The countdown to the great post-lockdown reopening is on, with marketers’ minds ticking with ideas of how to give their teams and customers a warm, authentic welcome back, while recognising that remote working and social distancing will continue to influence these relationships.
For brands like Samsara, Get Living and Student.com (see box out), the strategic use of meal and ride vouchers and gift cards on Uber for Business has helped them stay connected with key audiences during the challenges of the past year. Use cases have included encouraging attendance and adding value to virtual events, enhancing user experiences and offering a customer incentive that suits today’s contexts.
Head of Uber for Business UK, Tim Burgess, reveals that the pandemic drove a surge in the use for gift cards on Uber for Business from businesses with a need to have Uber Eats meals delivered to people’s homes in lieu of traditional office catering. He also cites a growing demand for meal and ride vouchers, as well as pay-as-you-go gift cards, as part of recalibrated hospitality and benefits programmes.
“The last 12 months has made marketers ask the question – how can we add value in this current climate?” says Burgess. “We’ve had feedback that sending a thank you pizza is better than sending a thank you email.”
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Building relationships virtually
Creatively rekindling a connection through shared virtual experiences has helped strategic creative agency Designate maintain and build client relationships over the past 12 months.
“We’ve been keeping a careful eye on the amazing transformation of businesses both big and small which began catering for virtual audiences. We’ve been using ingenious cocktail delivery companies which nailed make at home cocktail kits or local Instagram businesses which delivered grazing platters. We also wanted to offer our support to the small businesses which adapted during the pandemic,” explains director Miram Boote.
Building good physical connections over occasionally bad internet connections, adds Boote, has helped break up the dreaded and ubiquitous Zoom fatigue.
“This has been particularly true of our clients in the travel sector, who have been unable to do any actual marketing and have been going through the pain of cost cutting and restructuring for most of the last 12 months,” Boote adds.
“We have kept our brand engaged, relevant and front of mind with them, have kept in touch with their commercial realities and priorities and have been able to be proactive in helping most of them get ready for relaunch into the post-Covid market.”
Engagement and value exchange
But whether marketers choose to spice up a meeting with a meal voucher or virtual experience, the key to success is making the purpose of that engagement clear – the hospitality is the icing on the cake, notes Marius Nedelcu, chief marketing officer of money transfer service TransferGo.
“Keeping these objectives front-of-mind during virtual meetings helps teams to stay focused and inspired to meet them. Good management and leadership will breed inspiration and a willingness to be productive, creative and drive new projects. The art of relationship building is the human presence and affirmation,” he advises.
Marketers should also use vouchers and hospitality as a strategic value exchange and as a springboard to tell engaging brand stories, recommends Catherine Loftus, head of brand for Bird and Blend Tea Co. And most importantly, she emphasises that vouchers in particular should be offered to selected customers who need the extra prompt to purchase.
Loftus gives the example of Bird and Blend’s new “micro-community” of its most prolific customers, which she describes as being “tied to a very specific mutual exchange of value”. This has involved giving its top 500 customers vouchers in return for reviewing and feeding back on its new website. The community also receives access to the brand’s founders, behind-the-scenes concert, and the chance to get involved in new product development.
“Then the voucher isn’t the primary message – it becomes part of a way of activating our community and doing vouchers in a way that feels more on brand to us,” Loftus sums up.
“The biggest advice I would give to brands thinking about experimenting with vouchers and gifts is to think very carefully about who it is going to, what it is you’re actually giving away, and when in the customer journey it is.”
Key points in the customer journey
It’s a point seconded by TransferGo’s Nedelcu, who suggests that brands who offer gift cards or vouchers too early in a relationship risk customers taking advantage of the offer once and moving on.
“The key moment where they can make the biggest impact is when a customer is on the verge of conversion after already being sold on the brand story,” Nedelcu believes.
“As a result, when new or existing customers come to use our service, incentives are just another step on their journey. It’s likely they have already decided to buy our service but a voucher or gift can answer the question of ‘why now?’. In a post-pandemic world, successful brands will understand the difference between using incentives as a sole driver of sign-ups and retention, or as the final piece in the jigsaw of customer experience.”
Indeed, Uber for Business’s Burgess recommends marketers look at vouchers and incentives through a “cost versus impact” matrix, and review key push points in the customer journey.
“It’s worth seeing where there are funnel drop-offs where you can tweak and simplify points to optimise towards a conversion,” he says.
How brands are adding value for customers and employees
Creating an enjoyable buying experience goes a long way towards building strong relationships between brands and customers, especially as in-person interactions remain challenged by distancing restrictions.
Vouchers and gift cards on Uber for Business give marketers an easy, practical way to build trust throughout the buying cycle. Brands can engage with prospects during their journey and enhance the experience by offering them an Uber Eats meal as an incentive to buy, as a reward for their loyalty, or as a thank you for booking a meeting.
Meal delivery also gives marketers the opportunity to inject energy into an online event. Whether it’s for a round-table, webinar, virtual conference or company-wide meeting, meal delivery can be used as a surprise, thank you, prize or reward.
Samsara: sparking employee innovation
Internet of things company Samsara usually hosts regular get togethers for colleagues to stay up to date with its rapid pace of innovation. After Covid-19 hit, it was clear that the August 2020 sales kick off event would need to be virtual.
While options for hosting videos and presenting speakers online were straightforward, the best way to host lunch for attendees was less clear. The idea of asking employees to buy their own lunch to a set budget and get reimbursed via expense reports could have created over 45 hours of work. Vouchers for Uber Eats then emerged as an alternative.
Vouchers are time-bound, configurable meal benefits delivered to the recipient as a unique code, so Samsara could set the voucher rules and policy controls, plus track redemption rates.
Since the success of the event, the Samsara team has begun using Vouchers for Uber Eats to connect with employees, customers and prospects during lunch-and-learns and other virtual events.
Get Living: rewarding residents
Meanwhile, Get Living, which operates 3,000 rental homes across London and Manchester, partnered with Uber for Business to reward residents and future customers, while going the extra mile to add convenience to their daily lives.
Get Living was looking for a way to help residents travel safely, as well as for a convenient and safe way to deliver meals to their doorstep. Get Living residents now receive up to £150 per month during their first 12 months to spend on Uber and Uber Eats.
Student.com: offering greater confidence to customers
Similarly, Student.com, the world’s largest student accommodation marketplace, needed to find a ground transportation option that helped reduce travel safety concerns. Using Uber for Business, Student.com can offer every student booking accommodation via the platform a voucher for an airport transport with Uber for Business.
Student.com and Uber for Business are also now partnering to build a co-branded version of the Uber app, offering students discounts, complementary meals with Uber Eats and other incentives. This way, the relationship between students and Student.com will continue throughout the academic year, creating a stronger bond and building their brand.