To start we can expect faster progression towards multi-channel comms. Over the last few years, we have seen a slow move towards online and offline comms being run simultaneously, with the same offers and creative. But in general, the two don’t join up in terms of the data used. Offline is managed and briefed by one team and online managed through the social channels and the data available to use in them. However, this is changing, and the same teams are now looking at data to be used across all channels with the same profiling, models and selections being applied where the permissions allow it. So will 2022 actually see harmony and true multi-channel campaigns?
Customer decision-making will be driven by sustainability and/or diversity
There is a lot of research, including the DMA’s recent Customer Engagement: Consumer Mindset in Acquisition research, which shows that diversity and sustainability are becoming more important to consumers when deciding which brands to buy from. With a higher profile after COP26, younger audiences are increasingly engaging with green concerns and consumers are demanding that representation is recognised in advertising. Brands need to be seen to be in tune with current interests. This creates an interesting challenge for brands. For example, how do you identify those customers or prospects who are concerned by these drivers? How do you engage them in a way that marries your values to their values? How do you ensure that your credentials are seen to be sincere and that you avoid accusations of greenwashing?
More direct-to-consumer comms and online sales from brands in retail
One thing that accelerated during lockdown that will not revert is the need for some brands to engage directly with consumers rather than rely on their retail estate or sales partners. For example, my friend owns a small brewery in London with a lot of loyal customers who bought his beer in pubs across the capital. What happens when the pubs close though? He was forced to create a direct-to-consumer offering, firstly, very quickly through Amazon and then secondly, more considered through his own website. The outcome: a new audience who will never sip his beer in London but who are loyal to the brand. At the other end of the scale, my wife likes nothing better than browsing Sweaty Betty in their shops. But when the shops closed, the engagement didn’t stop. Instead, the retail assistants become online buddies, showcasing new items and providing advice on what to buy for what activity. Boom, a loyal audience in lockdown. These are just two examples from thousands across the country where brands opened a new direct-to-consumer offering, a trend that was accelerated by COVID and which will gather pace now that the train has left the station.
More intermediaries in other sectors – e.g., money management platforms; rebirth of Trainline!
Buying car, home or travel insurance or moving your utility provider is now so simple thanks to a market flooded by intermediaries. Many household brand names in these sectors have almost stopped recruiting customers directly because they rely so heavily on the meerkat and other partners to provide their new customers. So which other sectors are ripe for this kind of service?
As a regular traveller on UK railways, it feels to me that there is a huge opportunity to replicate Skyscanner on the railways. There is a wealth of reduced fares but it never felt that Red Spotted Hanky or Trainline managed to capture the audience in the right way.
Similarly, financial services for more general current accounts, savings, credit cards and mortgages haven’t really been interrupted as yet. With the development of open banking the fight to own the customer will be starting soon, with all the big banks believing they will win. But maybe a new brand intermediary with a sexy name and a cool app will wrap up the market. Or maybe it will be a meerkat again.
Greater demand for improved customer service post pandemic
One area that seems to have suffered during the last 18 months is customer service, with many brands having cut the number of staff working in this area and using the pandemic as an excuse for doing so. It is only a matter of time as we get “back to normal” that customers start to demand an improved customer service journey. Tolerance of Covid as an excuse (or indeed Brexit) can only last so long before normal service will be expected to be resumed. The challenge for many brands will be how to fund these extra staff after cutting them previously. Maybe the drive for automation, more realistic chat functionality and AI-based solutions will be the result.
Finding a balance between localism and impatient nation
Another trend accelerated by the pandemic was the re-birth of local shopping. The allegiance shown by many communities to their local high street was heartening. People were buying products they didn’t need (or hoped they would need again at some point in the future) just to invest in businesses they felt loyal to. This has resulted in a healthier high street in many places than maybe would have otherwise been expected.
At the same time, we also invested more in the need to get products delivered to our door, and as quickly as possible. Same day services from Amazon, the same hour in some locations, as well as a massively increased market for everything from fast food (Just Eat, Uber Eats, Deliveroo) to our daily and weekly shop (Gorillas, Weezy) has created a very “now” culture.
Together, that creates a very interesting dynamic, a confluence of fast and slow shopping if you like. This will be an interesting trend to follow over the next twelve months. Will the two live in happy harmony? Will our desire to be sated immediately win out? Or will we realise it is better to get outside and see people?
Scott Logie is Customer Engagement Director at data and insight agency REaD Group.