Verizon's A. Vyas on how Mobile is leading Customer Experiences

As COVID-19 shifts consumer behavior to social distancing and restricted living, many brands have closed their stores and moved to a mobile-first strategy. Those brands who take the leap and embrace technology-enabled solutions to drive profitability and protect brand voice will be the businesses whose messages stand out against competitors. This situation surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is unprecedented with full of uncertainty and no one has a marketing playbook to react and respond. Most brands are now no more in a reactionary phase, they have mobilized their teams to work from home, adjusted their marketing / branding messages and have learned to pivot at a rapid pace.

Many of us found ourselves more socially connected than ever, with our families, employees, customers, and communities. What is remarkable is that we seem to be witnessing a rapid adoption of emerging behaviors much sooner than we would have anticipated such as a significant increase in messaging and Messenger video usage, doubling of FB and IG Live viewing in just few weeks and business virtual meetings on Zoom and MS Teams, rapid adoption of Online Grocery orders.

We are aware that crisis triggers human ingenuity which brings on unforeseen innovation and spurs new kind of growth. During current challenging times, some business sectors like retail, events, and hospitality are suffering but e-commerce, grocery, mobile gaming and online streaming are booming. During March 2020, our email box was inundated from every brand on how they are dealing with COVID and how they are here to help their customers. Brands quickly realized changes in customer expectations along with the environment and pivoted quickly with new messages.

In this article, I want to highlight how mobile can be used to turbo charge customer experiences during crisis times when the pandemic is impacting consumers’ values and motivations.

First and foremost – evaluate your current Omni-Channel Strategy and Messaging – what role is mobile playing?

Various way mobile enables you to reach your customers: Mobile web, app, push notifications, in-app messages, SMS, mobile wallets, emails, mobile video – if you are missing any channel, please evaluate a strategy to utilize it. We’ve seen the world order, and consequently our day-by-day lives, shift rapidly over the last three months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever before, we are relying on mobile to do our jobs, stay informed and keep connected.

How do you stay connected with customers during COVID impact: Make sure that you are integrating mobile marketing into your brand’s Omni-Channel experiences when building out a broader cross-channel marketing program for messaging and reaching out to customers.

  • Present with empathy and transparency: Use relevant mobile channel to be empathetic of the changes in user behavior during these trying times. Mobile has been a refuge for consumers around the world; our phones are helping us stay connected to family and friends, work, stay fit from indoors, and connect with health care professionals. Whether an app needs a quick refresh to maintain user retention or needs to make sure existing features continue to be aligned with user preferences, app reviews are a place where users provide exactly that feedback

Let’s see how various business sectors have used mobile to respond to changing customers’ needs and preferences during these unprecedented times.

Education sector: Many school systems across the world have moved to a remote learning model for the remainder of the academic year. Students everywhere from early learning to university programs, have had to adjust to new methods of learning, as educators have had to shift to digital curriculums. Education apps across the board are being utilized more than ever before. From organizational & productivity apps like Blackboard, Google Classroom to more hobby-based learning like DuoLingo. Google has opened up its premium paid features of Hangouts Meet for free, ZOOM is offering K-12 students free access and Microsoft is offering a free 6-month subscription to Microsoft Teams as a result increasing working from home policies.

  • Make your brand’s mobile app the center piece of communication: Send more users online and remind them of your online presence, especially your app. Some retailers or banks are more equipped to handle shopping online vs. offline but many have included this in their messages around their planning during COVID-19. Banks encouraging users to use their apps instead of coming in person, retailers encouraging their customers to shop online, using curbside pick, use contact-less payments, small restaurants shifting to delivery-only, companies adapting to encourage no contact deliveries, and more. Your messaging everywhere should drive to your Mobile App which is shown to drive 2X-3X engagement and retention so sending your users to the app is the best practice, as is converting your web users to app users if they are engaging with your content.
  • Change your mobile messaging by using media in more agile ways: Nike, for example, immediately moved to adopt a new message: “Play inside, play for the world" and made its NTC app free for users. This message was to promote social distancing and show a commitment to public safety. Doordash quickly adapting to provide convenience store delivery — something high in demand while services like Prime Now and Instacart are short on drivers and allowing customers to request no contact/drop off at door deliveries. Delivery apps are updated to make delivery free to show empathy for users who are now staying home and Resy and OpenTable quickly updated their app to support pickup from restaurants instead of reservations.
  • Adapt your content and product to make it contextual: This is the time to adapt. This means: for the next-door yoga studio, it means doing live classes in the app vs. in-person; for a brand who leads a dating app, it means working on adding video chat to the service — whatever your product or service is, this is the time to sit in a (virtual) room with your team and think how you can adapt and change the product in a world where people feel uncertain and physical distancing can last months.
Health and Fitness Apps: Health and Fitness apps were not only in demand from new users but also seeing increased usage among existing customers. This could be an indication of changing habits and preferences throughout the shelter in place period.

  • Focus on relationships vs revenue: Be less pushy when it comes to offers, upsells, etc. and revisit your team’s goals know this should be obvious, but when people are stressed, worried, and scared, they are more likely to react well to upsells, promotions, cold calls, etc. — this is not the time to do it. Marriott and other hotels extended their loyalty services beyond this year as their usage is impacted by physical distancing.

This is the time to keep your users informed and entertained — boost your social media presence, write more educational content, connect with more users, rethink your digital spend, send more emails, especially if they are educational and informative. If your service can help people feel connected — even if that means social commerce, sharing articles or interesting pieces of information, or just communicating — now is the time to promote those features.

Mobile Gaming: As people look to stay entertained and connected with friends while social distancing, multiplayer mobile games are in high demand amidst record mobile game downloads. Users have more time on their hands, are isolated, lonely, and bored — how can you help? Mobile Gaming has provided a channel for not only entertainment but also social connection. In last month, multiplayer gaming apps such as Words With Friends, ROBLOX, Fortnite, Call of Duty, Magic Tiles 3 and Mario Kart Tour have seen very high level of engagement and new users.

  • Associate your brand with good - People will remember brands for their acts of good in a time of crisis, particularly if done with true heart and generosity. This could take the form of donating to food banks, providing free products for medical personnel, or continuing to pay employees while the company’s doors are closed. LMVH started making hand sanitizers in their factories. Adobe, for example, immediately made Creative Cloud available to K-12 institutions, knowing this was a moment to give rather than be purely commercial. Consumers will likely remember how Ford, GE, and 3M partnered to repurpose manufacturing capacity and put people back to work to make respirators and ventilators to fight coronavirus.
Mental Health and Telemedicine Apps:
Headspace — a meditation and mindfulness app — has seen a big jump in time spent and repeat sessions. As we work from home and social isolation policies are put in place, consumers are turning to mobile to find peace of mind and manage stress.
Mayo Clinic App has become very popular recently. The app provides users access to appointment scheduling, secure messaging with health care professionals, information on symptoms and diseases and viewing test results.

Here are few immediate things to consider for your mobile initiatives.

  1. Rethink User Acquisition spend and optimize your organic traffic to owned channels
  2. Modify app features to fit seamlessly within this new way of life
  3. Optimize, personalize, and connect previously disconnected mobile user flows
  4. Enable deep links for mobile app engagement
  5. Fix leaky bucket measurements and attribution
  6. Scrutinize the use of Micro and Nano-Influencers to grow your app engagement
  7. AI powered Hyper-Personalized triggered by customers' recent behaviors, preferences, and engagement histories - personalized texts, email and wallet messages
  8. Embrace the never chartered territory and new mobile partnerships: Burger King Offers Free Whoppers for Those Who Use Its Billboards as Zoom Backgrounds. L'Oreal debuts 8 AR beauty lenses on Snap Camera.

As people adapt to a new way of living, companies are tasked with reevaluating how to reach them with the right message at the right time across platforms to drive customer experiences.

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