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Customer Engagement: COVID Shift

B2B brands have been turning to digital content among other ways to engage with customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and according to a McKinsey report, approximately 90% of B2B companies around the world have shifted to virtual sales models. Insights on how customer engagement with B2B brands has changed because of the pandemic have been curated and provided below.

COVID-19 Impact on Customer Engagement

  • A recent article by Business 2 Community reported that many B2B brands usually rely on white papers, case studies, and blog posts to engage their customers. However, this has changed amid the pandemic as B2B brands have been forced to come up with new ways to engage with customers in order to continue making sales.
  • According to an Edelman-LinkedIn research that surveyed around 400 B2B executives in the US, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic uncertainties among other issues for companies across the country and as a result, B2B leaders are coming up with new ways to not only engage but also support their customers.
  • 72% of the B2B executives surveyed stated that their customers want to preserve cash amid the pandemic. However, a further 65% stated that while their customers are trying to preserve cash, they are still looking for opportunities that will strengthen their positions. Moreover, 61% of B2B customers are shying away from new products amid the pandemic and are only buying familiar or reliable products, while 72% are buying essential products only in order to preserve cash. Therefore, to convince these customers who still want to make purchases but are exercising greater levels of scrutiny, B2B brands are coming up with new ways to engage them.
  • The Edelman-LinkedIn report further revealed that while 84% of the B2B executives surveyed reported that they believe strengthening and leaning on their positions as thought leaders might influence their customers to make purchases, 72% believe that increasing communications with the customers about expertise will do the trick. A further 62% stated that understanding their customers’ target market as well as their needs is the way forward. Nevertheless, despite their beliefs, not all B2B brands are implementing these strategies.

Eldman Research

  • What is certain is that 59% of B2B brands are increasing their content publishing, 55% are publishing more thought leadership content, and 44% are publishing more messages from senior executives to engage with their customers. In addition to this, digital engagement with customers amid the pandemic also went up. 52% of B2B brands are hosting webinars with virtual panels, 29% are creating online interactive experiences, and 28% have gained media coverage by placing their companies in news articles.
  • McKinsey also reported that approximately 90% of B2B companies around the world have shifted to virtual sales models with 40% of US B2B brands converting all their field sales to videoconferencing and/or phone calls. A further 34% are partially reaching out to customers via video conferences and phone calls while 18% are using both face-to-face and online communication.

Online Transition

  • With B2B brands turning to digital content among other ways to engage with customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, PathFactory conducted a survey to find out how consumers are engaging with the new content and whether it has caused any change in their behavior. The study found out that while there is an increase in the consumption of some of the usual content used by B2B companies to engage customers, the new methods they have turned to are being consumed more.
  • For instance, the consumption of the usual content such as blog posts, white papers, and case studies went up by 39.4%, 24.8%, and 0% respectively while the consumption of new contents such as executive briefs, landing pages, and webinars went up by 265.6%, 139.5%, and 128.1% respectively.
  • The PathFactory report also revealed that B2B digital content engagement went up amid the pandemic with views of unique assets going up by 40%. The average number of sessions per visitor also increased by 43.3% for bingers and 13.2% for non-bingers. Moreover, although the engagement time per session became shorter for non-bingers, it went up by 18.2% for bingers. The number of repeat sessions also went up with 84.5% of customers returning to the platforms at least one more time to consume content. The time between their visits also decreased by around 50%.
Customers' Behavior

Customer Engagement Case Studies

1. B2B companies are leveraging Conversational commerce technology to reach out and communicate with business customers

  • Conversational technology enables consumers to be entertained, conduct transactions, and obtain details by engaging with a computer. This type of technology is dependent on dialog comprehension, speech recognition integration, and natural language processing.
  • The proprietor of conversational commerce technology is Zoovu, and it is currently used by various B2B brands to reach their customers.
  • Companies currently using this technology include 3M, Ingersoll Rand, and MSC Industrial Supply.
  • Even though conversational commerce technology was once reserved for B2C brands, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused companies like Zoovu to extend the service to B2B brands.
  • Research done by Zoovu indicated that 84% of clients anticipate more assistance and guidance when browsing for products online. Using this technology, B2B brands will, therefore, be able to reach out to their consumers and assist them in their purchasing decisions.

2. Move your customers online

  • Many companies are attempting to minimize physical contact as much as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure business continuity. Now is a good time to encourage customers to shop online.
  • Companies are providing ways to help customers navigate and place orders online. In the United States, Sana commerce has become a win as it has impersonated a customer feature which allows sales and customer service representatives to access customers’ web store. They’ll be able to see everything exactly as the customer would and can assist customers with ordering, creating sub-accounts, etc.
  • Several companies are taking time to remind their customers that their web store is live and operational, even if their physical stores are closed.
  • Companies have pivoted any on-the-road sales representatives, who can no longer do their typical work, into calling customers and getting their online accounts set up.
  • Customers can be educated with how-to videos. This is a strategy that is being used frequently by companies. It is being done by creating short video clips showing customers how they can place orders online and share them via email and social media. Besides being helpful, this is also a great way to increase brand awareness and earn new customers.
  • Due to Covid-19, companies have stimulated online shopping with special web store discounts, which offers exclusive web store discounts. This is a great way to encourage customers to try out a company’s new web store during the pandemic.

3. Use of website as a platform to communicate critical changes and assurances of coverage.

  • Many clients are implementing simple alert banners at the top of their websites with a short message that informs visitors of logistical changes or notices, especially regarding offices and other facilities.
  • The banners also link to pages with additional information. If a business needs to communicate assurances, changes or policy updates, especially regarding physical location website banner, alerts are an ideal vehicle.
  • Some websites already have the tooling in place to create messages, which makes it easy to add new content features.

4. Email communications that assure business continuity, and what to expect.

  • Most B2B businesses already have tools in place to send marketing emails or newsletters.
  • Companies can use this platform to email messages conveying their policies around safety, business continuity, inventory or supply chain updates, and any changes that customers or vendors should expect.
  • Many companies are keeping in touch with their clients via emails and also posting on their website or blog, in order to keep visitors updated with key information or changes.

Brand Distinction During COVID

Three examples of brands that are distinguishing themselves from the competition in the COVID era are Nike, NuFACE, and Unity Technologies. These companies’ actions during this period have produced very positive results. An overview of these examples is provided below.

Nike

  • Nike is providing athletes digital resources to stay active indoors. The company is also developing new digital content and platforms.
  • The Nike App, NTC, NRC, its social channels, nike.com, and its podcast Trained contain free workouts, content, and expert help for athletes to reach their fitness goals. Also, every week, Nike Master Trainers offer a free, live-streamed training workout on the company’s YouTube channel.
  • Another action from the company is the Nike Living Room Cup, through which people can “compete against Nike pro athletes through weekly fitness challenges.”
  • The first four live-streamed videos of Nike on YouTube have over a million views each. The company experienced a 150% increase in demand on its app in Q1 2020 and a nearly 200% increase for its commerce app. Also, over half of its Nike Training Club members used the app to start a workout, representing a record high. This growth has helped digital sales increase by 82% for Nike-branded products.

NuFACE

  • The cosmetic brand NuFACE changed its social media strategies and house-call process since the pandemic started.
  • NuFACE replaced in-person house calls with virtual house calls in which the company’s CEO Tera Peterson conducts a tutorial through Zoom with social media influencers. This company has also launched social media giveaways for its followers and campaigns like #upliftyourself on Instagram.
  • The brand is also offering free shipping to its customers as a way to reduce shopping barriers.
  • As of March 2020, NuFACE had seen a 30% increase in views in its Instagram stories and a 20% increase in likes and comments, while posts with its #upliftyourself hashtag doubled in only less than ten days.
  • As of August 2020, the company saw triple-digit sales increases since the pandemic started.

Unity Technologies

  • Unity Technologies, a video game software development company, is offering free premium content and virtual classes.
  • The company gave three months of premium content for free starting in March. In addition, Utility Learn launched Create with Code Live, a free virtual class to teach computer science and coding for game developers.
  • Since the Unity Learn free period started, the company saw over 320,000 people that have accessed Learn Premium content. As a result, the company decided to keep this content free for everyone.
  • Unity’s strategies during this period seem to be working positively because as of June 2020, the company’s dollar-based net expansion rate was 142%.
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