Navigating Data Challenges During
COVID-19

Search Discovery works with clients across many industries and sectors, and we’ve seen firsthand the disparate, specific challenges and impacts within different industries. Like our clients, we’re extremely interested in finding ways to keep our team members and customers safe and well-served.

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We’re all in it. Every industry and every person is facing vulnerability in the “new normal.” Here’s how we’re being intentional about helping clients navigate uncertainty.

Helping Clients Get a Handle on the Challenges

Social distancing, shelter at home orders, and a near-global work-from-home situation has created an unprecedented situation. It is accelerating every company’s digital transformation efforts, whether they like it or not. For those who have had to make rapid transitions from physical to digital in response to this new situation, any cracks in their digital touchpoints are being exposed, and the need to solve data challenges has been amplified. Companies who were dabbling in solutions before, now need to move to these very quickly.

The companies who do this well will be best situated to maintain or even grow their relationships with customers, because they will be able to meet the needs of customers, where they are.

During this crisis, business is anything but usual, but you still need to do the same things as before to serve your client, you just might need to do them sooner, faster, or differently. Going faster and pushing harder when we are not sure what is going to happen can be daunting. Here are a few things we are encouraging our clients to think about as they get a handle on their situation and accelerate their efforts to serve their clients.

You still need a strategy.

Just because you need to move quickly doesn’t mean you should proceed without purpose. Clarify your desired outcome and establish a clear, stepwise plan toward short- and long-term objectives. You’ll need a plan for dealing with unknowns, same as always, and a strategy that uses data purposefully can mean the difference between moving forward and getting stuck. For example, we have seen one of our clients pivot quickly by bridging the gap between physical and virtual inventories in response to the almost 100% drop in physical store traffic. This had always been the plan, but the current circumstances elevated the need and its priority. Look at the things you have been “needing” to do “one day,” that could help you engage your clients or serve your staff more effectively if you accelerated it now.
Don’t forget the data.

It will be challenging for you to navigate the current situation or measure its impact to your business if you are not collecting the right data and integrating it into a single view that tells you what is happening. Maybe, it’s time to overhaul your data collection approach or accelerate that data integration project that has been stalled out. One of our teammates quoted a client the other day who said, “When things are great and we’re super busy, we focus on the numbers less. But with fear of a slow-down, we need to trust our data more than ever to understand the impact.” Now, more than ever, having the right data in the hands of the right people on your team can make all the difference.

Start experimenting. Now.

In order to meet your customers where they are during this period of unprecedented change, you need to be able to experiment. You should be using a digital testing platform (even if in a very lean way) so that you can very quickly test, learn, and adjust to meet the new needs and behaviors of your customers. Testing strategies should be formulated with the purpose of scaling across your client journey and engagement touchpoints (not “is the puppy better than the cat banner?” the result of which would change that one banner, but “should I make the CTA button on the mobile device larger?” because then that can be scaled to the entire app).

Automate and personalize.

In a period when there are fewer people on hand and less in-person interactions, look to how technology can be helping you more. It is a great time to accelerate your plans to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning, even if in small ways. It might be time to push forward on your segmentation and personalization efforts, helping you to provide your clients with a more tailored experience. Where are there tasks that for now could be automated within your marketing and sales teams? Where can you use machine learning to give you more insights into the new behaviors and engagement levels of your customers?
Recalibrate where you are spending.

For media advertising, your best path is to have a strategy and communication plan in place to connect with customers where they are. This means ensuring that your first-party data collection, segmentation, and activation is robust; crafting thoughtful messaging that considers your offering, positioning, and media mix; leveraging real-time reporting that allows you to see trends and performance by tactic so you can make quick changes; and optimizing your media mix so that it is flexible enough to shift budget to top-performing channels. Read more about media advertising during COVID-19 in our team’s upcoming blog post.
Go the extra mile.

Right now, COVID-19 is omnipresent in everyone’s mental and physical space. You should consider updating the content on your sites to reflect what people are looking for on search engines. Site visitors expect to hear about how you are addressing the new reality and supporting them. Not having this information stands out—and not in a good way. Customers want extra information, extra help, extra reassurance. Providing this right now isn’t about having good messaging, it’s about being a good company.
Be thoughtful and sincere.

Remember that we are all going through this. As you adapt to this “new normal,” empathy and patience go a long way. We are seeing our clients who approach this situation with a mindset of “How can we help?” are having success both keeping their clients engaged and meeting their needs. Put the customer at the forefront of your work and stimulate thoughtfulness and creativity in problem-solving and new solutions. Provide services and products to your clients in a way that meets them where they are today.

That’s the tack we’re taking, too.

Let us know what challenges and uncertainties you are facing, maybe we can help. Like you, this is a challenging time for our team—but it also presents opportunities for us to grow, connect in new ways, and push ourselves to be a better company. We are in it with you, and we are here to help.

Whatever your industry, we’ll help you plan.

Now is the time to plan your data strategy to serve clients and employees during uncertainty. We’re here to help.

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