The COVID-19 crisis means European B2C firms are broadly in one of three response modes right now:

  • Survivors (travel, hospitality, and some nonessential retailers) have been massively disrupted by the current lockdown.
  • Adapters (many financial services firms or utilities) have seen severe disruption, but parts of their business may only see minor disruption or even an uptick in business.
  • Pioneers (healthcare, grocery, or education) suddenly find that their products and services are critical. These companies experience good revenue growth.

As a CMO or customer experience leader, your firm’s crisis-response mode dictates your strategy. While Survivors need to scale back operations, contain costs, and preserve cash flow more than Adapters and Pioneers, firms in every mode must follow a similar set of steps to:

  1. Understand how their customers’ needs and behaviors are changing.
  2. Communicate to customers about what they need to hear in times of crisis.
  3. Optimize customer experiences for the “new normal.”

As a CMO or customer experience leader in a B2C firm, you’ll need to engage in a similar series of activities. The intensity of each activity will vary depending on your crisis response mode — Adapters may need to prioritize managing channel shift, while Pioneers will need to accelerate to optimizing digital journeys as soon as possible. Make sure you are dedicating time and resources to:

  1. Understand changing consumer behavior. The pandemic crisis is accelerating changes in how European consumers communicate, buy, bank, and perceive value. Some new behaviors learned in the crisis will become habits once the pandemic is over. Our data helps identify the key trends you need to know about to manage shifting customer expectations now and to understand how consumers will have changed during recovery.

Research: COVID-19 Europe Outlook: Consumers Are Forging New, Lasting Behaviors

  1. Communicate clearly, transparently, and authentically. European consumers’ needs have shifted. This varies by market — some need information such as store opening hours and some want offers, while some will react badly to ill-timed, poorly pitched marketing. As social media lays bare the ethics of firms in this time of crisis, consumers will increasingly care about the meaning of their purchases and question what brands stand for. European brands must be true to their values, thoughtful and transparent in their communications to consumers, and should adapt their messaging and campaigns.

Research: COVID-19 Europe Outlook: Brands Must Adapt To Consumers’ New Focus On Values

  1. Use remote collaboration to map crisis journeys. Firms at the forefront of pandemic response need to stand up new customer journeys to help customers in crisis. With employees working from home, in-person customer journey mapping isn’t an option. Virtual journey mapping is a vital technique to power remote collaboration to better serve customers.

Research: Virtual Customer Journey Mapping: Adapting To The New Reality

  1. Use journey analytics to pause, start, and optimize experiences. As customers shift to new, unfamiliar touchpoints, journeys are dynamic and constantly changing, and traditional algorithms are becoming redundant. It’s more crucial than ever to understand how your customers are behaving throughout their journey so that you can adapt to protect and support them while continuing to provide the services that they rely on.

Research: Virtual Customer Journey Mapping: Adapting To The New Reality

  1. Manage channel shift to digital. Customers in lockdown are switching to digital channels, accelerating the need for firms to revamp their digital commerce strategies as they continue to manage growing direct-to-consumer commerce alongside wholesale. The reality for most brands, however, is that a significant proportion of revenue still comes from traditional channels such as wholesale relationships, retail partners, or third-party distribution. To truly be masters of their own destiny, brands must change the dynamics of their channel partner relationships, moving from a role of supplier to one of business partner.

Research: Brands And DTC: What Are Brands Doing To Cultivate A Direct-To-Consumer Relationship?

  1. Optimize your digital experiences. As customers are forced to use digital touchpoints as their primary way of interacting, Forrester’s digital user experience review helps you optimize your digital touchpoints to create easy, effective, and emotionally resonant experiences to serve customers in times of crisis, while techniques such as service design help you understand your entire customer experience ecosystem.

Research: Service Design: Five Principles To Improve CX, EX, And Business