Why customer conversations are vital for brand survival in a post-COVID-19 world

An image of Conversation, AI, Why customer conversations are vital for brand survival in a post-COVID-19 world

By Elena Melnikova, Chief Marketing Officer at Talkwalker

The past year has been unprecedented in many ways. No-one could have predicted how the world would have to adapt to being shut down, nor how this would affect the relationship between consumers and brands. Human behaviour had to change for survival and so have global industries. 

Our latest research, in partnership with Trustpilot, State of Conversation 2021, shows the growing importance of customer-centricity and conversational intelligence for brands. It reveals that while COVID-19 boosted digital interactions between brands and consumers, many were left looking for more human contact and support in their brand experiences.

Why are consumer conversations critical for brands?

When we talk about conversation, we’re of course talking about online chatter – social media, blogs, news sites, reviews, forums… but it doesn’t stop there. What’s often ignored, forgotten, or siloed in different departments, is customer conversation – call centre transcripts, market research, emails, etc. – all the different channels by which the voice of the customer enters an organisation. 

In a world where consumers are looking for more than mere product and services, the most successful brands must be able to create customer-centric experiences by understanding consumers, spotting trends, and unveiling new risks and opportunities based on all these sources of data.

To protect their reputation, accelerate growth and boost the marketing ROI data-driven companies must go beyond social listening and have a unified view of their brand, market and consumers across their organization. To survive and flourish, brands must invest in conversational intelligence.

The latest report reveals how COVID-19 disrupted consumer intelligence. The pandemic brought consumer conversations to the front and revealed the importance of external data sources to help brands understand the customer and its market.

The research also looked at trends across several industries. How conversational intelligence was used by brands and how customers drove changes.

An image of Conversation, AI, Why customer conversations are vital for brand survival in a post-COVID-19 world

Conversations shaping industry

Over the past year the automotive & mobility industry went through important changes at a global level to become a more sustainable industry.  Not only was COVID-19 a huge factor in transportation decisions, but the growing issues of climate change and green mobility was very much at the forefront of peoples’ minds. 

One of the factors that led to the acceleration of green mobility was the temporary reduction of CO2 emissions due to COVID-19, which reminded brands and consumers alike of the looming climate crisis. A second factor came about due to social distancing measures, people began looking for alternatives to public transportation, making way for bicycles and electric scooters. Additionally, the sales of hybrid and electric vehicles rose in places like Europe last year, with governments tightening emissions regulations. 

The physical barriers imposed by the pandemic accelerated the transformation of the financial services industry through innovation and decentralization. Innovation was permeating the industry through AI, greater adoption of digital banking and a surge in FinTech startups. 

The online banking market also saw huge growth while traditional banks created new apps or improved the customer experience of existing apps, and neo-banks led the charge for digital transformation. 

False truths spoken can change behaviors     

No surprise that one of the most discussed topics of 2020 was COVID-19, and as a result, conversations around the pharma and healthcare industry grew exponentially. Healthcare has seen rapid digital transformation while the pharma industry, with people constantly tracking and commenting on the latest medical updates and vaccine developments around the virus, has seen the growth of misinformation around the industry, especially related to COVID-19. For months now, the pandemic and the vaccine have been at the top of the list of anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.

Now is the time to turn to conversational intelligence

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have turned up the volume. They’re telling brands what they want. How they want them to behave. Brands must adapt or get left behind.

Conversational analysis – across the board – gives you the full picture.

Many brands – tuning into consumers in their moment of need – have recognised and acknowledged the importance of conversations. They’ve modified their marketing strategies. 

The more you learn about consumers, the easier it is to connect with them. Solve their problems. Share content with them that they’re looking for. Create the products and services they’re asking for. Help them.

Conversational insights will inform your future strategies – marketing, content, social media, product development, PR, paid advertising – your entire business strategy.

What next for social intelligence?

2021 will be the year that online conversation becomes essential for brands to learn, adapt and thrive. The use of social media is moving from being a fun place to share family photos, long lunches and memes – to a place where conversations matter. 

The social intelligence market saw a huge boom in 2020, and it’s predicted to continue to grow throughout 2021 and have an even greater impact for brands. As technology becomes more innovative – with internal and external data merging – more dots will be joined between social conversations and voice of the customer.

Today’s consumers expect brands to meet them where they are, with empathy, and a shared set of values. Conversational Intelligence is the key to unlocking meaningful customer relationships by understanding what customers are saying, where they are saying it and why. Brands need to activate the voice of the customer across different departments to drive revenues in today’s world.

For more data from Talkwalker’s State of Conversation 2021 Report, with detailed regional analysis, download the complete report here.

An image of Conversation, AI, Why customer conversations are vital for brand survival in a post-COVID-19 world

Elena Melnikova

Chief Marketing Officer at Talkwalker