As the industry adapts to a permanent state of volatility, many brands have to learn to move past ‘survival mode’ and thinking more long-term with more agility in order to retain a loyal consumer base.

The first Oystercatchers Club of 2023 explored just this, and joining Gill Huber, Managing Partner on stage were four marketing experts who have spent the past 3 years guiding their businesses through periods of unprecedented change while continuing to deliver value to their consumers.

A profitable business is one that creates value for the customer

Despite a more changeable and uncertain climate, confidence continues to grow – preliminary budgeting in the IPA’s quarterly Bellwether report points to strong growth in 2023/2024, which is promising for us all. Yet, as the cost-of-living crisis persists, consumers are continuing to tighten their belts, with many purchasing decisions being relegated to the backseat. This is leaving marketers with the tough job of maintaining their relevance and delivering compelling experiences to retain customer loyalty, as consumers adapt their purchase decisions.

Jessica Myers, CMO of The VERY Group, believes that delivering on promises to their core customer, “the household hero”, is critical to the brand. She explained how the brand spend a lot of time pouring over customer feedback to understand what value means for their customer base, and improve their customer experience.

The AA’s Group Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer, Mark Felix, explained how the car breakdown service’s commitment to the customer experience is at the heart of the brand. “Our motto is ‘looking after the customer, then the car’.” He explained how The AA’s patrol people are intensely focused on helping customers during a period of need and high stress, and their commitment to exceptional service – whether or not you are an AA customer – is what lives up to brand promise and helps them to maintain lifelong customers.

Client:agency relationships

Claire Sadler, Chief Marketing and Fundraising Officer at the British Heart Foundation advocates for creating a collaborative and trusting environment with clear responsibilities when onboarding an agency to ensure everyone is aligned towards a common goal.

Rania Robinson, CEO of agency Quiet Storm agreed, and emphasized the importance of building a positive agency culture that allows for a human touch when tackling challenges. By doing so, the agency team can better understand the role of the brand in a consumer’s life, ultimately leading to a more personable experience for the customer.

The only constant is change

During a discussion on building resilience in response to constant change, including bringing different teams together to inform the customer experience, and the importance of consistency.

Jess Myers explained the importance of engaging different teams to model plans together and test them against change, while also having a commercial mindset and engaging the CFO.

And one big risk that could potentially break bonds with consumers during such a vital time? “Complacency,” explained Claire Sadler, who stressed the need to maintain standards for customes regardless of external factors or commercial pressures.

Rania Robinson added that complacency can be extended to the client:agency partnership, and that communication is key to ensure both client and agency are always aligned to one goal. “Have the difficult conversations with your client – remember they are hard won, so don’t take the relationship for granted.”

The panel agreed that alongside consistency, providing reassurance to customers during difficult times would have the biggest impact on the customer experience. As Mark Felix aptly summarised, “We always go the extra mile for our customers… even if their car can’t.”