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By Rabih Farhat, founder and managing partner, Related Inc

The pandemic of 2020 has challenged every norm, including customer experience. With the spread of fear, extreme safety measures, and lockdowns, there came the inevitable shift in lifestyle and purchasing habits. Life across the board is now going through significant changes, and brands have found themselves at a crossroad: evolve or die.

The majority of brands have indeed noticed and opted for doubling their efforts in providing the best experiences to ensure customer loyalty in a post-COVID19 world. We never thought that there would come a time when brands had to tilt their focus from being revenue-oriented to fully fostering their customers’ best interests.

Business is still a fundamentally human enterprise; while technology provides us with the means to connect, it is the relationships we form that keep us connected. We’re hearing more about “empathy at scale”; it includes a deep understanding of customer needs and responding to those needs in a genuine way. That’s why we believe empathy-based technological disruptions are key enablers in any brand’s survival toolkit today.

A perfect example is the telecom operator Ooredoo Kuwait. Its mission has always been to empower people to access and enjoy the best of the Internet in a way that is personal and unique. In one of its first initiatives to tackle the societal effects of the pandemic, the company offered thousands of frontline volunteers helping fight the pandemic, free mobile lines along with internet and voice as a gesture, in an attempt to praise their efforts.

Currently, the operator group has chosen new brands and rewards for their Nojoom members, in an attempt to stay relevant and support customers during quarantine. Those included food, grocery and pharmacy delivery services, movie streaming, online library and books, as well as online gaming. That was possible through our seamless platform, the Reward Marketplace, which helped transform Ooredoo Kuwait into a lifestyle provider.  It also paved the way for ecosystem-centric loyalty programs in the region, providing customers with appealing and relevant deals from an array of merchants.

Even consumer brands need to take a step back and look closely at their customers. Business models and strategies have originated from observing customer insights, behavioral patterns and common practices. With new patterns and data surfacing, brands need to revisit their approach, and strive for a more humane and compassionate “alliance” with their customers.

So, what should brands expect in a post-COVID19 world?

In a nutshell, empathy will be indispensable for the success of digital transformation, and it will lead brand loyalty moving forward.  The pandemic has also made clear that there is not one single digital transformation strategy for every company. Instead, companies must tailor their digital needs to the market conditions they are navigating.

Building communities and ecosystems around the brand is another reasonable next step for many companies, including ours. And making sure this ecosystem is aligned with a greater purpose will be fundamental. Today, brands have the opportunity to nix stale models and emerge even stronger after having maneuvered the storm with heart.

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