The past year saw Covid-19 hit and turn the world on its head – it instantly changed the way we connected with our friends, family, businesses and customers, and brought about a remarkable acceleration in digital transformation.
According to a Customer Engagement study we did last year, most companies sped up their digital strategies immediately after the initial pandemic lockdowns in their countries took hold. The impetus for transformation was clear; they needed to digitize their customer engagement strategies, or risk losing their competitive advantage and the customer base they’d worked so hard to build.
This meant that businesses started to become a lot more open and tactical with their digital engagement strategy. The wheels started to turn – what did they have to do to better connect with consumers, and what customer experiences did they need to offer to set themselves apart from the competition?
For example, Galeries Lafayette is an upmarket department store chain based in France and its exclusive stores can be seen in Paris’s most fashionable areas, such as the famed Champs-Elysées. The group’s innovative leaders used the Twilio platform to empower personal stylists to communicate directly with customers, building customer engagement and integrating the physical and digital retail experience. These stylists can sign up customers and then communicate with them on SMS, WhatsApp, or through voice calls—letting them know things like upcoming sales, new pieces from hot collections, or offering general sartorial advice.
When a good product is not good enough
One of the hard truths that businesses have to face is that a good product alone is not enough to win over customers. The internet and commoditization of products and services have left this new generation of consumers spoilt for choice, and they can seamlessly switch to alternatives with a click of a button. The simple fact is that brand experience has become a critical differentiator.
That is why one of the biggest trends underpinning customer engagement today is personalization at the consumer scale. Businesses have to provide hyper-personalized customer experiences – across the entire user journey – to cement brand trust and loyalty.
But personalization has evolved as the expectations of the consumer have become more ‘real-time’. It’s not enough to know your customer’s simple demographics and personal details – customers today expect to be met ‘in the moment’ and on the device and channels that make sense to them as unique individuals. The brands that are winning know their customers with a level of intimacy that allows them to engage in real-time, in context and with real relevance.
This starts with being able to create customer-first, timely and impactful experiences. Apart from building sustained connections with consumers through different digital touchpoints, they must also combine digital engagement with real-time data intelligence.
We acquired Segment, the market-leading customer data platform, to empower businesses to do just that. With access to such data-driven insights, they can establish a richer and more holistic view of their audience and make personalized recommendations that truly delight customers.
One size does not fit all
Naturally, businesses across different verticals have different priorities when it comes to customer engagement. It is crucial that they don’t force-fit existing digital strategies that may not be in line with their needs.
Players in the retail and e-commerce spaces may be more interested in acquiring and retaining customers, while those in fintech might focus more on ensuring that there are security and anti-fraud protections in place.
Canadian multinational e-commerce company Shopify is a case of customer relationships being the foundation of the business. Shopify had to manage the kind of rapid growth that took it from being an online snowboard store in 2004, to the go-to platform for commerce across the world that it is today. With Twilio Flex, Shopify was able to build a custom contact center with the new Flex telephony system, routing engine, skill trees and Interactive voice response, as well as contextual pops that give agents information about each customer.
When we work with organizations, we prioritize digging deep into their business to first understand their needs. After all, we are not in the business of just providing the last-mile delivery communications platform. We are committed to exercising flexibility in how we and our customers tailor our solutions and functionalities to best optimize and improve the agility of the organizations’ communications channels.
For instance, even as we tend towards a digital-first approach, there must still be room for alternative communications channels. Given today’s public health crisis, organizations like the government are responsible to reach the masses and deliver information in a timely and reliable manner. However, relying on digital channels alone may exclude less digitally savvy members of the population.
In this case, we partnered with public health authorities to offer more traditional channels like Messaging, so they can reach the broader population and deliver crucial information and updates.
Our work with Lifeline Australia is a great example of this. Lifeline provides life-saving mental and emotional health services. When Covid-19 hit, they needed to quickly enable a remote contact center for their support staff to speak with their supervisors, as well as two-way SMS for their counsellors and those seeking help to connect. With Twilio Flex and Messaging APIs, these needs were addressed quickly and reliably.
Expanding into new territories
Another takeaway from the past year is recognizing the sheer potential of what we can do with technology. We have seen technology deployed in unexpected ways and disrupting the status quo, such as with novel digital engagement strategies that serve new “customers” at every turn.
When schools first pivoted to home-based learning due to enforced movement restrictions, many educators struggled to replicate the conducive environment of a classroom online. It was inspiring to see educators leverage technology as a powerful tool for good, and bring communications tools – like whiteboard sharing and high-quality streaming through video channels – into their virtual classroom. In doing so, they have been able to keep students more engaged and offer quality education remotely.
Orange Apple, Taiwan’s largest programming academy for children, needed to shift from in-person learning to online courses without any interruption. Twilio’s Programmable Video and Programmable Messaging facilitated that through providing reliable and stable streaming services. It gave Orange Apple the capacity for more than 6,000 SMS messages and more than 2,000 hours of video each month.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There remains a wealth of opportunity, especially as we navigate this post-pandemic landscape, for organizations across all sectors to reinvent the way they engage with customers. Not only will it be a business imperative to stay ahead of the curve, but also an occasion to create and amplify impact for society at large.