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How the pandemic drove a lasting shift of brands delivering more personalized experiences to consumers

Vibes Senior Director of Data & Analytics explores mobile marketing 12 months after the pandemic broke out


Uncertainty Yet Opportunity

12 months ago, I was sitting in the room I'm in now, but at the time it was a guest bedroom/quilting room. My desk was a huge sewing machine, but it would work for a couple of weeks, maybe a month. Little did I know that I'd still be here a year later, now with a full home office setup. 


There was a lot of uncertainty, but through it emerged opportunities for brands to connect with consumers through mobile marketing. In less than 2 weeks, Vibes responded to customer pain points, rolling out employee notifications for our customers to notify their employees of store closings/openings. We were well on our way to packaging up curbside delivery so that when stores re-opened, our customers were in a position to really succeed. While some of the changes are temporary (I no longer wear gloves to the store or bleach down my groceries), other shopper behaviors and habits are here for the long haul. 


The Consumer Experience

Primarily, we see a prevailing focus on the Consumer Experience that was necessitated by the pandemic. For years, brands have consistently improved at using the right communication channels to send the right messages to consumers at the right time, and we saw the pandemic greatly accelerating that movement. Personalization emerged as the principal strategic investment for marketing.


In the mind of the consumer, there is only one Consumer Experience with a brand. They do not know whether that touchpoint is owned by the marketing team (where CRM and loyalty programs usually live) or by the operations team (where service and transactional programs usually live), the consumer just knows they are interacting with the brand. Therefore, brands need a cohesive outreach strategy to ensure the consumer has a great experience, no matter the touchpoint.


For brands, some activities are clear - a message promoting a sale is marketing, while a purchase confirmation is transactional. However, as the pandemic shifted consumer sentiment in favor of data collection for personalization, something like a purchase "confirmation" can transform into a marketing action by simply thinking of it as a purchase "thank you" message with a reward. Now, a transactional message becomes a multi-touchpoint by increasing loyalty, further engaging the consumer, and driving repeat purchase, ultimately creating a beneficial experience for the consumer. Personally, I like to think of each "service" message, or highly personalized 1x1 touchpoint with a customer, as an opportunity to delight the consumer with a "marketing" experience. 


Marketing vs. Transactional Messaging

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, many marketers shifted away from marketing messaging, either because stores were closed, or to save costs. Interestingly, we saw a significant increase in brands investing in transactional programs, AND in consumers deciding to use service-based messaging. A year later, that increase is still there. Our customer brands are interacting 1x1 with their consumers via service-based programs 85% more in February of 2021 than they were in February of 2020. Over the same period, marketing campaigns dipped a bit at the beginning of the pandemic, and a year later, are back to where they were the previous year. 


That's almost twice as many people getting a personalized 1x1 mobile experience with the brand, tailored to their real-world activity! Our data points to marketers becoming savvy in combing marketing and transactional messaging efforts for increased consumer engagement. Personalized touch points are driving mobile marketing today, and beyond. As a consumer, I want to receive messages directly related to my activity, not irrelevant mass messages. I am excited by the acceleration of brands doing just that, and look forward to being a part of keeping that momentum growing.


For more, view Vibes recent reports:

How Mobile Can Transform Your Ecommerce Program

How To Make Contactless Curbside A Strategic Investment for 2021

State of Mobile 2021

About the Author

Sam serves as Vibes' Senior Director of Data and Analytics. An experienced Product and Technology leader, Sam helped drive Vibes from a technology startup stage company to a successful mid-sized SaaS company.

Profile Photo of Sam Benediktson