Data and the coronavirus crisis – what you need to know

Almost everything we do has been affected by Covid-19 – the way we use customer data is no exception. In adjusting your communication to reflect the sudden change in consumer habits it’s key to adhere to data guidelines, including GDPR.

You can only use data for the purpose for which it was collected, and only retain it for a reasonable amount of time before either erasing or reviewing it. GDPR doesn’t specify how long companies can hold information, but brands are advised to introduce their own guidelines to protect themselves and respect their customers rights.

If someone opted in but has stopped interacting you should consider removing them from your database after a year. However, online purchasing habits are likely to have shifted recently; in-store ones definitely have.

You don’t want to run the risk of inadvertently making a customer appear inactive when circumstances simply prevent them engaging as they otherwise would. The solution? Keep talking to your customers and find appealing ways to stay in touch with them.

Review your segmentation strategies

Many business rules for customer segmentation and targeting are based on purchase data, and so may need to be temporarily altered to reflect any changes in customer behaviour and purchasing patterns.

This could involve temporarily suspending the use of incentives to lapsed customers. Putting a pause into your segment criteria will enable you to accommodate this period of enforced inactivity.

Alongside reviewing segmentation strategies, you should also review any auto-triggered communications to ensure inappropriate offers don’t slip out under the radar.

Make customer relationship management a priority

Good CRM is impactful because it enables your brand to resonate directly and personally with people. With internet use purportedly doubling in the first two weeks of this crisis, email and online have really come to the fore.

Keep craft at the heart of your emails. There is no excuse for not sending out thoughtful and engaging comms. That means creating personalised and relevant messages.

As for content, the key is to identify what the customer wants from your brand during the crisis, and what they’re looking forward to when lockdown is lifted. My colleague at Armadillo, senior strategist Nick Beevors, has written a good guide here.

Looking ahead to life after coronavirus

Consider your warm-up strategy carefully when business begins to return to normal. Customers are going to be bombarded. How will your brand stand out from the crowd?

In some cases, a repermission approach will be a good idea. If customers were close to being defined as inactive before the slowdown in trading, it would be better to invite them to stay in the loop, rather than presume they want to. You may also be able to use legitimate interest and/or servicing principles to let a broader group of customers know your company is back up and running. The Information Commissioner’s Office provides some useful advice here.

Brands will have an important role to play as we gradually emerge from this crisis. Using your customer data wisely and considerately during this crisis will help you make the most of the positive times ahead.

Article originally published in Decision Marketing on 04/05/2020