COVID-19 effect: Putting the customer into the pivot

As marketers embrace digital like never before in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions, customer-centrism is key now more than ever says GoDaddy CMO Suzanne Mitchell

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, many businesses are looking to pivot to digital, but now more than ever they must put the customer first.

That’s the advice from GoDaddy director of marketing, Suzanne Mitchell, who told CMO it’s about being able to connect with customers and be there for them during this time.

“If you can resonate with them, then the pivot has some direction to it and you're there to make sure your customers needs are met,” Mitchell said.

Businesses across Australia are being urged right now to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet pulling this off from isolation may seem like a daunting challenge. Paradoxically, it’s both a challenge and an opportunity. According to Mitchell, this period of COVID-induced crisis is an important time because the way each business handles its clients, as well as supports staff, will have a lasting impact on the brand’s perception

“Customers are time-poor, they're stretched and they have anxiety and a whole lot of things going on with a huge amount of uncertainty, in Australia and across the world. It is really connecting with customers at this time and knowing where their heads are in relation to the landscape we're in right now,” she said.

The marketing chief for the Web hosting business explained to CMO the more progressive, empathetic and agile businesses will have an opportunity to build brand trust during this challenging time. It might be businesses looking to offer new services, classes, products or training via an online platform; or adding an online storefront to bolster existing services and provide an additional revenue stream when part of the business is affected by the economic shutdown. 

“Australians are really entrepreneurial at heart. I think they're either changing their physical offering or getting online and connecting with new audiences to drive their businesses, which is great to see,” Mitchell explained to CMO.

The guiding principle is being customer-centric while the crisis is unfolding. Yet even at this time, Mitchell said it’s also about having an eye for the longer term. 

“If they haven't got an online presence, they should be trying not to just have a knee-jerk reaction throwing together any website, but thinking about the customers and the products,” she said. “People will change their behaviour but the importance of online will be more significant on the other side of this situation. If they can think beyond the two-week, four-week or even six-month period, then what they create now will set them up to be in a stronger position for future growth.”

Mitchell also saw great value in the simple but strategic. For example, looking for the “noise” online to see what and where the conversation is happening through social and simple Google searches. 

“That's the beauty of digital, it's very transparent so you can see what you're getting,” she said. “And with a database of customers, find ways to be texting and emailing at this time as well. If they can't physically interact with customers in stores, those two channels are nice ways to connect with people at this time. And fairly cost effective as well.”

For its part, GoDaddy has been reaching out to customers, offering free products to help during this pandemic crisis, particularly as it’s been a very destructive event for many businesses. It’s part of its ‘OpenWeStand’ initiative, which includes advice to business owners and other resources and support to help keep them running.

“We're calling out 16 of our customers to tell their stories, promote their businesses, help them at this time, and inspire others with their stories to drive their businesses to succeed during this period,”  Mitchell said.

Mitchell said she’s spent a lot of time in online businesses throughout her career and has very much bought into the belief “online is the future”. She told CMO this episode will have a lasting effect on people, especially those embracing digital wholeheartedly, and will come out the other side and change their behaviour.

“Whether it's 100 per cent change or a smaller change, time will tell,” she continued. “But everyone shopping online, being entertained online and communicating online has to set a pivot for us as human beings and how we live our lives, and will just follow on with the easiest and most beneficial route, whether that's online or in the physical world.”

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