Today’s customers care about empathy as a brand value more than its lineage. The major players have already replaced traditional brand voice with humanized messaging, customer gratification, with emotional connection. This transformation is not limited to their marketing pitches— it cuts across processes, strategies, and tools being adopted by them. Is your brand prepared for this emotional disruption? Following the global deadlock, the customers are taking cautious and apprehensive steps into the new environment. Your customers are moving slow, but the good news is, they are moving. It is time to move at your customer’s pace and support their efforts with a touch of sympathy. Understanding customer motivations and aligning organizational goals with them are the core fundamentals of marketing; today, customers’ core motivations are: care, compassion, and cooperation. In these times, when people are struggling for basics, they have more humanitarian needs than material. Some of the major brands recognized this in 2020 and led us by example, simply by rebuilding their processes for employees and customers. They manage an unpredictable supply-chain, deliver what people need right at their doorsteps, and adapt to the new way of life for employees. How are these brands bringing that humanitarian touch to their services that qualify them as empathetic brands? Here is what your peers were doing in 2020 and what you can do in 2021 to step up as a provider and uphold the empathy brand value to connect with today’s consumers. Create an empathetic brand voice by taking these four steps: Demonstrate Digital Empathy We all know how customers’ preferences shifted towards online shopping, amplifying the digital economy. Several mortar businesses had to close down as people showed a clear preference for online businesses that delivered them orders right at their doorstep. This trend, as we all know, is here to stay as a new normal. People will continue to choose online delivery services to stay safe. Besides, online search patterns show us a horizontal expansion too. Massive online retail searches are fast filtering into online consultations with doctors, online food orders, online education, digital legal services, online fitness training, and more. It is a clear indication that the digital trend is here to stay and expand, demanding more and more industries to switch online, share information that customers need, help them excel in daily chores, and demonstrate digital empathy. How to Demonstrate Digital Empathy: Strengthen Your Digital Services and Values It is the best time to strengthen your business's web presence that will yield returns in the long-term. Demonstrate digital empathy by responding to customer’s needs in terms of their information requirement and bring them a great customer experience in digital shopping with your brand. Build an e-commerce ecosystem that answers all the complex needs of today’s buyers. Interact with them at every point of their buying journey, bring them a personalized shopping experience, offer them convenient options such as same-day deliveries, store pick-up, multiple payment options, and more. To achieve all this, up your game by preparing your website and mobile app to take the load of your ambitions and encourage buyers to make shopping decisions fast and place orders faster. Several businesses have moved to technology platforms that let them have a 360-degree view into their customer needs, transfer relevant information to them in time, and manage an uncertain supply chain with efficient inventory management at the backend. A brand that stays connected with the consumer as an empathetic brand shall go a long way. Read, how a sportswear brand upgraded its web stores to Storefront Reference Architecture (SFRA) for extensibility. Innovate the Product Portfolio Customer demands are changing faster than we have ever seen in the past, and some of the biggest names in the market have been on their toe to deliver on these changing demands. For instance, some automotive businesses ventured into the production of ventilators and other medical respiratory care products; apparel manufacturers are producing face masks, gloves, and PPE kits; while some food businesses are helping people cook for themselves with the help of video recipes. These are some examples of brands’ empathetic gestures that businesses showcased and consumers memorized. How to Innovate Your Product Portfolio: Reset Your Portfolio to Offer Customization It is time to rethink what you are offering to your customer and if they really feel connected to it. Create ultra-customer-specific segments by adapting to their new requirements that surfaced in the wake of the crisis. Understand your niche customer needs; innovate your product portfolio to embrace ideas that make them feel heard, seen, sympathized. Provide them customization options by letting them modify the product that matches their need. Nike is one of the top-notch brands that exemplify what brands can do to engage with their customers. They ran an hour-long documentary on a man’s attempt to break the two-hour marathon barrier back in 2017 to inspire people, humanizing their brand. They also brought people the option of customizing their shoes. What extra do you have in your inventory to stand out as a humanized brand that understands, resonates, and connects with its customers? The system's scalability and efficiency are essential during these times to offer services, products that are relevant to the customers’ needs. There are digital asset management tools in the market to help you become an empathetic voice in the market by introducing customization options on the website for customers without any hiccups. Strong and Empathetic Brand Communication Empathetic communication, once a need, is now critical to have a deep connection with the customers. People need empathetic messaging from humanized and sympathetic brands—that resonates with the customers today. Marketing campaigns that once used to be brand-advertorial and aspirational are being fast replaced with messages that address challenges and educate the audience. For instance, food brands are relaying recipe videos to help people cook; washing powder companies are working out videos on helping people with their laundry. How to Build a Strong and Empathetic Brand Communication: Give a Rest to Business-As-Usual Approach and Drive Purpose Driven Communication All the businesses have faced the brunt of COVID19, and the spirit of pushing the accelerator for sales is high. However, this isn’t the time to chase the year’s projections. An insensitive continuity of aspirational marketing campaigns or cutting off communications absolutely, both can potentially kill a brand. Drive a consistent cross-channel, purpose-driven communication that addresses your specific customer's fears, anxiety, and uncertainties. Make empathy your brand voice that reaches your customers. An AI-powered content strategy comes in handy to drive consistent content management and send out personalized and consistent communication to each customer across the screens and channels. Read, how a US-based brokerage firm achieved faster time-to-market for customized content with Adobe Experience Manager and enabled the creation of multiple content variations without any code changes. Connect with Customers Emotionally Effective messaging and consistent communication with customers that they can respond to has helped brands increase their significance in consumers’ lives and maintain a relationship that spans the long-term. Just as today’s customers want to feel understood, they also want to be heard, seen, talked to. Many businesses provided their customers with a platform to share their views and opinions, share their stories of how they are sailing through the pandemic, and some scheduled an all-inclusive fun-time. This helped these businesses understand their customers and sent out a clear message that they see people as people and not just as customers. One good example of this is Paloma Wool, a fashion brand based out of Barcelona that hosted a virtual dance-party for the whole community using the Zoom platform. They also staged a runway show, ‘Paloma Wool Virtual Runway,’ starring dancers, models, artists, musicians, and customers worldwide (Source: www.vogue.com). This made the customers feel included. We all needed that kind of connection during the quarantine. Such pragmatic ideas make a deeper mark than any regular advertisement. How to Connect with Customers Emotionally: Demonstrate Consumer Empathy by Lending them an Ear Demonstrating consumer empathy demands bridging the gap between your brand and customer by making them communicate with you. Many businesses are already nailing this by taking specific measures. Think of ways you can make your customers communicate and not feel abandoned. Focus on humanized communication with customers, make them feel heard, respond with a certain strategy suitable to your goals. Using a form management tool to conduct these surveys will encourage your customers to communicate with your business. Some form management tools in the market will allow you to perform data integrations to render a personal touch to the communication and re-use the content, which are highly recommended. Endnote Empathy has made its way into the top 2021 marketing trends that most brands will try to follow. However, empathy needs to be embraced as a brand value and not be restricted to marketing. Humanize your brand to be your customer’s one-stop-shop.