Over the last two years, there have been numerous developments. The human race has survived a pandemic that spread fear and uncertainty throughout the world. And our way of life has been severely impacted. Businesses have embraced work-from-home and hybrid work models, prioritised employee well-being, and recognised that putting the customer at the centre of all decisions is the key to success.
Businesses must recognise that today’s customer is considerably different from the pre-pandemic customer. While restrictions may be easing and we all cautiously re-enter the world, the interactions that customers have with brands today is one that is changing – and will continue to do so.
This means that the brands that grasp the genuine concept of customer-centricity will be successful. Being customer-centric should no longer be a buzzword; it should be understood and implemented with empathy.
What does the new customer look like, and how can organisations adapt their business strategies to accommodate them?
In this article, we talk to industry specialists to get their take on the new consumer.
Digital transformation to customer experience transformation
Today’s customers are more savvy and knowledgeable than ever before. “The client of 2022 expects seamless experiences from all brands, and it is now the customer who dictates how brands should engage with them, not the other way around. Regardless of the business in which you operate, your primary focus should be on customer experience transformation,” says Greg Gatherer, account manager at Liferay Africa.
Today’s consumers demand engaging, connected, and actionable digital experiences. “Good” experiences will not suffice. ” With this in mind, businesses will need to identify technology that enables them to meet these objectives and transform their operations,” explains Gatherer.
“For instance, a digital experience platform (DXP) is intended to serve as an integration centre, bringing together disparate applications and systems to enable the creation, delivery, and management of digital experiences across the customer journey.”
Customers will no longer be required to switch between several apps to complete activities. “Rather than that, consumers may rely on the customer portal to be the go-to tool for whatever they require. This streamlines their whole experience, which improves client retention,” says Gatherer.
From browsing pamphlets to exploring virtual reality
Tourism is another area where technology has brought about seminal changes, profoundly affecting the way travel clients search, shop and pay. According to Tshepo Matlou, head of marketing and communications at Jurni, the most obvious change is the growth of online booking. “In the past, people dreaming of a holiday had to rely on travel agents or the pamphlets at tourist boards to find accommodation – a concept that seems ludicrous today,” says Matlou.
Being able to pick and choose the characteristics you want while browsing through high-quality photos of potential accommodation on online booking sites is just the most obvious route now.
The rapid rise in online bookings and purchases has resulted in travel clients that expect tourism operators, big and small, to have kept up with modern advances, such as letting them explore accommodation in virtual reality (VR) before they make a booking.
“Modern travellers are also increasingly more socially aware and conscious, looking for more authentic experiences that connect them to the areas they visit,” says Matlou. These often can be found at small guest houses and business owners outside of the big cities in areas that are incredibly rich in cultural value and have much to offer visitors who are willing to explore them.” Because of this, localised booking sites will become more prevalent in the coming years.”
Customer privacy is key
The previous two years have seen dramatic changes in nearly every facet of our life.
“Our behaviour as consumers is no different. We have altered not only where and how we shop, but also what we purchase. Regardless of age or demographic, online buying is significantly more accessible than it was previously,” says Dori-Jo Bonner, strategist at Striata Africa.
While the modern shopper’s expectations of businesses have shifted, a major worry for the consumer is a company’s ability to demonstrate that they value their privacy and are responsible with their data.
“Worryingly, a poll done before the implementation of POPIA discovered that just 22% of South African businesses are aware of the privacy laws governing their marketing efforts. Given the massive amounts of consumer data businesses have accumulated through loyalty and direct marketing programs, they will need to exercise extra caution in terms of compliance,” says Bonner.
Understanding the new customer requires empathy
The contemporary customer’s needs, desires and preferences are constantly evolving and to remain relevant no brand can afford to ignore those nuances believes Reagen Kok, CEO at Hoorah Digital.
“Particularly in the creative industry, our relevance is reflected in our ability to appropriately respond to the prevailing zeitgeist in terms of those needs and nuances. Empathy has an important role to play in this as the ‘new customer’ needs to be approached with empathy,” says Kok.
Empathy is showing customers that brands “get them” in a way that the others don’t. Brands that understand the value of empathy engage their customers in a more thoughtful way, ensuring it feels like an authentic response to their needs. “Empathy says, ‘We get what you want and need – here’s how we can help you solve it’, as opposed to a ‘look at what we do – we think you need this’ approach to marketing,” explains Kok
Tailoring offers to meet exact needs
Post-pandemic customers are tech savvy and expect far more from brands in terms of tailoring their offering to meet their exact needs at the exact point that they need them to be met.
“For a business this means forgetting the ‘build and they will come’ mentality, and working instead to ensure that they, firstly, understand the needs, frustrations and aspirations of their customers and, secondly, ensure their strategic and operational capacity is such that they can respond to these needs timeously,” says Jonathan Hurvitz, Teljoy CEO.
Hurvitz explains that for retailers, in particular, this means redefining what customer loyalty is in 2022 and responding accordingly.
“It’s seeking to understand not just the evolution of retail but the evolution of the customer, and using that as the foundation from which to over-deliver on customer expectations. This means having the operational capability to effect change rapidly, to adapt quickly, to reinvent constantly and to react to market trends swiftly”
Optimum nutrition has now taken centre stage
It can certainly be said that the pandemic changed the way that consumers think about their overall health – now more than ever paying more attention to what they consume and the overall nutritional value of these foods. This is particularly true for those who cannot necessarily afford to incorporate a vast variety of foods into their daily diets. However, while the changing consumer behaviour towards a more ‘conscious’ intake is a positive response to the pandemic, it comes at a time where the deterioration of soil quality is occurring at a more rapid pace.
“The nutrients in healthy soil are directly linked to the quality of produce from farmers. This in turn, down the line negatively impacts human nutrition and health through adverse effects on the quality of food production. A reduction in crop yields because of the erosion of soil quality can further lead to low concentration of proteins and crucial micronutrients in produce – aggravating malnutrition,” says Andre Redinger, founder of Millhouse International.
As consumers continue to pay more attention to what they consume, adding foods that are fortified with the missing vitamin and micronutrients owing to soil deterioration and other factors to their daily diets is the number one strategy that they can adopt to ensure they are getting optimum nutritional intake to combat the effects of food that is not optimally nutritious.
To succeed, businesses must be willing to adapt to the ever-changing consumer, and strategies must be able to adjust to changing situations. One thing we’ve learned from the pandemic is that the only constant we can rely on is change.
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