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

With fast-evolving customer experiences and technologies rolling into the market what feels like everyday, only one thing seems to consistently remain the same: Consumer behaviors, expectations, and needs never stop changing.

 

Cultural, social, personal and psychological forces influence what consumers do and why. And as consumer behaviors change, marketing strategies must change, as well. But for brands and businesses to craft the customer experience that can lead them through the next frontier of business, they must first understand what customers are truly prioritizing.

Better marketing comes from better understanding consumers.

According to our recent research report, here are the top six factors that are changing the customer experience design game today:

1. Convenience

Convenience is consistently the most significant way consumers are evaluating companies post-pandemic. It turns out that consumers like some of the adjustments they had to make as a result of the pandemic. For example, 31% of those surveyed said they will still use grocery delivery services even after restrictions are lifted in their area. Consumers want purchases that are easy to make. That doesn’t stop at simply digitizing offerings. It also means upgrading customer service experiences so consumers can get help when and where they want it.

 

Keep in mind that consumers aren’t necessarily looking for virtual-only experiences. They are keen to combine the best of digital and personal touchpoints to do whatever is easiest. That’s why “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS) has become popular. A total of 68% of our survey respondents indicated they have tried this approach, two thirds say it made them feel somewhat or more positive about the company that provided it. That’s because convenience rules the day. Companies that can blend the best of their offerings to create the most streamlined experience are winning post-pandemic.

2. Safety and Well-Being

Most age groups we surveyed indicated that safety and well-being are a major factor in their decision-making process. Excluding Gen Z, every other age group voted safety as their second biggest concern. Safety and security— both physical health and data— must become the standard operating procedure for businesses. Cleanliness and a focus on well-being are no longer extra steps that businesses are taking during “unprecedented times” but the expectations that are leading the way in every customer experience.

3. Immersive in-person experiences

The decline of physical retail shopping has accelerated in the pandemic, but marketers have found a way to bring customers in-store to develop loyalty: experiences. The concept of retailtainment has been gaining traction, with 52% of millennials saying they spend on experience-related purchases. Experiential marketing is more important than ever, especially as customers emerge from the pandemic and are hungry to make up for missed experiences.

 

In the digital-first world post-COVID, a lot of general shopping will be ordered via recurring subscriptions or deliveries. Capitalizing on the appetite for experiences, businesses can entice customers to come in-store with valuable experiences that educate and connect. As a bonus, a truly immerse experience can help earn coveted word-of-mouth and organic social presence.

The pandemic has highlighted social inequalities in daily life and consumers are choosing to vote with their pocketbooks to create change.

4. Social Responsibility

Customers are increasingly loyal to brands with a conscience, especially as the global pandemic has hindered the well-being of so many people. It’s clear that customers expect brands to lead with kindness and empathy, even at times using their resources to fill gaps left by local governments or to support social causes.

 

In a survey that assessed consumer perceptions of corporate social responsibility, three out of four respondents said that the way a company looks after their customers and employees during COVID will impact their loyalty to the company post-pandemic. The pandemic has highlighted social inequalities in daily life and consumers are choosing to vote with their pocketbooks to create change.

5. True and Ongoing Value

It’s clear that consumers are even more sensitive to value realization now than before the pandemic (learn about value realization here). At some point during your customer’s journey there will come a time when the value of your product or service is fully realized. This can set the tone of the future of your customer’s experience with you. Not only do they need to see value early, but it needs to be consistent throughout their lifecycle in order to increase your customer lifetime value.

 

Also read: Developing Nurture Strategies That Decrease Time to Value

 

Wary of a possible recession in the wake of the pandemic, in addition to increased inflation, consumers are prioritizing the value you bring before they’ll part with their hard-earned cash. Your products and services need to be well-priced and solve a real problem. Premium add-ons are less of a priority for consumers, unless they target other specific desires such as social responsibility or safety.

Ratings and reviews help build this confidence in a way that feels legitimate to wary consumers.

6. Trust and confidence

Third-party and peer recommendations are deeply integrated into the buying process, especially post-pandemic. New data rates rankings and reviews as the number one most important factor impacting purchase decisions, above price and even free shipping. Nearly one in two customers read between one to 10 reviews before making a purchase decision, and 68% of customers say they prefer products with at least 26 reviews.

 

It’s clear the pandemic has caused consumers to lose some faith in traditional institutions and they are consistently relying on communities of like minded people to act as thought leaders. Ratings and reviews help build this confidence in a way that feels legitimate to wary consumers.

Bottom Line

Synthesizing all of these consumer changes to carve a future path requires companies to take a strong look at their to take a step back and understand the problem they are trying to solve, the “why” behind reimagining their products and customer experience. This can help realign with what consumers are expecting today. We walked through this same process with a leading travel brand, taking the time to define what it means for them to be in the travel business in the first place. Using those answers, we were able to define success. Then, we looked at what changes would be in scope for the brand. You might not be able to accomplish everything you dream of or know customers want, but defining changes that are within your ability is a good first step.

 

Implementing changes is the purpose for all of this research and brainstorming, which is why the last step of the process is understanding what partners will be necessary to help innovate. Iterating on your products, services, and overall customer experience isn’t easy and making cross-functional changes can be challenging, but given the massive shifts in consumer preferences post-pandemic, it is more important than ever to understand these factors and adjust to ensure value realization.

Need help understanding your current and future consumer’s needs? Contact us today

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Customer Engagement Innovators Series Interviews Value Realization

Innovators Q&A: How Blink Fitness Embraced Digital Transformation During the Pandemic

Can you think of a global event that shook the fitness industry as much as COVID-19 did? With no option to continue business as usual, fitness gyms across the world were forced to contend with digital transformations– and fast – by developing apps, delivering content, and finding new, creative ways to provide value to members that were indefinitely stuck at home. And while some succeeded, for many, the weight of the pandemic was too great, and they were forced to shut their doors.

 

In fact, the IHRSA estimates that the US gym and health club industry lost $20.4 billion in 2020. By May 2020, about 500,000 people in the gym industry had been laid off; and by July 2020, 60% of Americans reportedly planned to cancel gym memberships.

 

On the flip side, brands who invested in and focused on delivering digital-first experiences saw a boom of success. With 74% of Americans reportedly using at least one fitness app during the pandemic, home fitness app downloads saw a 46% increase between quarter one and quarter two of 2020, while companies like Peloton, Beachbody, and Tonal (as well as businesses that produce at-home fitness equipment) reported massive revenue growth.

 

Alas, it was fitness gyms that had formerly relied on in-person experiences and only dabbled or recently entered the digital space that were given an ultimatum: Hurry up and create new experiences that put members’ needs at the core or throw in the towel. One gym that experienced this first-hand is Blink Fitness. With 100+ franchised gyms in 10 different states, Blink Fitness strives to change the narrative – and emotional landscape – often associated with gyms.

“Blink is a motivating space with a staff of mood-lifters. We take pride in challenging fitness industry norms and celebrating every unique body,” their website reads. “It’s what’s on the inside that counts… Blink offers a sparkling clean, spacious design with bright colors, scientifically proven to enhance your workout and elevate your mood.”

 

Sounds cool, right? Well, definitely. Except when you can’t actually access the space.

 

So, as the global pandemic reared its ugly head, Michelle Horowitz – Blink Fitness’s Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing and Communications – was tasked with ensuring that the uplifting, body-positive brand could transcend and traverse new digital demands.

 

To learn how Blink Fitness tackled the challenge, our own Partner Robert Wallace sat down with Michelle for our Innovators Q&A Series to discuss the evolving consumer journey, member-first mentality, data-backed strategy, and the future of the fitness industry.

Q&A with Blink Fitness’s Senior Vice President & Head of Marketing & Communications Michelle Horowitz

Robert Wallace: Hello everyone. My name is Robert Wallace. I’m a partner at we’re a customer experience design company, and I am pleased to an honor to be the host of our fourth installment of the new interview series that we’re putting on called the innovators. I’m really happy to have a conversation today with Michelle Horowitz, which she was named one of Brand Innovators Top 100 Women in Brand Marketing, and she’s a visionary in e-commerce marketing and leader experience in a variety of industries – B2C and B2B. She’s built high performing teams that and [has been] really customer obsessed throughout her whole career in marketing communications. And now she is the Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing and Communication at Blink Fitness, which is a premium and affordable fitness brand that challenges conventional fitness stereotypes. [Michelle is] responsible for leading the brand and digital evolution of the company through innovation and movement.

 

[Michelle], obviously that is a timely industry that you’re in and we’ve all gone through a tough year, and an interesting year. So, first of all, welcome, and thank you so much for taking the time. I just went through [your] standard bio, but I’d love to hear in your words a little bit more about your professional journey. You’ve been through sales and marketing… I’d love to just hear really briefly about your career and your journey and how you landed where you are.

 

Michelle Horowitz: Yeah, for sure. Thanks. Thank you, Robert. I’m super excited to be here and it’s an honor to have this conversation with you. So, thank you for having me. I took a circuitous route to be where I am today and where I am today is completely passionate about the health and wellness industry and obviously the impact that fitness can make. It’s never been more apparent than right now about how important it is for us to stay well. And certainly, you know, it’s not just the physical impact of what we’ve been going through [but] also the mental impact. So, to be with a brand that [lives that] ethos is super exciting.

 

Previous to this, I spent some time in fashion and then retail-specialty area, particularly in lifestyle. So, I’m super proud of the work that I’ve done during that time. And it really was all about customer centricity as we built and developed the Loft brand and expanded beyond the US borders into Mexico and Canada. And then I was part of the team that created the Lou & Grey brand, which was really the first foray from a specialty retail perspective that moved into lifestyle. So, it was a big, bold step that the brand took prior to being acquired, and was part of the growth from a D2C brand into 12 stores. So, that’s been the majority of my CMO experience – in the fashion space – but always with an eye to customer centricity and the impact that a brand can have on its consumer base.

Similar to how people feel about the e-commerce experience, they want [fitness] to be there when they want it to be there.

RW: How would you say you’ve segued that customer and member-first mentality, so to speak, in your new role at Blink?

 

MH: Yeah, it’s interesting. I recently took responsibility of the customer service center, as well. So, I think it really speaks to a marketer’s responsibility of the customer journey and thinking about it from the moment of acquisition through to retention and then, obviously, loyalty. So, to put the consumer at the center of it all, from identifying the issues that come through customer service and then being able to be really thoughtful about how we treat our customers and how we have that sort of member-first mentality. But I would say that, stepping back – as we hopefully are through that gateway of the end of the pandemic – that we really pivoted quite quickly at the beginning of the experience, which is more than a year ago, where we had to close down the business and had to really think about how important it was for not only our employees, but also our consumer base to keep them actively engaged and to put their health and wellness first.

 

So, we were very fortunate that we actually have an app – a fantastic app – that was created in 2019, that has three functional areas. One is obviously about the capability to have access to classes, where we partner with a lot of brands, but also create our own content. And then we have nutrition and rejuvenation. So, to be able to sort of engage fully behind that and share it with the community and really open it up – because at the time, it was one membership that had access – we opened it up to everybody. And then, as an engagement vehicle, we actually worked very closely with our personal trainers to create our own content. We began to host live stream content every day that really allowed people to [make] their health and wellness [a priority] as we transitioned to working at home.

 

That was another example of how we did it. And now, as we come out of this pandemic, or we’re traveling through hopefully the tail end of it… As we reopened the gyms, we actually, again, used [and are using] the app as a vehicle to help people feel more comfortable coming back to the gym. And, obviously, health and wellness was the priority for our employees, our communities, and the members that we serve by following all of the CDC guidelines, as well as local guidelines. But, in addition to that, we wanted to use the as a vehicle to help make it easier for everybody. We had that frictionless entrance where they didn’t have to touch or engage with anything. They could use their app. But, in advance of even doing that, they could still reserve their space in the gym, [and] look at capacity.

 

And if they’re not ready to come back to the gym, which some people are not yet ready… They can actually currently take personal training classes through the app. So, we’re constantly trying to think about the consumer experience. And, I think, a natural evolution of this is: “How are we going to continue to marry the digital world with the in-gym experience?” Which I think, until we find stasis, is definitely an “and,” I would imagine that people sort of live in both of those worlds.

RW: It’s interesting because it sounds to me that it boils down to – or what has happened – is it’s almost what does Blink Fitness really stand for? Meaning what businesses is it really in? And the delivery mechanism has changed. So, it has forced you to think about, “Oh, we’re about accessibility and democratization of really high-end health and wellness and fitness. And that used to be delivered through the gym, and now, when the phone goes away – at least partially goes away or has fundamentally changed – how else are we going to fulfill our brand promise while they can’t get to that particular delivery vehicle?” And it’s really interesting how you’ve thought about that and broadened your perspective. The only way you can do that is by putting [the] customer first.

 

MH: I think, even as people sort of flex and figure out what it all looks like, the nice thing about it is, if you [are] coming into the gym and [are] enjoying – whether it’s the weights or the elliptical or whatever the machines are that you choose, or even the stretch area – you might not have time, or you might be doing it in-between appointments or whatever. [But] you can always go home and continue that journey, whether it’s doing a yoga class or a meditation class or more stretching from home. So, I think, similar to how people feel about the e-commerce experience, they want it to be there when they want it to be there. And the app is definitely a vehicle that gives our members what they’re looking for.

 

RW: That’s fascinating, too. The idea of a 360-degree brand is one that that has come up. It came up in my footwear experience, and you probably saw too, where– and I’m dating myself here – but there was a time when you started selling online or selling catalogue or whatever channel is new, there was this fear that you would be cannibalizing your existing channel. And that never happened because it really just made it a 360-degree brand. I can buy whatever it is I want to buy whenever and however I want. I can do it on my phone. I can do it online. I can order through the catalog, if you still want to do that, or I can go into the store. So, it’s fascinating that fitness is going through that same thing.

 

MH: Yeah. And interesting, too. I remember from my retail days, it’s like that haptic social community feeling that you get when you’re walking through a retail store or you might have the urge or that window of time that you’re able to do it at home through the digital experience. I think there [are] some similarities there, for sure.

When you look at the true customer journey, that's not a marketing thing. That's not a product thing. That's not an operations thing... It's everything. The customer – or the member, in your case – doesn't much care what departments or silos exist.

RW: There’s an emotional connection that you touch on, in some cases from actually shopping, but certainly I think a lot of gyms – you have an emotional connection. How do you cultivate that? First of all, how do you think about cultivating connections with your members, but [also], how have you thought about how that has changed online or how you had to evolve that?

 

MH: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. It’s a very community-focused brand, right? When we come into the community, we are committed to the community and the local members. And we think a lot about local. When we first come in [to set] up the gym, we partner with a lot of nonprofits. We work very closely with local government to really engage and let them know that we’re here and we want them to come in and be part of that community. We have – what we call the people that work in the gym – we call them “Mood Lifters,” and they really set the tone and the feeling for coming into the gym.

 

We want people to come in and feel like they’re part of something… The music sets the tone and the friendliness of the Mood Lifters and the personal trainers really create that local community touch point. And often people obviously establish relationships, whether it’s with their trainers, their Mood Lifters, or their local managers. So that really, in and of itself, was really the ethos of the brand that was built. And when we went through COVID and started to create those live streams, we really began to allow the personal trainers – when they taught the daily classes – [to let] their personalities, their excitement for their brand, and for health and wellness, really shine through. And we actually included the capability for people to ask questions and engage, whether it was during the workout or after the workout, so we could really create that continuity.

 

Obviously, in the digital world, it becomes a little bit more difficult, but in the same way that we want to help people curate or navigate their fitness IQ, we see that as a lot of potential in the digital world to sort of [help] continue people on their journeys in the digital world. So, I think part of it is the content that we provide on the app by curating from the nutritional, from the rejuvenation, and then from the classes. And the partners that we’ve chosen, whether it’s Daily Burn or SworkIt or Aaptiv, it’s been very thought through. Of course, there’s tons of opportunity to continue to personalize that experience and really think of that journey. But we look at one as being an extension of the other.

 

RW: Yeah, fascinating. When I think about personalization, I invariably get to the data issue or the data situation. How are you thinking about data? The collection of data? We may soon be in a cookieless world… How does Blink think about this? How do you think about it?… Tell us a little bit more about the personalized experience that you touched on.

MH: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. And, you know, obviously from a brand perspective, it’s a member-first mentality, right? So, you know, and it’s a value exchange, by understanding more particularly, [it] becomes a lot easier obviously in the digital world – through the app – to understand what content appeals to people, where their interests lie, and we can begin to really curate that.

 

So, for us, it’s all about making the experience [and] constantly evolving the experience to make it better: Being really thoughtful in the data-sense from a marketing perspective – obviously, in addition to focusing on the member experience – we have to be very attuned to the applicable laws, legislations, and I think an ever-changing landscape.

 

Also read: How Johnson & Johnson Is Pairing Data With Creativity to Connect With Customers Like Never Before

 

At the beginning of the week, I was listening to Kara Swisher’s podcast “Sway” from the New York Times and she was interviewing Tim Cook. Tim believes that privacy is at the forefront of what things are going to be about. And certainly, from Apple’s perspective, you know, they’re introducing the ATT – the ability for people to choose their privacy settings. So, I think it’s still an interesting time. There are many different things happening at many different levels, from the policy perspective – around section 230 – and, you know, there are some… Amy Klobuchar is very involved with making refinements [to] – I think she’s calling it the Safe Tech Act. You have Virginia announcing that they’re going to be doing very similar [things] to what California did with the CCPA. That they’ve now adopted their version of that. And, I think, from what I heard, there’s another eight states following suit.

 

So, a brand has a responsibility to align with and be aware of that. And then, in addition to that, you also have the platforms, right? Like, Facebook has a lot of responses to Apple and there’s a lot of activity. I look – from a marketing perspective – the importance of staying on top of it and putting member privacy at the forefront is what we are looking at. And staying in tune, too. But there’s, there’s so much going on from a marketing perspective, we work very much in line with our legal department and technology [teams] to make [sure] everything aligns. So, needless to say, I guess there’s a lot going on, Robert.

RW: The ground is shifting, too. I mean, what you just spoke about is going to be different maybe even by Monday. Every day you see that there’s new legislation, or just new technology, and how companies – all of them – are reacting to it. To me, the brands that at least make it, first and foremost, “Hey, we’re paying attention. And we’re doing our best to put you – the member – first.” That starts to build enough of a trust factor that, “Hey, we may not keep up with every single thing, but we’re trying and your first, so you – the member – are first,” I think that’s critically important for most brands to think about, because it’s not necessarily possible to keep pace with everything.

 

MH: Yeah. But I think it’s our responsibility to, as brands, to do that. But I think it also speaks to, you know, the agility and the cross-functional partnership that takes place now, certainly through this time… We’re in it together and navigating through it.

 

RW: So, for sure. When you look at the true customer journey, that’s not a marketing thing. That’s not a product thing. That’s not an operations thing. It’s all of those things – [including] service. It’s everything. The customer – or the member in your case – doesn’t much care what departments or silos exist.

 

MH: One hundred percent. I love that you say that. I mean, we work so closely together – the Head of Operations – we all work so closely together to create this member-first experience and we’re, like you said, it’s an evolution. Simon Sinek talks about “The Infinite Game“. It’s this constant [goal of] doing it better and putting the member first.

 

Also read How to Holistically Map Your Customer Experiences

 

RW: I think organizations are being forced, especially during COVID – because [the] customer became front and center, whether you thought about it or not – and it forced a lot of companies to think about, “How are our departments interacting with one another? And how are those interactions even touching the customer? How do we need to maybe be more agile?”

Our North Star really is thinking about the member first and that member experience.

MH: Yes, I love that you said that. I was just going to say, I think these keywords came out of the pandemic, right? Like, the acceleration of behavior or technology, resiliency, agility. And, obviously, from a leadership perspective, empathy is at the, at the cornerstone, which I think has only made us better and stronger as individuals and teams. So, I agree with you. I think those are some of the keywords that are definitely coming out of this moment in time.

 

RW: Ultimately, that’s a good thing. So, there’s some silver linings. I think it’s all good. So, we’re almost at time, but if you cast your vision forward a little bit, what do you see in terms of the fitness industry, or technology, or any trends, or any combination of the three? What do you see out there in the market? Where do you see things going?

 

MH: Yeah, I think – just touching back on what we started talking about – I really do believe it’s this constant continuation of the member experience. And what does it mean to offer that member experience? From a technology point of view, from a people point of view. Bringing that all together and continuing to deliver that. And, I think, it’s about understanding this moment of stasis: When, you know, the technology and the digital world and the four walls live together. What does that look like? So, I feel like we’re on a journey that was accelerated by COVID, for sure. I don’t think we’re the only industry. Obviously, there’s many that we can point to that have been [impacted by] this acceleration. But, again, a lot of the behaviors that you’re talking about, and that we’ve touched on – the agility, the resiliency, the cross-functional partnership – will be key in this experience. But I think our North Star really is thinking about the member first and that member experience.

 

Also read: Trends Driving CX Design In the Hospitality Industry: Q&A with Marriott International’s Christine Kettmer

 

RW: Yeah. Awesome. Well, I I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few conversations with you. Each one is awesome, and each one, the time sneaks up on us. We could keep on going for a while. But I do want to thank you, again, for taking the time. This has been wonderful. I know our audience is going to appreciate it and learn a lot from it. Is there a URL for Blink Fitness that [people] should check out?

MH: [Yeah], it’s just BlinkFitness.com. Right now, we actually are allowing people to download the app for 60 days trials, no matter where they live. So, I welcome anybody that would be interested. Just go to our website and download the app, or to the app store and download it that way.

 

RH: Excellent. Everyone go do that, go download [the app].

 

MH: Stay healthy, stay well, right?

 

RH: Yeah. Everyone: Stay fit and stay well. That’s exactly right. This will help you do that. So, I’ll do that when I hang up here. But thanks again. It’s really been a lot of fun.

 

MH: I look forward to continuing the conversation. Thank you so much.

Want to be featured in our Innovators Series? Reach out to us now!

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This Week in CX: CDK, Neiman Marcus Group & Qualcomm Invest In a Better Future

Week over week, we unpack emerging trends, data developments, business model innovations and new technologies that are changing consumer behavior and driving CX expectations of tomorrow. But there are other factors that, especially in 2021, impact how consumers relate to brands long-term: Social impact, responsibility, and philanthropy.

 

We’ve known for many years that authentic corporate philanthropy increases employee satisfaction, morale, and retention, but new studies are revealing just how much it also impacts the overall customer experience, as well. Case in point:

 

  • A survey by Nielsen discovered that 50% of consumers will pay more for a product or service if the business prioritizes sustainability.
  • The 2019 Aflac Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility found that 77% of consumers would “be motivated to purchase a company’s products or services if the company shows they are committed to making the world a better place.”
  • A survey conducted by Clutch found that shoppers believe environmentally-friendly business practices (71%), social responsibility (68%) and giving back to the local community (68%) to be the most important attributes of a company, even above price. Additionally, 71% said they believe it’s important for businesses to take a stance on social and cultural issues.

“We all have a responsibility to make this place better than we found it,” says Tallwave Senior Consultant Erin Nielsen. “That can come in many forms but it shouldn’t just be up to a residential individual. There’s strength in numbers, and money talks. Why shouldn’t companies be the ones driving toward larger, bigger actions? They have the people, the podiums, the funds, and the opportunities to make a bigger difference.”

 

Not only should businesses care about making social, environmental, and/or cultural differences because, well, they should, as the metrics above highlight, it is becoming increasingly paramount to consumers as they decide who deserves their money.

Millennials have proven that commitment to causes is a driving factor behind whether they buy from a company or not.

“Consumers are smarter than they have ever been,” Erin explains. “They have information at their fingertips and are becoming more and more informed about what organizations truly stand for and are empowered to make decisions based on that alone. You see that in specific segments of the market: Millennials have proven that commitment to causes is a driving factor behind whether they buy from a company or not. Let’s take Toms, for example. When they entered the market with a buy one, give one model, they were a disruptor from that perspective. It made me want to give my money to an organization that’s going to do something with it. I can buy Toms or I can buy from a company that doesn’t share where my money goes – whether it be towards an advertising campaign, brick and mortar, or in their pockets. Consumers have choices and they care. Now more than ever, people don’t trust companies at their word. They need to prove that they’re doing what they say they’re doing. They need to live their values and integrate their beliefs into their work.”

 

Basically, if you’re focused on crafting excellent customer experiences and building a bond with consumers that can last a lifetime, you can’t only drive materialistic or time-saving value. You have to cultivate a brand that your consumers can see themselves in and rally around. You’ve got to stand for something, and find a way to embed that into the DNA of everything you do.

Like many of you reading this, we’re still figuring out how we want to show up in the world and be a catalyst for change.

Now, before we share the top stories we’re talking about this week, we do have to make a confession: While we’re experts in many areas, this isn’t necessarily one of them. Everyday, we’re learning, growing, and figuring out how to do better. At Tallwave, we put employees above everything and execute our work from the heart with humans’ best interests at the core, but, like many of you reading this, we’re still figuring out how we want to show up in the world and be a catalyst for change. And that’s OK. We believe, in order for this kind of work to transform our brand and the communities we touch, we must approach it like a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve built a DE&I task force and broken them up into four categories, each focused on cultivating and operationalizing strategies most important to us: Talent outreach, client and marketplace engagement, internal culture and training, and community outreach. We’re listening, we’re learning, and we’re putting actions behind our words to develop the social impact and philanthropic programs that are right for us.

 

These stories and these brands are paving the way. We look to them for guidance, inspiration, and motivation, and can’t wait to join them in the corporate and social responsibility ranks.

CDK Global Doubles Down On Their Promise to Support Inclusive & Equitable Quality Education For All

Last August, CDK Global – a leading provider of integrated data and technology solutions to the automotive, heavy truck, recreation, and heavy equipment industries – announced their commitment to increasing accessibility to quality education and lifelong learning for all. Since then, they’ve directed 90% of their corporate giving to education-related causes, and this past Wednesday, doubled down on their promise by pledging a total of $70,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Louisiana, greenlight for girls, and ASE Education Foundation.

“Now more than ever, we understand that not everyone has equal access to a traditional learning environment where they can receive a quality education,” CDK Global’s Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources and Communications Officer Amy Byrne told Business Wire. “Through our corporate philanthropic partnerships, we are investing in programs that help create the next generation of leaders by improving access to knowledge and enhancing the skills of people from all backgrounds.”

 

CDK Global chose to donate $25,000 of the $70,000 total to the Boys and Girls Clubs chapter in Southeast Louisiana after they were forced to cancel their in-person National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) trade show – which was scheduled to be hosted there – and transition to virtual setting due to COVID-19. The change of plans caused a blow to the community’s projected local economic growth for the year. To make up for it, the funds will make CDK the first-ever sponsor for a new literacy program planned for the 2021-2022 school year – one that will reportedly help 75 children per day to alleviate social challenges, increase school performance, and better prepare for standardized tests.

 

CDK’s partnership with greenlight for girls (g4g) also isn’t brand new. The two organizations joined forces to develop educational materials for girls in STEM subjects back in July 2020. According to the founder and chairman of g4g Melissa Rancourt, the $25,000 donation will help them “achieve significant reach, impact, and resonance to our sustainable development and societal goal… [to] inspire local communities of girls and boys to build their curiosity, abilities, and aspirations in STEM.”

 

Lastly, CDK plans to donate the remaining $20,000 to ASE Education Foundation to help educate, prepare, and inspire a new generation of automotive service workers. The funds will fuel an assessment to evaluate the diversity, equity, and inclusivity of ASE’s educational programs, and will empower their curriculum to reach and attract varied student populations. “The future of the service industry is brighter because of their contributions,” said ASE Education Foundation Present Michael Coley. Neiman Marcus Group

Launches New Campaign Focused on Fostering Black Excellence

 

February is Black History Month so there was no more appropriate time for Neiman Marcus Group to announce their new campaign, “Celebrating Black History By Supporting Black Futures.”

“NMG is a place where everyone belongs, where diversity is valued, and where showing up as your full and authentic self is expected."

Unveiling a multi-pronged strategy that consists of both new and ongoing initiatives, Neiman Marcus plans to use corporate philanthropy dollars to support the Boys and Girls Club of America, as well as improve internal learning opportunities and marketing efforts designated to source and empower Black talent. Additionally, Neiman Marcus Group plans to host a fireside chat for associates and customers between Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winner reporter of racial injustice for The New York Times, and Tracy Pereston, the company’s Chief Legal Counsel. People can RSVP for the virtual event on their site. Upon the event’s culmination, Neiman Marcus Group will make a donation to the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting on behalf of Hannah-Jones.

 

“NMG is a place where everyone belongs, where diversity is valued, and where showing up as your full and authentic self is expected,” said Chief People & Belonging Officer of Neiman Marcus Group Eric Severson. “As we progress on our Belonging journey, our people and their voices are a priceless way we highlight the excellence that makes up our company.”

 

To read more about Neiman Marcus Group’s philanthropic work, visit The Heart of Neiman Marcus.

Qualcomm Releases 2020 Corporate Responsibility & Reveals Plans Through 2025

Qualcomm Incorporated, the world’s leading wireless technology innovator, released its 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report last week, recapping the company’s environment, social, and governance performance (ESG) for the year.

 

“We have had many successes over the last year despite the unforeseen challenges of 2020. As we continue to work toward our 2030 Vision, I am proud to report we successfully met or exceeded our 2020 corporate responsibility goals,” said Steve Mollenkopf, Chief Executive Officer, Qualcomm Incorporated.

Qualcomm Instagram post about corporate social impact

Also read: Solving For a Lack of Diversity in CX

 

Qualcomm is hoping to make significant impacts across four key areas: Purposeful Innovation, STEM Education, Responsible Business and Our People. And they made some significant strides in recent years:

 

  • Over the last two year, Qualcomm increased their female engineer workforce by 17% worldwide
  • They increased racial and ethnic group engineers in the technology sector by 12%
  • Employee satisfaction towards Qualcomm’s workplace inclusivity increased by 10%
  • They launched a Small Business Accelerator program, which helped 33 small businesses transition to a mobile-first digital infrastructure
  • Their Wireless Reach program benefitted more than 20 million people across 48 countries by enabling access to their technology for education entrepreneurship, healthcare, public safety, and environmental sustainability purposes.
  • They conducted their first climate scenario analysis, of which insights are included in the report

Qualcomm's Pledge Through 2025

Despite making major strides, Qualcomm isn’t satisfied yet. While crafting strategic corporate plans through 2025 and beyond, they defined quantitative targets designed to measure improvements pertaining to diversity within their workforce, enforcing more sustainable practices in all areas of business and transforming industries with their new technologies to “build a more resilient economy, and catalyze social change for billions of people across the globe,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf.

 

“In the year ahead, we will start working toward achieving our newly launched 2025 corporate responsibility targets, prioritizing environment, diversity and inclusion, and reporting,” Qualcomm’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Akash Palkhiwala said in a statement. “Among these, we will continue to address and improve our environmental performance through greenhouse gas reduction strategies, reduce power consumption, and work to build a more diverse workforce.”

 

Learn more about Qualcomm’s 2025 goals and ESG performance in 2020 in the full report here

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Innovators Series Uncategorized

Innovators Q&A: How Johnson & Johnson Is Pairing Data With Creativity to Connect With Customers Like Never Before

A big brand name is no longer a differentiator. In fact, according to the Customers 2020 study, neither is price or product. While those factors may naturally drive more awareness or familiarity, they no longer drive trust and credibility or dependably convert consumers to buyers and advocates. Actually, if you think of it, big legacy brands might have even larger hurdles to overcome in achieving the cross-functional alignment and agreeance it takes to transform customer journeys and craft personalized, valuable experiences at every touchpoint.

 

There’s really only one way huge companies – like Johnson & Johnson – can be innovative in a fast-changing marketplace. They must learn how to pair data and analytics with design and creativity to cultivate authentic strategies that place the humans they serve at their core. Even if that means spending money to create experiences that have no guaranteed ROI.

 

To learn more about how Johnson & Johnson is thinking about and approaching customer experience, we talked to Matthew Fantazier, Senior Brand Manager for Johnson & Johnson’s Baby businesses, including Aveeno Baby and Desitin. As you’ll learn during the conversation, hosted by our very own Founder and CEO Jeffrey Pruitt, Matthew is passionate about bringing together insights, data, and technology to connect authentically with today’s consumers.

 

Prior to his current role, Matthew led digital strategy and media at J&J’s OTC business for Digestive Health, Cough Cold Flu and Eye Care. He has also worked on brands such as ZYRTEC®, SUDAFED®, and BENGAY®. Through his experiences and first-hand interactions with evolving customer experiences, Matthew shares his unique insights and perspective as it pertains to the future of CX.

Q&A with Johnson & Johnson Senior Brand Manager Matt Fantazier

 

Jeff Pruitt: We’d love to hear a little bit about both your personal and professional story. I saw that you interned at Deloitte at the beginning of your career and then took a job as an analyst. So, you’ve always been very tied to brand strategy.

 

Matt Frantazier: I’ve been at J&J (Johnson & Johnson) for about 14 and a half years now, but I did start out as an accountant way back when. I studied accounting, got my CPA, and spent about seven years in finance at J&J, actually. I made the switch to marketing about eight years ago. And that’s definitely been a hallmark of my experience – combining the data and analytics side with creativity. That’s the exciting thing about what I get to do for work now: Combining those two things – data/analytics and creativity – to connect with consumers.

 

JP: That’s great. I actually am, too, a CPA and studied accounting. I don’t know why I actually got into it, but I love [working] more on the marketing and branding side. We’ll get into how data and brand connect, but first, how do you believe marketing strategies have been forced to change for big legacy brands like Johnson & Johnson during COVID?

 

MF: Well, you know, I think the evolution really changed before COVID and… this has been talked about a lot, but the last 10 months or so just accelerated a lot of things that had been advancing maybe at a medium [or] slow pace, but the need to change has been right in our faces. I think one of the biggest evolutions is brands and companies thinking about moving away from advertising and retail and [instead, thinking about] enabling access. How do we enable access to consumers and how do we foster discovery versus just advertising? I think that’s one of the biggest changes that I’ve seen in what we’re thinking about [at Johnson & Johnson]. COVID forced consumers to adopt all sorts of new habits and behaviors. More research is happening online [and on] social media. Consumers are becoming accustomed to different shopping experiences and we have to be there.

"Brands are being pushed to change as fast as the world around them is changing, and we can't wait for perfection."

There’s just countless specific things that have changed from a commerce perspective: E-commerce media habits, [and] consumer demands for brands to stand for something. There’s so much that has changed in the last 10 months. I think brands are just being pushed to change as fast as the world around them is changing. And we can’t wait for perfection. I think that’s the biggest challenge right now: So much has changed so fast that we have to try. You know, we’re in uncomfortable territory of not knowing – doing new things, operating differently – but we have to try to learn and adapt.

 

JP: Yeah. So, when you think about that and you’re pushing out different work streams or different approaches to drive an experience through your brand with your customer, how are you looking at that in conjunction with data, analytics, and creativity and design?

 

MF: The intersection of data and creativity – I think it’s just so much more prominent now. And it’s one of the bigger challenges we’re facing right now: Unlocking this data. There’s so much, and as more commerce and media consumption and interaction – on websites or wherever – happens online, there’s a data trail there. But, “What do we do with it?” is really the next big question. You can have all the data in the world, but if you don’t know what it means, – if you don’t understand what to do differently, or if it’s good or it’s bad – it’s sort of meaningless. So, you know, we seemingly know more about consumers as digital media matures and data becomes more robust, but you have to have that feedback loop to consistently learn and adapt…

 

One of the challenges there is that it can’t [just] be a machine.

 

At the end of the day, we’re talking to humans… They may be online and buying things online, but you still have to make that personal connection. I think that’s where the tension point really lies. Algorithms don’t make purchases. People do. So, the data can be incredibly powerful in understanding what’s working, what’s resonating, but you still need to grab attention and make a human connection there. The data is allowing us to try more things and push further, but I think it can be used as an enabler because you can quickly figure out [if] something is working or not, versus feeling trapped in [the mindset of] “We’re going to do what we know because it’s safe.” We can do unsafe things because of data – it’s unsafe from a performance standpoint – but it’s making that connection and creating that loop. That is really the biggest challenge, right now.

Also read: How We Created a Contemporary Experience For a Strong, Timeless Brand

 

JP: So, getting more specific, what kind of data do you look at? And how does that influence, for example, design – how you test design and get it out into the real world?

 

MF: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things is that it’s not just one data source. It’s important to not get too myopic and focus on [something like] short term ROI, is a good example. It’s paying the bills. It’s keeping the lights on. That’s important, without a doubt, short-term ROI matters. I would lose my job if I ignored it. But it’s one data point. So, brand awareness or different equity metrics – those are important for long term health assessments to understand [if] what you’re doing [is] driving relevance with your consumer. Is it something that they like? Do people agree with what [you] stand for? You need both. You need to know: Is what you’re doing selling products? Is what you’re doing getting people to respond positively? It’s that mix. You need to understand all of it, which can be hard. It’s easy to anchor on the one good metric and declare a success, but we do need to take a broad approach to it.

 

JP: All too often, we’ll focus as marketers on the bottom of the funnel because it’s the most trackable, but at the same time, as you look at the upper- or mid-funnel, you are now able to track some brand awareness. And it’s important to make sure that you do measure it, but it shouldn’t get the same level of ROI expectation that you do at the bottom of the funnel.

 

MF: Yeah, it’s a different job to be done. You need all of it. I think it’s easy to [say], “My job is to sell product,” but really, it’s to create awareness, drive consideration, and sell product. You need to do all [of] that stuff.

"You can have all the data in the world, but if you don't know what it means, – if you don't understand what to do differently, or if it’s good or it’s bad – it's sort of meaningless."

JP: So, taking this to the experience you’re driving for your customer: How does Johnson & Johnson measure customer experience, both digitally and in store? What are the key components of understanding that experience and ensuring that it’s seamless – that it’s one of value – and that you’re educating the customer correctly?

 

MF: It’s really taking a look at the entire journey. There are so many touch points [within] consumer journeys today. And, I think when you look at it, the consumer journey being very non-linear is a reality that we’re dealing with.

 

So, customer experience [or] consumer experience takes a lot of shapes and forms… I’m thinking about what they need. What are the consumer’s current needs and expectations? You know, in my business, I talk to new parents a lot and they’re very information hungry. So, providing them with knowledge, information, education – about ingredients, or what our products do; how to give your child their first bath, [for example] – that’s relevant. They need that, that’s a lower purchasing barrier. But it may be tips, if it’s a more complex product. If you’re in a category that [doesn’t naturally provide an] intuitive process, or it takes some skill to use your product, you’re going to have to provide support. We see a lot of good examples from hardware stores – they do DIY videos on YouTube. That’s super important. If you don’t know how to install a toilet, you’re not going to go buy one. So, they need that – as far as the consumer journey and experience goes. It’s really [about] putting the consumer at the center, which is a little bit of a trite thing to say, but I think it’s true. First thing’s first.

 

JP: Implementing these strategies is really, really difficult for a lot of brands internally. When brands have a customer acquisition group, a brand group, and a customer experience group – the reality is that it’s still the same customer, they’re just entering your brand through different touch points and avenues. Your experience is resonating, you’re working on the acquisition, but then when you bring them in, it’s still that customer that you’re driving the experience to. Sometimes this journey spans across  multiple teams and stakeholders. How do you manage integrating all the good data that you get around the experience – like you mentioned, talking to actual mothers and parents – and then, embed that through a multitude of strategies that provides a seamless experience to the customer?

MF: We talk a lot about how consumers don’t actually know if they’re getting an ad from me, or from a retailer, or whomever. They see an ad for Johnson’s, and 99% of the time they just see, “Oh, it’s a baby shampoo,” or whatever. But in reality, to your point, there [are] so many parts of the ecosystem at play. It could be an ad or an experience that’s managed by a retailer partner; it can be managed by me, PR, an influencer. It’s so important to be coordinated and to have that partnership. We put a lot of effort into that discussion and alignment upfront: What are our objectives? How are we achieving these together? What is our one communications plan to make sure we’re not operating in silos? From a creative perspective, [that] it’s not different messages; From a data perspective, that we’re talking to the right people, and retargeting the right people, and bringing it all around and feeding insights to one another. It’s all the same consumer. We just trick ourselves into thinking it’s different, but it’s not.

 

JP: Right. Different stakeholders and sometimes different measurements, which drive different initiatives, but trying to align all those is, I think, where Nirvana sits both internally and [for] companies like ours: Trying to find that alignment for the customer sitting in the center.

 

MF: Yes, for sure.

 

JP: So, from a digital first strategy perspective, J&J is a huge legacy company with over 200 companies inside it. How do you drive that overall digital-first strategy as an organization?

 

MF: Yeah, we think about, again, putting the consumer at the center and thinking about, well, first, where are they actually spending their time? What are their actual behaviors in the real world [and where do] we want to interact with them? And digital-first, I think, can be misconstrued as digital only, or digital media, but there’s also a performance mindset that is important within a digital-first mindset of data collection, iteration, optimization, that also needs to be fed into this. But, from a consumer journey perspective, what are those moments along their journey where we can deliver a transformational brand-building experience? Where does it matter? Where is it really high stakes? And put our time and effort there to really make a difference. And, you know, it could be communications, it could be commerce technology, it could be an app experience, whatever. But really, digital-first doesn’t mean anything unless the consumers are there – it’s [zeroing into] a behavior of: They’re working from home, or they like to shop on their phone, or watch how-to videos before they buy something. So, putting ourselves in their shoes and then leveraging digital technology e-commerce to really enable those kinds of brand-building experiences.

"There's also a performance mindset that I think is important within a digital-first mindset of data collection, iteration, optimization, that also needs to be fed into this."

And then, as I mentioned, what have we learned from that, and how do we get better? That performance mindset, I think, to me, that’s what digital-first actually means, which is a lot, and pretty complex. But it’s not, “We’re going to run Facebook ads, and now we’re more digital-first.” That’s objectively not true. A lot of brands do that, and they’re totally not, but it’s a mindset shift, really.

 

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

 

JP: And it’s also a mindset shift to really understand that, even upfront, when you’re identifying your strategies, data can be utilized to understand deeper sentiment and intent from the persona. And also being able to look at engagement metrics, engagement features, and overall demand that does drive both your online and offline strategy through that journey. I think that’s missed a lot.

 

MF: Yeah, it’s getting back to that feedback loop. We don’t want media plans to live in silos. We don’t want insights living in silos, either. So, if you run a programmatic campaign and find out that “Claim X” drives twice as much conversion – it would be pretty good to know as you’re developing other communications or strategies that, “Hey, this is a behavior-changing message. This matters. Let’s think about that. Let’s iterate on this a little bit…” And that’s what we strive for. That’s, I think, Nirvana for me: Getting to that place, but to the extent [in which] you can use it as a research tool. I think that’s one of the less leveraged aspects of digital media right now, and why you’re seeing more and more CPGs getting [into] DTC commerce. I can’t imagine that a lot of these companies are making any money on having a DTC website, selling snacks or soda, but the data they’re getting from it is invaluable. And that’s why they’re doing it.

 

JP: Right. 2020-2021 has been a really interesting year. And COVID in many ways, like you said at the beginning of the [interview], drove the need to really understand the customer experience. If you were to define the experience that you want with your customer, as you continue to go into 2021, what does that relationship look like for J&J?

"If our mission is to make sure babies have the healthiest start to life, how do we not address a global health pandemic? That's crazy.".

MF: I think at a very high level, that relationship is one that is meaningful and relevant. That we are listening to what our consumers need and expect, and we’re delivering on that expectation. [It came into] real focus in the last year with brands: [the need] to think about how they adapt their communications in the face of COVID, and the face of social unrest and racial inequality, and all these different things. There’s a lot on consumers’ minds. It’s not just a product. It could be what’s happening at home or – [for example] – having to homeschool a child for the year, which is a huge challenge, as a lot of us know, right now. But really finding ways to resonate with them on that personal level. We’re a relevant brand, we’re meaningful, and we deliver against those expectations.

 

For us, a lot of new parents are coming into the category [during] a very challenging time. Right now, being an expecting parent is incredibly challenging, which is why last year we launched our #InItTogether program, which is a partnership with Meredith [in which] we created all sorts of different content and videos around what questions to ask your doctor before you go to the hospital; what to expect when you’re giving birth; can your partner be in the delivery room with you. All these sorts of questions we know were rattling around in parents’ minds. There was no tie to sales there, that was purely equity, but we knew we couldn’t talk about shampoos and lotions without addressing this enormous stressor that is happening in the lives of millions of people, right now. We had to talk about this. If our mission is to make sure babies have the healthiest start to life, how do we not address a global health pandemic? That’s crazy.

 

So, I think it’s thinking about that and knowing that we have to be relevant and, if we can continue to do that – if we can continue to make connections, meaningful connections with modern consumers – we’ll be okay. But it’s being agile enough to adapt with the needs and what’s happening in the world around us.

#InItTogether Campaign on Johsnon's Baby Instagram

Also read: How Avidon Health Is Solving the Patient Engagement Problem in Healthcare

 

JP: It’s really made prominent and propelled customer experience forward, faster than I think a lot of people would have expected and the authentic, transparent, empathetic approach to really understanding where people are in their day and their mindset. It’s different for everybody, but being able to – I don’t like the word “market,” as much as I like the [practice of being] able to connect with them with your offering, which is an offering of support, in many respects. So one last question for you. How do you define innovation for both the business that you’re in, and for J&J?

 

MF: I think it is finding what consumers actually want and need, and delivering on it. That could be product innovation to meet emerging needs. We see that across industries in response to the at-home economy now. People’s lives have dramatically changed in the last year. So, there’s new physical needs.

 

We’re also seeing a communications evolution and innovation. So, it could be: What are the needs of consumers, or what are their new questions? What are they wrestling with now? Like the example I gave with parenting information and around COVID. But, I think, regardless, again, it needs to be meaningful. And innovation can’t just be a fresh coat of paint. You can do that, that can work, but ideally it’s evolving with changing needs. If we’ve seen anything in the last year, we’ve seen that needs are changing really rapidly, and the brands and the companies that can continue to evolve and keep pace with what people are looking for, that’s the magic combination. It can be tough. Product innovation obviously takes time. For us, everything we do is backed in science and research. So, we can’t just quickly [get] new products out the door in a couple of weeks, but taking those insights and really thinking about: What are new parents or new consumers looking for? Are they looking for germ-killing characteristics in a wash, right now? Okay. Let’s think about that. How do we deliver on that? But it could also mean information, like the last example, too.

 

JP: Yeah. Well, Matt, from your background – from the very beginning to all the work that you’ve done at J&J – very, very insightful and great to have you on for the Innovator Series. So, I really appreciate your time and look forward to connecting again, soon.