The 2022 edition of Alida’s flagship event Activate will zero in on an increasingly important concept, one that’s foundational to today’s customer and employee experience: empathy. Empathy is at the core of every positive human interaction. It’s a primordial input in the creation of effortless, enjoyable experiences. The challenge for any organization is to capture, measure, and turn it into action.
To learn more about the role of empathy in understanding and catering to customers and employees, we spoke with Sarah Shain, shopper insights manager at Redbull, and Joette Gobell, VP of research and insights at Byrdie. Their experiences during one of the most uncertain times in recent history show us just how important it is to really understand your audience—not just as consumers, but as individuals.
Here are just a few key takeaways from the discussion:
1. Go beyond your expectations
Where you came from is a big part of who you are—and the same is true for your company. But if you want to serve customers from all walks of life, you need to get out of your own head.
“It’s easy to think the story I tell myself is the story everyone else tells themselves,” says Joette. But she knows that isn’t the case—especially when it comes to her industry: beauty tips, trends, and news. “Everyone can express beauty in their own way, and that might mean a wildly different thing for you than someone else.”
The key is to bring those perspectives together—not to strip them of their individuality, but to find a place for your brand in each unique story. Approaching your consumers from a place of empathy gives you the opportunity to understand who they are as individuals, allowing you to address specific moments of need. The result is CX that feels personal on every level, providing the most relevant answers, content, and service—even if different members of your audience have wildly different expectations.
Sarah agrees, tying in wisdom from Redbull’s fitness and sports drink perspective: “The U.S. is a wide tapestry of folks that have different behaviors,” she says, “but they all come together in needing energy.”
2. Navigate uncertainty with confidence
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, brands like Redbull and Byrdie weren’t sure what to expect. Customers, too, were often left scratching their heads. But with a hearty serving of empathy, it’s easier to navigate moments of uncertainty—especially when you make your audience part of the conversation.
“We did not know what the pandemic would mean for our category,” Sarah admits. Luckily, Redbull didn’t have to answer these questions alone. “As we have always been able to, we relied on our [insight] community to give us a pulse of what consumers were thinking in real-time. We made it a safe space for people to share their concerns.”
This type of open, honest communication gives you a chance to understand what your audience is worried about, what questions they have, and how these hesitations might impact their experience with your company. Joette calls it “checking in with folks,” and it might be the best way for you to add context to the patterns you’re seeing.
The goal, then, is to embrace the unknown. Let customers know you’re navigating uncharted waters right alongside them, and that their input and insights are keeping you on course. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to feel like they have control in uncertain times, especially if that control relates to their experience with a favorite brand.
3. Bridge the gap between thought and behavior
“What people say may not necessarily mirror their actions,” says Sarah, and when it comes to audiences, that’s especially true.
Empathy-based CX helps you understand the world from a customer’s point of view, giving you insight into what they think and why. Combined with your research data and analysis, you can identify places where thinking doesn’t match behavior, and, more importantly, you can address that gap.
For example, one of Redbull’s recent projects required asking their insight community for input on flavor combinations. The resulting message was very specific: Shoppers didn’t understand why sugar-free and full-sugar drinks were sold in the same package. However, as Sarah explains, their behavior didn’t match up with their confusion since consumers tend to drink both types in equal amounts.
By approaching the discrepancy with empathy, Redbull was able to position their product and inform their marketing techniques in ways that cleared up confusion without altering behavior. Your brand can do the same; you just have to ask the right questions (and know what to do with the answers).
4. Give up on perfectionism
When it comes to CX, every company is trying to be perfect. After all, who wouldn’t want to be a customer’s favorite brand?
The truth, though, is that perfection is limiting. “Business naturally drives you toward simplification,” says Joette, “but the human experience is kind of the opposite of that.”
Sarah’s anecdote is a perfect example of this messiness: People didn’t know why full-sugar and sugar-free drinks would be packaged together, but when asked what they drink in a day, they say, “Both!”
Human nature is, by definition, messy and imperfect. As a brand striving to be part of those everyday experiences, you need to put empathy front and center, understanding when and why your consumers contradict themselves. It’s all about treating your audience like people, not like numbers.
Learn more about empathy from Alida Activate
Brands like Redbull and Byrdie pulled through the early days of the pandemic with glowing successes, serving customers in new ways, increasing brand loyalty, and driving sales even during periods of global financial uncertainty. It’s all thanks to the empathy of people like Joette and Sarah.
If you want to join their ranks and learn more ways of making empathy the heart of your CX, stream the full session: “Becoming Resilient Through Empathy: How to Proactively Adapt to Changing Customer Behaviors.”
Even better, sign up for Activate 2022 and join practical sessions with some of the most innovative brands in the world. Discover how market leaders create world-class experiences through Total Experience Management (TXM). We’ll break down their success stories and deliver tangible takeaways to implement in your organization.