Times of crisis (hello, Covid!) have a way of shifting the views of what matters most to people. Including how they view and interact with your brand.
The pandemic created massive shifts in the way customers engage with brands — from writing more reviews to participating in online discussions about their favorite (or not-so-favorite) products and services. More customers are using their voice to speak up and play an active role.
According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends report, 56% of consumers around the world engaged in at least one brand participation activity over the course of the past year. Twenty-one percent shared advice regarding products or services, 15% offered direct design input and 14% created original brand content — all of which are actions that can help shape, define and expand your brand.
Today’s biggest brand advocates? Your customers
Customers feel a stronger connection to brands than ever before. They perceive brands in terms of how they enhance their own identity, encouraging them to participate as influencers and brand ambassadors. In turn, your brand can show them they’re valued by inviting their input as a means of fueling new products, services and marketing strategies.
While customer participation has seen an increase across all industries, the Deloitte report revealed that electronics, beauty and personal care, health and wellness, apparel and footwear, and grocery and beverage are the top five business categories with higher levels of customer participation worldwide. Regardless of your niche, customers want to feel like they’re part of the bigger picture, which can be a powerful marketing tool for your brand.
Fueling customer participation
Customers who actively participate do so for many reasons. They’re seeking education or entertainment, or they have a problem that your brand solves. Or they may want to feel like they’re playing a part in the future of your products or solutions, and influencing decisions that you make as a brand. Whether they’re participating in an online discussion, writing a bad review or tagging your company on social media, the benefits of customer participation are numerous:
- Fine-tunes product development. Customer participation (think: useful reviews or online feedback) can help improve on your existing products or services and even help you create better product offerings. This real-time feedback, positive or negative, may identify areas that need some enhancement and pave the way for new product development ideas.
- Creates hype. Every time your customers share a product photo and tag you on Instagram, your brand is getting exposure. One of your greatest assets is an enthusiastic consumer who is happy to rave about your products. Tags, texts, product reviews or video tutorials are all forms of user user-generated content, which is essentially free marketing. Think about ways you can incentivize customers to write a review, share a photo or feature your product in a blog post.
- Increases customer loyalty. Customers who actively participate see themselves as an extension of your brand. And by responding to their tweets, emails and product inquiries, you can help grow their sense of loyalty. Remember, retaining your current customers is just as important as acquiring new ones. Show them you’re a brand that cares.
Customer participation is a two-way street. Be sure to give them the touchpoints to interact with your brand and acknowledge their engagement when it’s feasible. By keeping customers informed about how you’re using their information and feedback, the word-of-mouth promotion will only continue to grow as a mutual benefit.