Consumer Sentiment Is Shifting Quickly. Here’s How Businesses Are Keeping Up

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How can mid-size businesses keep pace with larger competitors if they don’t have access to the same technologies?

While there’s been a gradual push for companies in the martech community to open up their systems and launch lower-cost solutions designed specifically for the small and mid-size business market, that push has accelerated during the pandemic. SMBs are looking for any lifelines they can find right now, and one of the ways they’re adapting to a post-Covid world is by taking advantage of more digital marketing tools and platforms.

Seventy-six percent of small businesses say they’re relying more on digital tools now than before the pandemic started, according to a report released by the Connected Commerce Council, and almost one-third say that without digital technology, they would have had to close all or part of their business during the Covid crisis.

Reach3 Insights CEO Matt Kleinschmit explains that the same mobile chat-based technologies that brands like Jagermeister and Snapchat have used to access focus groups on demand are now being used to help small to mid-size businesses access the same research capabilities. Using mobile chat-based applications, SMBs can generate authentic consumer insights in real-time, which makes it easier to foster community engagement during a time when businesses are struggling to reach their customers.

“The global crisis brought about by Covid-19 is a stark reminder of the importance of having ongoing engagement with consumers,” Kleinschmit says.

The scale and impact of the current crisis has rendered existing business playbooks outdated and irrelevant, and Kleinschmit says substantial shifts in consumer spending and product usage are occurring at a pace and scale we’ve never seen before.

“As the situation continues to evolve, brands need to know what behaviors, perceptions, routines, and rituals will change—and which ones will stay the same,” he says.

With consumer opinions changing so quickly, traditional channels of collecting feedback, like email and telephone surveys, are too slow to be useful anymore. They’re also overly reliant on recall, which means they’re less likely to provide businesses with the kinds of insights that actually drive action.

Brands have started relying more heavily on mobile chat communities to understand how target customer segments feel about their businesses or to inform product development, creative testing, and market testing.

“It is imperative to understand these behaviors because consumer perceptions are changing rapidly in the age of Covid-19,” Kleinschmit says. “Instead of waiting weeks to get results, which end up being outdated upon receipt, businesses can receive responses in near real-time and activate immediately.”

Reach3 recently re-engineered its own mobile community solution for the Covid era. The company’s solution allows brands to engage with hundreds or thousands of customers at scale and in real-time. Brands can create programs, with recruitment conducted through social media and other methods to enable inclusion of larger community groups. Community members are then kept engaged through chats, with mobile-first surveys that use a mix of conversational language, photos, animated GIFs and videos in a messaging-like interface.

Kleinschmit says giving businesses a way to be conversational and “more human” is critical right now, and people are more sensitive than in years prior.

Finding ways to serve all businesses, not just the largest global brands, is also an issue at the forefront of many people’s minds. To that end, Kleinschmit says Rival Technologies and Reach3 Insights have launched a complimentary research program to help their clients and partners keep track of evolving consumer behaviors, attitudes, and sentiments.

“We used our own mobile messaging-based platform to create a mobile community of 1,500 Americans and 1,500 Canadians who’ve opted-in to share what’s going on in their lives,” he says. “The program leverages mobile messaging-based approaches to capture robust quantitative and qualitative data in one seamless experience.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.