Protecting customer base and revenue in the Covid-19 downturn

The Coronavirus outbreak has rendered the 2020 and 2021 sales forecasts out dated. All industries have seen their top line plummet except a few such as critical goods, groceries and online collaboration tools. Businesses will need to realign their sales & marketing strategies and revaluate their sales forecasts as they navigate this downturn.

The old adage of “cash flow is king” couldn’t be more relevant in this economic downturn. Businesses need to prioritise customers and services / products offered during these times to effectively deliver services remotely, retain customers and sustain revenue.

A data driven approach to take stock of

- Expected revenue pipeline

- Changing customer behaviour

- At risk products

Can help business realign their priorities.

Customer psychology in a downturn

During a buoyant economy, purchases depend on customers having disposable income, feeling confident about their future, trusting in business and the economy. However in a downturn customers

The covid-19 crisis has dealt a major shock to economies worldwide and in the next few months and the coming year, many customers will be forced to change how they spend their money.

After years of economic stability, in which many companies were able to achieve steady growth in sales and in their customer bases, customers now face a crisis of customer decline, eroding revenue and threat to existence.

Customer retention during this crisis is the most critical focus area for marketers and is an area where advanced techniques and strategies are being rapidly adopted

The cost of acquiring a new customer can be high and so existing customers need to be retained to maintain healthy profitability. Customer retention can be achieved through straightforward customer service, marketing strategies and tactics, using data on customers’ interactions with the company and value to the company

Firms that practice relationship marketing should consider customer retention as the primary goal because customer retention yields several economic values.

A 5% increase in customer retention increases a firm’s profits at a range between 25 and 85 per cent. [HBR]

Acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. [HBR]

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60–70%, but only 5–20% for a prospect [Invespcro]

Retained customers may purchase in higher volumes than newly acquired customers.

Retained customers are more likely to recommend others to become customers of the firm.

Customer retention strategies and tactics

Segmenting customers:

In the meltdown following the covid19 crisis, customers themselves face piles of bills, stagnant or falling incomes, and shrinking assets. Customers look to reduce costs while trying to stay operational.

These combined effect of these challenges makes it a difficult for marketers to prioritise focus areas and realign their sales and marketing strategy, not only during the economic slump but also in the recovery that will eventually follow. The first step in such a scenario must be to define the new customer segments that would develop in a downturn and prioritise your focus areas.

Customer are typical segmented based on demographics, size, revenue, industry, etc… In a downturn such segmentations may prove to be less relevant than a psychological segmentation based on consumers’ behavioural reactions to the economic downturn. We consider Harvard Business Review’s 2009 report on customer behaviour segments and adapt them map churn risks during current Covid19 crisis.

Defining customer persona based on their situation:

- Vulnerable: these customers are the hardest hit financially and they will reduce all types of spending

- Troubled but resilient: These customers have seen a material decline in finances, but have wide range of income levels and can hold on to weather the downturn.

- Comfortable but cautious: These customers feel financially secure and are cautiously optimistic about their ability to ride out the current downturn.

- Surging: These customers are doing well during the downturn and have seen their business grow and are looking for resources to keep up with the growth. Eg: FMCG retailers, online collaboration tools.

Needs based classification of products:

- Essentials: These goods and/or services are necessary for survival and essential for the business to keep lights on.

- Deferrable: These goods are needed to run the business, but can be reasonably postponed till later.

- Dispensable: These are good and or services that are perceived as unnecessary or not justified.

- Indulgence: These are goods that can be considered luxury items, whose purchase can be justified if purchased at a discount

Customer Risk Map

With the customers classified into segments based on their behavioural reaction, businesses will need to take stock of inventory of expected revenue and products at risk.

Revenue from contractual subscriptions can be considered secure. But revenue expected from commitments, but no contracts will be at risk. Revenue from one-off products will take a significant hit especially in the vulnerable and pained customers segments as these customers put a brake on new purchases whereas relatively comfortable customers will try to negotiate prices down.

Assess the revenues from products you had expected this year and sort them into simple categories.

When analysing products also consider competitor alternatives as they will be prime candidate for switching during down turn. Significant market share shift often occur during downturns as competing businesses try to acquire customer with discounts and

Product Risk Map

The benefits of customer retention are more pronounced in an economic downturn. During any downturn loyal customers are the primary, enduring source of much needed cash flow and organic growth. When customers cut down spending, they focus spending on partners they trust.

Businesses should avoid the trap of chasing revenues by trying to appeal to every potential customer, often through aggressive price discounting. New customers acquired with lower prices will often fail to buy more when the downturn is over and prices recover.

In every crisis there are hidden and significant opportunities surrounded by all the bad economic news. Data driven strategies and planned sales execution can help you uncover these opportunities.



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sid dhuri

I am data scientist by trade. I love to write about data science, marketing and economics. I am also the founder a marketing ai and automation platform.