restaurants could get creative with their offerings. 

We Have a Continuous Focus on Outcomes

We’re always looking for new opportunities to drive growth for our clients.

 

As an example, we recently worked with a commercial printing client on a full-scale rebrand after they acquired several competitors. Through the process of diving into the business, we identified an opportunity to drive revenue by diversifying their customer base.

 

Even though it was not part of the original scope, we did an analysis into our client’s loyalty program and found that two-thirds of the company’s revenue came from only 10-percent of their customers. Going deeper, we found that their messaging, content, and marketing tactics were really only geared to one persona.

 

With this knowledge, we were able to recommend a strategy to build an experience and conversion path for other personas.

 

By helping every client we work with develop a better understanding of their business and the market landscape, we’re able to root out and address assumptions early to bring fresh perspectives and ideas that focus on the right challenges. It’s an approach that takes a partner who appreciates this type of pushback, but we’ve found that the clients who are open to alternative approaches and think outside the box can adapt their strategies to be more successful in their endeavors. Our relationships with clients are always more fruitful when we’re squarely focused on what matters most – making our clients wildly successful.

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Badass CX in the Time of COVID-19

To say that COVID-19 has changed the way we look at things would be a gross understatement. News cycles continue to churn out information, and we —as brands, consumers and humans in general— continue to respond.

 

We’re all human. We’re all being impacted by this. 

 

As marketers, we’re seeing the customer journey change quickly and often across industries and market segments alike – and many of these changes may well be permanent. 

 

The path forward isn’t clear by any means, but the brands that quickly and proactively adapt will survive and hopefully, come out of this stronger. Customers have begun demanding transparency, recognizing, and responding to authenticity and social responsibility now more than ever.

 

Last week, we polled our team to ask if they’ve had any personal experiences with a company navigating changes with them (as customers) really well in a COVID-19 world. Did any brand demonstrate an ability and  commitment to adapt their customer experience to meet the rapidly evolving moment? We wanted to know.

 

The answer was an overwhelming, “yes.”

 

In the responses, we saw four key themes emerge, illustrating just how companies are adapting their CX to meet the needs of their customers.

Theme 1: Adapt  with Empathy

This situation stinks for everyone. Now is NOT the time to nickel and dime. It may feel counterintuitive, but it’s not the time to make things difficult in order to protect your business.

 

Now is the time to break what are traditionally non-customer-friendly practices (ahem…airlines and travel).

 

By the way, this isn’t just a B2C issue. Business owners and business stakeholders are people too.

 

  • Shopify  has shown that it is dedicated to helping small businesses. Amongst other things, the brand made physical and digital gift cards available on all new and existing Shopify plans, and committed to making $200 million in small business funding available to lend some much needed support to the community.

  • OpenTable is recognizing the massive impact the restaurant industry is experiencing. They activated their customer base and sent an email to users encouraging support for the community with examples on how we can help restaurants during these times. It came across as altruistic while providing actionable information.

  • Chicago Cubs/MLB: When the remainder of Spring Training was cancelled, an email went out from the Cubs organization proactively detailing that refunds would be issued for all purchased tickets, exactly how they would be received, and the timeframe refunds could be expected in. There was no action needed from the customer. 

“It was nice to receive everything in one email and not have to worry about contacting anyone to get a refund.”

 

Westin helped tackle cancelling non-refundable reservations with no hassle, in a matter of minutes.

 

After the announcement was made that Broadway would be going dark, Telecharge proactively got cancellation emails out by the end of the day, making clear its plan to issue full refunds with no action needed from the customer.

 

American Airlines flights to New York (that were booked with points, no less) needed to be cancelled quickly, in the eleventh hour.

 

“I had a really long wait time, but once I was on they were nice, quick, and frictionless to get the points returned.”

Theme 2: Adapt Proactively 

Consumer behavior has been changed, for sure in the short-term. Better to be there first, anticipate the changes and make proactive adjustments if you can.
 

  • Blue Apron: With news of COVID-19 beginning to take off, Blue Apron’s business spiked and the brand was quick in communicating with its customers weeks in advance about the changes needed in order for everyone to be served within their dietary restrictions.
    [Blue Apron’s] customer service has also been helpful since I wanted to change the serving sizes on my orders.

  • Costco: “Staffed up for the rush and changed their business workflow to appease the customers and maintain sanity.”

Sanity may be a relative term, but we applaud the company for doing its best in these strange times.

  • Booty’s Burgers and Wings
    “It’s our favorite local wing place and we wanted to help them out. They have a system set up for pickup that limits any contact. Very fast, easy, and tasty!”

     

  • Texas Roadhouse quickly deployed a very efficient system for pickup where you didn’t even have to get out of your car – and had a good takeout deal too.

  • Pat Tillman Foundation: Instead of cancelling their charitable run in April, the nonprofit is transforming it to be a virtual run. 

“It's pretty cool. They're encouraging users to share as they run. Great way to keep the momentum virtually!”

Theme 3: Adapt Altruistically 

Quickly developing an altruistic model, or leveraging one that already exists. 

“Opportunistic” doesn’t have to have a negative connotation if it’s true to your brand, has an authentic voice, and strives to be helpful to the situation.

  • Allbirds quickly spun up a donation model in which they implemented a buy one, donate one model for getting shoes to frontline healthcare workers.

Their statement read: “Beginning March 24th and running while supplies last, you can bundle any shoe purchase with a donation to immediately supply a pair of Wool Runners to a healthcare professional who’s already reached out to us. Don’t need a new pair yourself, but still want to help? That’s an option, too.”

 

  • TOMS has a good campaign running right now centered around how “we can all use some extra comfort” and that we’re in this together. The shoe brand has a sale on sale for its slippers. 

“The messaging was tactful and helped with some normalizing, [giving] a break from seeing only COVID in my news feed.”

Theme 4: Adapt Radically 

The badassiest of all. There are many, many companies who are pitching in to help, but two specific ones came up in our office poll. One, in particular, is a local company that is no doubt further solidifying its already strong brand, but winning new customers and brand advocates.

 

The “doing good is good for business” mantra has never been more true than right now. 

 

O.H.S.O. and Fruit Brands, et al will reap the benefits of doing the right thing today.

 

No doubt, the impact of this virus will continue to grow. And the changes we’re all faced with making today will live on. Since we’re all in this together, let’s continue to make those changes for good.

How has your customer journey been impacted by COVID-19? 

What has your company been doing to adapt  during these times?

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Accomplish Your Advertising Goals Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

There’s no denying that the Coronavirus outbreak has impacted individuals and organizations across every sector. Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, there has been an increased effort to prevent the spread of the virus with a slew of immediate precautions, which included cancelling large scale events like basketball games, Coachella, and even the 2020 Summer Olympics. While the promotion of social distancing and event cancellations is intended to impact the trajectory of new Coronavirus cases, its uncertainty also has businesses on edge. Companies are reacting by cutting their marketing spend. While this is a very natural reaction, now is not the time to halt all marketing and acquisition efforts.

Now, more than ever, brands need to get smart about their budgets and evaluate the channels that will allow them to endure and grow during this time.It’s challenging for everyone – there’s no doubt about that – but the horizon remains wide open for marketing, it just requires a little extra focus, effort, and creativity.

 

To help guide where you should consider shifting your budget, we’ve created a high-level assessment of the channels that will see changes, what that means for your marketing budget and business, and how you can act now to accomplish your goals and reach your bottom line.

Now, more than ever, brands need to get smart about their budgets and evaluate the channels that will allow them to endure and grow during this time.

Here’s What We Know for Sure:

Since Coronavirus was declared a pandemic:

46% of American businesses have implemented a work-from-home policy.

What does this mean for you? With more people working from home and social distancing, these numbers indicate that the digital landscape is steadily increasing.

What Part of my Budget Should I Consider Reallocating?

If you’re currently running any of these advertisements, you may want to consider reallocating them elsewhere:

Out-of-Home and Radio Advertisements

Currently, the CDC is recommending avoiding large public places and gatherings, prompting some cities to have a “shelter in place” plan. Due to this, many workplaces have moved to a virtual workforce. As both out-of-home and radio ads are well suited for commuters, it may be worthwhile to reallocate your budget for these areas elsewhere for now.

Experiential Marketing

Experiential marketing includes event sponsorships, trade show participation, and community events. Given the circumstances, a lot of these events have been cancelled, postponed, or turned into virtual events. We don’t recommend attending or hosting a large gathering at this time, but you can cut your losses and reallocate your budget elsewhere.

Linear TV Advertisements

Linear TV refers to the traditional way of watching tv where a person tunes into a specific channel to watch a scheduled broadcast. While Linear TV and advertisements took a hit when sporting events were canceled or postponed, television may actually benefit from people staying home. However, it’s likely that consumers will shift to Connected TV (CTV), also known as streaming services, such as Hulu, Roku, and Apple TV.

If we were you, we’d recommend shifting your budgets to CTV or Over-the-Top (OTT) channels to cater to the significant spikes we’re seeing in this area. More on this later.

What Channels Should I Reallocate my Budget to?

If you’re advertising on any of the channels listed above, we recommend making the switch to the following channels. Here’s why:

We believe that brands who act quickly and decisively today will come out stronger after the storm by using these tactics.

Streaming Channel Advertisements

 

Streaming services (CTV and OTT channels) have been rapidly garnering subscribers in the last few years and are projected to grow even more with people spending more time at home. 

 

Streaming services are a great place to advertise as they allow brands and advertisers to get in front of consumers with targeting capabilities that are unavailable through Linear TV buys. If you already have quality resources in this space, you should consider expanding into this channel.

 

PC and Mobile Game Advertising

 

PC and mobile gaming are more popular than ever right now. As of March 15, 2020 global PC streaming platform, Steam, reached a new concurrent user record of 20 million users. Their big spike in users is attributed to people staying home due to Coronavirus. Showing banner ads, pop ups, reward ads, or in-game billboard ads are a few of the ways you can use the popularity of online gaming to your advantage.

 

If your customer base has an affinity for tech and is between 18 and 40 years old, this might be an innovative space for you to place your ads. Some verticals that might fall into this category include car insurance companies, automotive companies, companies that produce electronic devices like computers or cell phones, entertainment companies, such as TicketMaster, gaming event hosts, or Hulu, and quick service and food delivery services, like DoorDash, Pizza Hut, or Chipotle.

 

Display and Social Advertising

 

Traffic across social channels is increasing consistently right now as more and more people stay home and connect with each other through these platforms. Currently, we’re seeing Facebook ad spend take a hit as small businesses, restaurants, travel, and retail companies have pulled their ad spend due to Coronavirus. We’re also seeing a rise in Coronavirus-related advertisements right now. A lot of consumers think it’s unsuitable for a brand to advertise adjacent to Coronavirus content, especially in the food and beverage, travel, and finance verticals. While this is not good for these industries, the lack of ads also allows social advertising to become a less-saturated market. If you’re in the health, government, or education spaces, however, your advertisements are better received among consumers when it’s aligned with COVID-19 content.

 

Although the food and beverage ads aren’t faring well near Coronavirus ads, there has been a spike in demand for curbside pickup and delivery services that more and more brands are quickly adopting. Brands that are new to this space should incorporate high impact display opportunities that are available through Facebook, Google Ads, and Programmatic buys to drive awareness for these services.

 

Podcast Advertising

 

During this time, podcasting is maintaining its popularity on a global scale. For example, podcast giant, Acast, recorded its biggest weekend for listeners. In just one day, their listeners increased by 7%. While sports-related podcasts are down about 2% in listeners, other genres  like education, entertainment, science and medicine, and health are all up 10%.

 

Direct Mail

 

We’re gonna be honest – this one’s up in the air right now. While people are home and are looking for things to do, they may be deterred to interact with mail due to germs and spreading of the virus. While there isn’t any current data to sway us in either direction, it’s still a channel that has a possibility of success if you think outside the box.

 

As we all navigate through these uncertain times and enter the holiday season, there’s no reason to completely stop ad spending for your services. The key to being successful is to remain flexible and get creative with where you place your ads. We believe that brands who act quickly and decisively today will come out stronger after the storm by using these tactics.

If you have any questions on what kind of strategy to take, contact us. Our paid media experts are ready to help figure out your situation in any way we can.