Brand Experience in a Post-Pandemic World

How technology can keep interactions seamless

"Necessity is the mother of invention," they said. In good times this is mostly a matter of unearthing "pain points" and discovering opportunities for brands hidden in consumer insight. But sometimes it's the most trying of circumstances which create the most interesting outcomes.

No matter the situation, we're of the view that technology should largely remain unseen. The invisible strings, the secret herbs and spices, the magic dust enabling experiences rather than playing the leading role. In the current environment, that's led us to ask: What is the role of technology in delivering useful, impactful and meaningful brand experiences when customers are highly displaced and uncertain about the future? And where to from here?

Investing in technology infrastructure and establishing best practices allows businesses to create headroom for themselves in times of need and then respond nimbly, safe in the knowledge that they can continue to serve their customers at critical junctures.

Think of this as training your business's endurance as a marathon runner would. Your team should be increasing the endurance and lung capacity of their systems to create breathing space when it's most needed, and developing fast twitch muscles in the form of best practices to help them instinctively kick into action when they need to up their pace. 

In New Zealand, AKQA worked with supermarket group Foodstuffs to handle record-breaking traffic and sales via their website, without issue, thanks in large part to proactive DevOps. Load testing and remediation, in conjunction with forward-focused auto-scaling cloud architecture, allowed the website to seamlessly handle around 10 times regular demand volumes, virtually without notice. Meaning that, even though the website traffic increase by tenfold in these times of extreme displacement, customers could still order their online groceries without experiencing any technical difficulties.

While possibly not as headline-grabbing as a marketer may hope their response to a crisis be, the preparation and rigor the team at Foodstuffs and AKQA invested prior to the crisis was key to ensuring that people in need of fresh food received it.

Of course, such feats don't stop behind the scenes. Business continuity is often determined by a business's ability to pivot at speed, sometimes resulting in changing your entire product offering. Quickly identifying the need to increase e-learning capacity for the influx of Chinese students quarantined at home, DingTalk, a Slack-like app that was originally developed by Alibaba to increase work efficiency, adapted their front-end applications to transform it into an online platform for home-schooling. Students are able to interact just like in their physical classrooms, having quizzes and tests within the same platform or even having parent-teacher conferences.

By taking a modular, micro-service design approach, proven effective by similar experiences such as Alipay and WeChat apps, it allows product teams and developers to rapidly ideate, prioritize and extend the architecture of their products to quickly deliver new functionality. Modularity also helps to shelter established features from those that are experimental, giving a business an opportunity to test, learn and iterate upon new features without disrupting users that are regularly active in other areas of the website, app or service. 

However, not every business needs to pivot to ensure success during times of crisis. Often they just need to rethink form-factors. Leveraging nascent technologies, such as augmented reality, and developing a roadmap for how they should be utilized in a meaningful manner, is a strategy that brands should be now be leveraging. To retain the ability to deliver an experience that otherwise is impossible to do so in the current climate is invaluable to businesses that rely on an uninterrupted seasonal product launch program. 

IWC Schaffhausen are one such brand and were due to reveal the new Portugieser collection at Watches & Wonders, an event cancelled by Covid-19. By employing nascent technologies, in just three short weeks they managed to achieve a global virtual launch of the new range through a web and WeChat experience. The digital Portugieser Watches & Wonders platform allowed exploration of the collection in augmented reality, recreating the tangible qualities that play a key role when visiting a IWC boutique.

Through a combination of AR and interactive video, IWC's creative director explains the heritage and detailing of each model, recreating the physical buying experience and defining a new paradigm for the luxury ecommerce. All with the purpose of keeping the brand experience alive, even when consumers are not in the position to physically interact with it.

From preparation to pivots to pioneering paradigm shifts in delivering customer experiences, each tactic and the underlying technologies that enable them are key to overcoming the challenges in a post Covid-19 world. Major global events in history like this one have irreversibly shaped the development of humankind. The question is, are you prepared to emerge from it stronger than when it started?

Profile picture for user Jiapeng Song and Steven Gutteridge
Jiapeng Song and Steven Gutteridge
Jiapeng Song is senior experience designer and Steven Gutteridge is head of technology at AKQA.

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