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None of us expected we would still be in the midst of a global pandemic one year later.

Quarantine, Zoom happy hours, Netflix binging and drive-by birthday parties have become our new normal. While the pandemic put a tremendous strain on retailers and restaurants with shutdowns, it also accelerated digital growth. Consumers and businesses adopted digital technologies at an unprecedented rate during this global health crisis. Over 100 million new shoppers emerged online resulting in unprecedented eCommerce sales. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, "the accelerated trend towards e-commerce is likely to be sustained during recovery and more than 50% of consumers expect to continue shopping more often online than they did before."[1]

Some brands successfully adapted and pivoted their business model resulting in growth amidst the changing landscape. Anheuser-Busch went from brewery to hand sanitizer production. Nordstrom went from luxury department store to face mask manufacturer while accelerating its digital offering in parallel. Many restaurants turned into mini grocers, selling their excess inventory to sustain their businesses. This resiliency echoes an earlier time in our history when factories pivoted to ammunitions during WWII. Although back then, many companies temporarily pivoted while others successfully defined new, sustainable business models. As last year was a struggle for most retailers and restaurants simply to maintain, many brands are adopting new strategies to ensure future success.

How can you strategically engage your customers and prioritize digital to bounce back post-pandemic? Here are three things to keep in mind. 

How is your data strategy working?

With the disruption in business defined, brands should develop strategies to build stronger and more profitable customer relationships. Customer expectations have changed, and they expect brands to create value by simplifying or personalizing digital shopping experiences. Personalized data-driven customer experiences lead to loyal brand advocates.     

Brands who maintain a customer-centric mindset, as they prioritize their corporate initiatives and investments, will drive the most profitable customer relationships. Brands that take a data-driven marketing approach and ensure the same messaging across channels will result in the greatest return.

The most well-known data-driven brand is Amazon. It has been leveraging customer and product data collected throughout a customer's engagement with its digital properties, search engines and purchase behavior. Early on, Amazon used data to create relevant messaging, product recommendations and communications throughout a customer's journey before any brands used data as a competitive advantage. With increasing customer expectations, brands are continually challenged as to how to use data to be more relevant along the customer journey such as reminding me when my out-of-stock sanitizer wipes are back in stock. 

Customer loyalty and customer experience have blended with digital adoption. Customers are expecting brands to know their shopping behaviors and use data they collect to optimize the shopping experience. Brands who personalize experiences both in-store and online, create one-to-one relationships leading to more frequent visits and a larger basket size during the customer journey.

VIP and elevated experiences as a differentiator 

The global health crisis accelerated digital and customer expectations and loyalty programs are table stakes in today's competitive landscape. As the disruption will soon be behind us, brands can pivot once again to reacquire valuable customers. To achieve this, brands are expected to more creatively engage and reward loyal customers through authentic communications, curated offers, VIP experiences, exclusive access, subscriptions and relevant social connections. 

Data-driven companies can identify their most valuable customers and focus their efforts to win them back with curated offers or elevated VIP experiences. One example of a brand leveraging data and offering integrated loyalty is REI's membership program. REI demonstrates a lifestyle brand curating exclusive classes, trips and events alongside product discounts. The $20 lifetime membership, although a low barrier to entry, opens up access, product discounts, an annual dividend and membership to a club of like-minded individuals sharing the same values. 

Why customer lifetime value (CLV) after the pandemic? 

As brands strategize on how to bounce back after this unprecedented year, metrics will inform where and how much to invest. CLV measures how valuable a customer is to a company over their lifetime. This metric informs brands on where to spend and focus their investments to make strategic customer win-backs. Mature marketing organizations have a clear understanding of the cost of acquiring a new customer. Bouncing back from the pandemic, those same organizations should have a similar indicator of winning back a customer. 

CLV is also an indicator of a brand's health within their customer base and allows tiered personalization approaches to convert good customers to great, and less profitable customers to more profitable customers.

As Google is phasing out third-party cookies, the cost of acquiring new customers will continue to increase. This emphasizes, even more, the importance of loyalty in retaining and re-acquiring existing customers.

Consumer spending and digital behavior have changed and are not expected to go back to pre-pandemic spending behaviors. More work from home or hybrid working scenarios have changed the landscape for retailers and restaurants, furthering the need for brands to re-kindle and strengthen a long-term relationship with their most profitable customers. 


The global health crisis accelerated digital transformation and customer expectations. Consumer spending and behavior changed and are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels as more than 50 percent of consumers expect to continue shopping online (more often than pre-pandemic[1]). Brands that are looking for a recovery need to focus on customer retention and customer-centricity. Brands should use these three strategies to engage customers and prioritize digital to bounce back post-pandemic:

  1. Leverage data for a better customer relationship.
  2. Utilize VIP and elevated experiences as a differentiator.
  3. Use CLV to inform strategic investments around customer retention.



[1] United Nations Conference on Trade and Development,