Consumer behaviours have changed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Anne Jarry, Director of Marketing at Selligent Marketing Cloud, outlines these changes and what marketing leaders can do to meet these shifting expectations.
2020 was no doubt a game-changing year for many reasons. During the year, we saw consumer behaviours evolve and shift in response to the changing world around us, and many of these new ways of shopping are here to stay.
The reliance on digital means has increased so dramatically, as both brands and consumers were forced to meet demands of national lockdowns and social isolation. With it, this new way of living has brought a whole new set of expectations that consumers now expect from brands, if they want them to retain their trust and loyalty.
Right now, it is business critical for brands to ensure they are providing customers with what they want and expect, that compliments the new ways in which consumers are browsing, researching products and brands and , ultimately, spending money.
So, what does this now look like for brands?
Communication with Customers Speaks Volumes
The ways in which consumers are shopping online has changed dramatically over the last 12 months. Online shopping has taken the centre stage, along with an increased demand for essential items, as we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, when panic buying caused a shortage of items such as pasta, toilet roll, hand wash and online delivery slots. According to Selligent’s most recent consumer survey, 60% consumers now focus on buying essential items and almost a third (29%) say that the way they shop has changed permanently.
Changes in employment have had a big impact on the way consumers are shopping, with 75% of global respondents reporting that they now have less work than they did a year ago. Although the economy and jobs market are on the road to recovery, these cautious approaches to spending will be around for a while yet. For this reason, it is vital for brands to ensure they are catering for the cost-conscious of their customer base, for example by providing lower cost alternatives or regularly offering discounts.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There is optimism amongst consumers, with the vast majority (82%) believing they will soon become employed again. With this, there will also be long term changes in ways of working, with over half respondents believing that working remotely will be part of their future. For brands, more people working at home means greater opportunities to cater to the new work / life balance. This may not be great news for the high street, but it does pave the way to cater for and reach consumers in new ways, via digital channels.
For example, the same report found that 64% of consumers now want mobile and contactless pick-up or check-in options. Hybrid shopping is a trend that will continue to grow as we head into the 2020’s, and will no doubt become industry standard as part of a seamless, efficient and flexible omnichannel approach to customer support and offerings.
Good Customer Experience Is King
The shift in behaviour that we have seen over the past twelve months has brought many challenges for brands, but the good news is that customers are actually more patient now than they were before. But this has come as a result of brands making more of an effort to provide good customer service for customers. 38% of consumers surveyed as part of Selligent’s Consumer Index, agreed that brands have made a considerable effort to improve customer experience in the last year, so it’s good that this focus has not gone unnoticed.
Brands cannot and should not underestimate the true power that comes with a flexible, empathetic customer service. It’s not only about quality products and competitive pricing, brands are now also judged on their ability to serve customers. Those who get it right will see customers sticking around.
Brands cannot and should not underestimate the true power that comes with a flexible, empathetic customer service.
Director of Marketing, Selligent Marketing Cloud
Did you know that 75% of consumers prefer to receive brand communications via email or mobile, and only a third will contact customer support via phone?
There is an increased need for customer service to be present across multiple channels; it’s not just email and phone anymore, but text, online chat and social media too. Consumers are consuming brands in many more ways than before, which means marketing also needs to expand to cover more ground, in order to successfully reach customers and prospects.
The brands that can adapt in this way and successfully combine both in-personal and digital offerings together seamlessly will see the biggest gains when it comes to recovery. This omnichannel way of operating, allows brands to cater for ever-changing customer needs, addressing important real-time updates, especially in times like these when nobody really knows what is around the corner.
From times of adversity comes opportunity, and the pandemic has shown brands that there is a real need to instil consumer confidence. This is done by strengthening offerings, being relevant and truly understanding what customers want and need.
Changes in Customer Loyalty
Loyalty, when it comes to the relationship between consumers and brands, has taken a turn over the past year. Before, the meaning of loyalty was largely based on brand name and reputation, however, now only 8% of consumers say that brand name is important. The real distinguishing factor now, is brands that provide benefits to customers in the form of sales, discounts, perks and freebies. These are now the most valuable form of communication for brands, as they show care towards customers.
Whilst this gives brands an opportunity to build trust in a different way to before, there is a fine balance to establish as 40% of consumers admitted to unsubscribing from multiple brand emails, 55% because they received too many.
Privacy & Trust Go Hand in Hand
Consumers are more aware of privacy settings now than ever before, and 64% of consumers said that privacy is more important to them than good online experience. But how do marketers build trust with this new age of consumers?
The key is in paying attention to needs and preferences.
Brands must make the effort to collaborate with consumers to create a highly personalised experience, but also respect their need for greater privacy controls by being open and honest about what customer data is being used for and why. Together, the more transparent a brand is about privacy, the more consumers are likely to trust, and the more data can be collected to provide a highly personalised experience.
The world may have changed a lot in the last year, but ultimately the customer still comes first. A customer-first focus will enable marketers to truly understand their audience, what they want, what they need, and build loyalty and trust in a whole new way. It’s up to brands to keep up with consumers, those who do so successfully will reap the rewards.
About Our Guest Writer
Director of Marketing, Selligent Marketing Cloud
Anne Jarry leads the marketing efforts at Selligent Marketing Cloud for Europe and North America. She has held several positions at Selligent, working with the company for fifteen years to bring their omnichannel marketing cloud platform to global organisations.