While the world may have finally emerged from the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, customers are now grappling with record 40-year inflation highs and supply chain issues that are ushering in a host of new concerns and sentiments. Customers’ expectations are rising for the brands they do business with — whether that’s in response to an order delay or a breaking societal issue.
The brands that evolve their messaging to nurture trust and authenticity to adapt to these ebbs and flows will be the ones earning and maintaining customer loyalty over time. In uncertain times, it is even more important for a brand’s messaging to foster a sense of solidarity and transparency with its customers by leaning into emotional language and continually testing which emotions resonate with customers’ changing sentiments.
Master the Art of Sensitivity for Weary Customers
Today’s customers view their preferred communication channel as a top factor in creating a lasting connection with a brand, heightening the need for contextual, sensitive language across each digital touch point.
Language such as “You deserve a break” and “We’re thinking of you” performed especially well during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and phrases such as “Cheers to good company this summer” and “From picnics to dinner dates” took the stage by mid-2021, signaling a return to normalcy and a renewed sense of connection between the brand’s offering and the customer.
To maintain this level of tailored communication, a winning strategy will experiment with the nuances of language as a motivator. While certain phrases may be emblematic of certain times, these phrases aren’t the only way to convey the same message. Enhancing these ideas through different emotional lenses — for example, “You’ve earned these picnic essentials” (achievement lens) or “We can’t wait to see you wear this out to dinner” (excitement lens) — will engage customers with a personalization they weren’t expecting and likely won’t even recognize. But because they relate to it nonetheless, it motivates action. This type of customer insight will drive the next wave of business transformation and growth.
Pay ‘Attention’ to Deliver Important Messages and Build Trust
While social distancing may be in the rearview mirror, a variety of factors such as the Russia-Ukraine war and manufacturing slowdowns in China are poised to continue impacting supply chains and inflation — and therefore consumer confidence and spending power — throughout the holiday season and beyond. In response, brands should focus on being transparent and infusing context within their customer communications.
Brands that deploy “attention motivators,” which alert the customer about the importance of the message (e.g., “Quick update — we’re experiencing unexpected delays,” “Here is how inflation impacts us,” or “A message from [brand] about our prices”) convey that they take customer satisfaction seriously through an authoritative and transparent tone. With endless competitors vying for customer attention and dollars, earning and maintaining trust is truly the new ‘brand equity’ that drives loyalty and revenue even amid turbulent times.
Strive for Continuous Conversation
A Gartner survey found that proactive customer service played a significant role in increasing overall customer satisfaction scores. A brand’s communications should convey an ongoing plan of action that addresses its customers’ pain points. Retailers must evolve alongside their customers’ communications preferences and the ever-changing digital landscape, while also proactively anticipating their needs.
Prioritizing personalization is a core way for brands to ensure their customer conversations remain on track throughout the customer’s journey across all channels. Retailers have an opportunity to leverage new personalization technologies that motivate each customer on an individual level to deliver the type of experience that generates and preserves loyalty.
Maintaining this level of personalization may seem daunting, but generative AI technology can help greatly. Generative AI will become an increasingly important marketing teammate for sustaining customer loyalty through communication.
Over time, generative AI continues to learn how to meaningfully communicate between brands and customers, finding new ways to engage and motivate customers through language. Content creators will be able to guide these technologies and let them home in on the perfect phrasing for a given individual in a certain moment. Generative AI, in tandem with technologies that enable marketers to decipher why certain language motivates customers to engage and act, are a powerful duo in a robust personalization strategy.
Meeting Unpredictability with Empathy
The pandemic put digital interactions into the spotlight, and its aftereffects have heightened the focus on sensitivity and empathy, as people continue to grapple with complex emotions, disruptions and economic uncertainty. Consumers across all demographics have come to expect a world-class experience from the brands they regularly interact with and are not afraid to jump ship if their chosen brands do not deliver on their promises or provide a poor experience.
What’s good for people is good for business, and in today’s unpredictable world the more a brand can connect with consumers through language that is personalized and resonates with their internal motivators, the more successful the brand will be in the end.
Lisa Spira is a linguist who has focused her career on leading the design of language-based digital products. Her professional passions live at the point where language, technology and humans intersect. As Head of Content Intelligence at Persado, Spira leads the team responsible for the language innovation and insights within the company’s Motivation AI platform. In her free time, she loves to bake and is an avid puzzle solver. Sheena Vira has a deep appreciation for good storytelling and how it is present in every aspect of our day to day. As Manager of Content Intelligence at Persado, she uses her passion for storytelling and background in data to analyze and predict trends in language within the platform.