The headlines are everywhere. Open any newspaper, and you’ll see story after story about coronavirus and its impact on American society. But new data on consumer search behavior shows Covid-19 isn’t the only healthcare topic on people’s minds right now.
In an analysis of consumer search trends during the coronavirus pandemic, a team from the healthcare provider scheduling and search platform Kyruus found that search terms seemingly unrelated to Covid-19, such as “diabetes,” “cancer,” and “depression,” continue to rank more highly than those associated with the virus.
One in four small businesses has temporarily shut down, and 43% believe they have fewer than six months until permanent closure is unavoidable. With the small business community in panic mode, budgets for digital marketing have been slashed, and agencies are feeling the pinch.
“Everyone has been in panic mode, and rightly so. Businesses are worried about who might have to be furloughed [or] laid off, getting their PPP loans, what kind of regulations do they need to comply with, [and] what their contingency plans are for keeping any amount of revenue coming in,” says Simon Schwartz, founder of Locasaur. “Businesses are not interested in being pitched new marketing tech.”
Beacons, sensors, security cameras, and touchless payment solutions are all being used in ways they haven’t been before. Technology vendors are even changing up their offerings, or in some cases pivoting altogether, to better serve the retail market during this ongoing pandemic.
Here are five examples of technology providers offering innovative solutions for enhanced social distancing and improved shopper safety during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Petsmart and Kohl’s have it. So do Best Buy, GameStop, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and dozens of other national retailers. With social distancing orders in place across most of the country, curbside pickup is becoming an increasingly popular checkout option for retailers. Integrating curbside technology into existing ecommerce fulfillment programs hasn’t been without its challenges, though, especially given how hastily many of these programs have been rolled out.
Amidst all the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, savvy marketers are finding new opportunities to reach consumers at discounted rates. According to data compiled by Goodway Group, competition within ad auctions has gone down 13% since early March, and win rates are up 54% during the same time period.
The drop in competition within ad auctions is largely the result of brands pulling back on digital advertising during the outbreak. Most experts agree that dropping out entirely is a mistake, since it gives competitors an opportunity to convert new brand loyalists, but continuing to run existing campaigns without acknowledging the current economic and global health realities can be costly as well.
Consumers say they want to help the local businesses in their communities, and many are buying gift cards and launching GoFundMe campaigns to help their favorite restaurants, retailers, and brewpubs avoid going out of business. But restaurants and other essential businesses that remain open still need a way to let customers know how they’re selling their products and services, and how they can place orders without showing up in person.
The neighborhood social networking app Nextdoor is one of a number of platforms working on ways to ease that burden. Yelp, Facebook, and Patch are joining the fight.
Curbside pickup isn’t just a win from a public health perspective; it also gives stores an additional lifeline as they look for ways to sell products without violating physical distancing guidelines. What’s more, the trend may stick, bringing additional retailers into the process and boosting customer adoption even after social distancing subsides.
These are five technology companies offering platforms and tools that retailers can use to implement curbside pickup during the Covid-19 crisis.
Chatbots are helping resolve customer service issues when businesses are closed and call centers are slammed, but brick-and-mortar stores are still struggling to adapt to an online-only business format. Pure play ecommerce outlets have spent years developing systems to manage transactions and verify customer identities, but most retailers on Main Street are accustomed to seeing shoppers in person and visually checking IDs.
A San Francisco-based startup called Persona is offering to help those local businesses adapt by giving away its online ID verification service for free during the COVID-19 crisis.
Dozens of states have banned dine-in service at restaurants, and nearly as many are requiring retailers to close up shop in a bid to slow down the coronavirus outbreak. As local businesses deal with the enormous financial implications that come with closing down to customers, many are trying out delivery services for the very first time.
For restaurants and other local businesses interested in offering their products via on-demand delivery, here are seven delivery platforms with which local businesses can partner during the Covid-19 crisis.
Chatbots could help fill the gap in business-to-customer communication capacity during the Covid-19 outbreak. Although there will always be a need for human customer service agents, even when chatbots with AI are deployed, the coronavirus outbreak is demonstrating just how valuable this automated technology can be for brands working in a time of crisis. Already, chatbot companies like LivePerson say they’re seeing significant increases in volume on their platforms. As the pandemic widens, even more companies are likely to start integrating chatbots into their customer service systems.
Here are six chatbot solutions that brands can start using right away.
In healthcare marketing, it all comes down to the patients. Adding patient reviews to a healthcare organization’s website can improve its ranking in the Google algorithm, particularly when those reviews are filled with relevant keywords. Just as importantly, though, patient reviews have a positive impact on the way other people view medical websites. Practice websites with user-generated content, including reviews, score higher in reliability, expertise, and professionalism.
Here are six examples of review generation and management platforms aimed squarely at healthcare organizations.
Telephone surveys are notoriously unreliable. So are email questionnaires. When it comes to engaging consumers in two-way market research, companies are increasingly looking toward chat-based technologies as a potential solution.
Case and point: the Vancouver Canucks. The ice hockey team has started using chat-based technology to capture fan feedback in real-time during home games in the team’s Vancouver stadium.
With consumers today asking for more authentic, personalized experiences, the German apparel manufacturer PUMA recently launched an outdoor campaign that involved audience targeting, programmatic capabilities, and situationally aware screens with hologram technology. PUMA worked with Havas Media and the outdoor ad platform Firefly to design a weekend-long campaign during the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago. Together, the companies outfitted smart media displays with hologram projectors to display 360-degree images of PUMA’s newest sneaker on the roofs of parked cars in front of multiple Chicago landmarks.
One vertical that has been able to integrate voice into customer service in a meaningful way is retail. National retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and REI Co-op have created skills or teamed up with technology providers to connect with customers through voice-controlled assistants. Some retailers are accepting orders via voice, and others are doling out product information and reviews. What the most successful of these companies have in common is a defined strategy and plans to measure ROI.
It’s important that companies can see who their customers are and what transactions are associated with each customer via voice assistants. This sort of knowledge is necessary for brands to make the channel a valuable part of an overarching loyalty strategy.
Given that voice is currently owned by just a few select companies, it’s important for brands to figure out how they will leverage voice differently from company to company or device to device. Will retail brands keep the same strategy with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, or will they find unique ways to take advantage of these platforms across differences?
The trend of moving customer experience beyond the screen has been dubbed “conversational customer care.” It’s still unclear just how many channels are included under this umbrella or how the future of conversational customer care will look. Brands that are dealing with demanding customers can’t afford to sit back and wait for this to play out. Screen-free customer experiences could be the future. They could be just a single touchpoint in the broader context of customer experience strategy. Or, they could just be a passing fad.
But the chances that voice-first customer experiences are a fad seem to be shrinking.