There is no denying that social distancing, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has had an impact on consumer spending behaviour. In general, consumers are buying relatively more goods than services and they are buying them online.
This shift in consumer behaviour has forced organisations to modify their offering and operations, and many have increased their digital shopfronts and technological capabilities to survive and thrive.
More consumers are increasingly relying on e-commerce to fulfill their essential needs. Consumers are therefore evaluating a brand through a different lens, with the process and experience of shopping online, and the fulfilment of orders, becoming an important indicator of brand value.
In times of instability and uncertainty, consumer confidence is critical. To achieve this, businesses need to go beyond what is expected and offer outstanding service. Showing empathy and prioritising an exceptional online customer experience will help elevate a brands value.
If your business hasn’t already adapted to the current e-commerce environment, you may be left behind. Here are some tips on how to adapt:
Understand your consumer
How well do you really understand your online customer behaviours?
Knowing this is critical to lead generation and repeat business. Understanding your customer, and providing what they want is the key to good customer service which in turns helps to build and retain loyalty. It is often difficult to understand consumer behaviours, however, consider adopting the following practices:
- Track consumer behaviours through your online sales results, eNewsletters, social media efforts
- Identify segments within consumer groups
- Commit to social listening and engagement
Develop a targeted offering
Target your product or service to your different market segments. Rarely will a one size fits all approach be enough in today’s micro marketing and personalised environment.
Build an online community
Building a community is all about relationships and interaction. The best way to build an online community is to prioritise your consumer’s needs. First review your current digital practices. Consider:
- is the content accurate and up to date?
- Is it easy to use?
- Does it provide enough/relevant information to lead a consumer to purchase online?
- Is your Google page up to date?
- Are you committed to social media:
- Are you posting consistently and with content that is relevant to your consumer?
- Are you responding to comments and questions in a timely manner?
- Is your about us, open times, website details all up to date?
- Are you utilising stories, IGTV and all the other popular tools available on social platforms?
Online vs Bricks and mortar
Just as you may spend time setting up a bricks and mortar store, you should dedicate the same amount of time setting up your online sales avenues. Consider the sales process and customer experience, for example, imagine a person wanting to purchase a clothing item. In a bricks and mortar store, the shop person may be extremely helpful in providing advice on appearance, size, mixing and matching articles of clothing, care instructions, and return policies. Your online store should emulate the physical experience as much as possible to provide the consumer with an exceptional online experience and all the information they need to make a purchase.
Work with reliable delivery partners
When running an e-commerce business, one thing you absolutely need to get right is your delivery service as its key to consumer satisfaction.
A poor delivery service may not only negatively impact your customers brand perception and any hope of repeat business, but social media and other digital platforms now allow consumers to vent their anger online. If one customer writes a negative review about your delivery service, it is going to put others off purchasing your offering.
Although we are slowly learning to live with the impacts of the pandemic, and the recent release of a vaccine provides hope, there will be continued concerns around travel (particularly international travel) and visiting places where the possibility of contracting COVID-19 is higher.
As a result, eCommerce will continue to be a major component of consumer spending for years to come. The trends we expected to evolve over the course of several years have been accelerated to become the ‘new norm’, presenting a wake-up call for every business around the world.
In terms of eCommerce capabilities, those businesses who were well placed before COVID-19 need to continue to be vigilant and those that have lagged, it is time to act now.