16th September 2020

Now hear this

In the midst of so much big scary uncertainty, consumers are looking for brands they can trust. So it’s now more vital than ever to create open dialogue and listen to consumers. That’s why we have two ears, says Mike Foster, founder and creative director, Straight Forward.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Attributed to Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, this is a lesson much vaunted by teachers keen to encourage their pupils to stop the classroom chatter and understand the value to be gained from listening to others.  Of course, that value not only comes from gaining knowledge, but also shows the other party that you consider their thoughts and feelings worthwhile. You can be trusted.

What if brands could demonstrate this to consumers, by hearing their voices and actively listening? Not just providing the same kind of customer service online as you would in person, but also reacting to consumer needs. Because while listening is grand, consumers want action too.

Dialogue, not monologue

Take NatWest; having established that male investors outnumber female investors 2:1, yet female’s investments perform at least 1.2% better than male’s, it developed Women’s Collective, an online community. Built by and for female investors, the collective aims to provide a space for conversation around personal investments. The brand wanted to keep listening, so it ran focus groups and Q&As with customers, which evolved into A Women’s Collective Summit, a live event. Not only has NatWest already attracted more female investors, it’s created the foundations of a bold movement that it will own and build for decades to come, proving that listening can feed the development and design of more effective products and services.

Good social listening

Of course, with almost half the world’s population now using social media, practising good social listening is a basic pre-requisite, with brands taking care to respond in the moment, or at least within 24 hours, to most consumer mentions or complaints.

But what about listening between the lines, to what consumers aren’t necessarily saying out loud: instead divining their new actions and behaviours?

This is where brands really need to step up and take notice of changes in consumer activity, with 71% of UK consumers having tried a new shopping behaviour (McKinsey) – be it retailer or brand – during the pandemic, due to factors such as value and availability. It’s also clear that many at-home solutions to regular activities, introduced during the pandemic, such as online shopping, exercise programmes (thanks Joe), and direct-to-consumer food delivery, will be adopted for the long-term.

It’s those brands who’ve listened and been alert to the sound of change that will reap the benefits. Are you listening?