Retaining Users During The COVID-19 Pandemic

There are some companies that simply won’t recover after COVID-19, regardless of their strategies of coming back. Many of them are retailers that weren’t ready with their digital properties. And there are some companies that seem like they’ve been preparing for this crisis to hit, and their customer acquisition has skyrocketed. 

What happens if we find a cure for COVID-19 next week, and we all go back to normal? What happens if we never find a cure? How do you possibly prepare for that? And what are you doing about customer retention now

There is one thing we all know to be true: Companies that are more digitally prepared will succeed. And a big part of that is user retention.

I believe there are two ways to retain customers during this pandemic. The first is to think about what you can do now, in the short and near term. And the second is to plan for post-COVID, which is a longer-term strategy. 

Short/Mid-term — It’s all about education and customer satisfaction

Here’s what I know, and what I accept to be true: The pandemic is going to be ongoing for a minimum of 6-12 more months. Even with the vaccine being accelerated, we’re looking at a long-time.

So, here are the questions you need a solid answer for in the short-term:

  • What growth levers do we need to pull right now to retain our customers longer? Is it activation, engagement, or re-engaging customers that have churned?
  • Are we staying in contact with our customers to understand what their true needs are?
  • Are we following up with customers who churned to understand why they turned?
  • How has product usage changed since the pandemic occurred? How will that change our product development direction?
  • Was our product more in-demand prior to COVID or during it?

Long-term, post-COVID — Planning for a new future 12 months from now.

It’s funny that the term “long-term strategy” used to mean planning for 5-10 years out, and now it means 12 months. 2020 is a wild year. And of course, I have no idea when the cure will come, if ever. 

Here are questions to ask as you plan for the position of your product in 12 months:

  • How will our customers’ use cases change once COVID-19 is over?
  • How will our customers’ use cases change if we never find a cure?
  • Will our customers need our product even more, or will they need it less?
  • Are we assuming that once it goes back to normal that all of our customers will come back full-force just like they did before, or did they adopt a new habit to solve the same problem?
  • What habits will they have changed?
  • What happens if the use cases change? How will we be prepared for that?
  • How can we test and experiment before their use cases change?

The long-term approach for many companies is simple: Don’t wait, experiment with new features and products right now.

The reality is that your guess is better than my guess on what’s going to happen in the future. But, what you should do is create a mindset that whatever happens, user behavior will change, and if you’re trying to figure out what that change is AFTER it happens, you’ve lost.

Zoom was in a great position to succeed because they already had the best-performing remote conferencing product in the market before the pandemic hit. So any long-term strategy that involves waiting to see what happens is automatically a loser.

2020 has been a crazy year, and I truly hope we find a cure and go back to “normal” sooner rather than later. But what I do know is that although I hate saying “the new normal” with a passion, it’s true.

Prepare for the new normal right now. Ask yourself the questions above, and start getting to work on the next version of your product, even if you’ve benefited from the pandemic.

Stay safe everyone.