Rebuilding The Consumer Journey In Covid’s Wake: The New Digital Age

June 1, 2020

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With COVID-19 causing a surge in online shopping, how can brands rebuild the online customer journey?

The phrase “new normal” may be attaining cliche status in record time, but that’s only because it’s so useful. The world we lived in just months ago is gone, and it’s becoming increasingly hard to imagine its return. In January you might have been envisioning boarding a plane to the Costa Del Sol, soaking up the sun, ending your day with a buffet seafood dinner and a jaunt around a crowded dance floor. Now that dream seems like a nightmare, and our fondest wishes involve a surgical mask and the return of football to empty stadiums. Life has thrown us all a curveball, and the retail industry has been thrown for a loop. But there will be profits galore for those who can visualize the future of retail at this precarious moment, and throw resources and energy into building the infrastructure needed to thrive. 

Will Changes Persist?

One of the most important questions you need to be asking is: which new consumer habits, choices, and behaviours will return to normal as restrictions are lifted and which will turn into permanent fixtures of the marketplace. The answer is likely to be different in different industries, product categories, demographics, and regions, but getting a head start on understanding these trends will be invaluable. A recent study from McKinsey shows that there has been a 55% increase in the intention to grocery shop online among Chinese consumers. The share of consumers over 45 years of age shopping online has also increased by 27% in the aftermath of the virus, with overall eCommerce increasing by as much as 6%.

In the UK, Ocado has reported they’ve been serving more households than ever before, with revenue up 40% in April year on year. They also claim that customer fulfilment centres are operating at capacity around the country. And while behaviour has returned to normal in some ways (the amount of items in each cart has returned to the usual levels and consumers are buying fresh food again instead of non-perishables). But the surge in demand for online grocery shopping and home delivery remains strong. A survey from Which? Found that one in three shoppers were unable to book the delivery in late April. Even those with priority placement in queues struggled, with 31% of shoppers over age 70 reporting an inability to book deliveries. Maximizing your capability to deliver household necessities has never been more important.

It seems that the desire to shop online, particularly in the FMCG industry, is likely to persist even when we become capable of providing vaccines and instant testing. What will this mean for the future of retail?

New online shoppers

We have long assumed that Millennials would lead the way in adopting and adapting to digital commerce, but retailers and brands should spend time re-imagining eCommerce for the middle-aged and elderly, two groups who are likely to be more cautious about returning to crowded supermarkets and shopping centres. While younger people show an eagerness to experiment with new technology and have a natural facility for all things digital, their parents might need a nudge down the road to eCommerce. 

The elderly are both incredibly motivated to experiment with digital commerce, but they are also without the support they need to navigate the process for the first time, particularly if they aren’t living with their children or grandchildren. If they’re on a fixed income they are likely to be particularly nervous about their orders, and will need reassurance throughout the process: their payment went through, the package is on its way, and any bumps in the road will need to be explained before their anxieties convince them that online isn’t for them. Building a platform that they are comfortable using and optimizing communication with them will likely pay off handsomely. 

New customer journeys and brand opportunities

Voice shopping is likely to be a game-changer as we emerge from isolation. With consumers eager to avoid contact with surfaces, returning to busy lives, and wary of crowded brick and mortar retailers, voice shopping seems poised for widespread adoption. It’s time to start building the tools to optimize your search strategies to reflect voice queries, and ensure relevant and shoppable results. Amazon’s partnership with Allrecipes to build Alexa skills is one example of companies working together to maximize market penetration and profit. Cooks need the freedom to work with their hands, which Alexa can provide. Allrecipes will benefit from giving amateur chefs freedom from cookbooks, and Amazon can funnel sales to its rapidly growing grocery business. Brands and retailers need to look for similar ways to offer convenience and relevant information while luring consumers into their sales funnels.   

Automatic replenishment is another massive opportunity to build businesses in the current climate. Customers who would already grumble when they realized the toothpaste tube was empty or the dog food had run out took little pleasure from their trips to the shops. When stress and danger are added to the experience, many will jump at the opportunity to replenish razor blades or toilet paper from the comfort of home. If you can use data and AI to track when a customer is likely to run out of a regularly used product, one nudge toward an automatic replenishment program could result in a lifetime of consumer loyalty. 

And for brands who are rightly nervous about relying on Amazon and other online platforms who have the potential to cannibalize your business or partner with a rival brand, creating a direct relationship with your customers is essential. The replenishment field is also extremely well-suited to voice shopping. If you can ensure same-day or next-day delivery for products that have predictable demand like kitty litter, breakfast cereal, or detergent, you can provide the convenience and safety that will ensure customer loyalty in the years to come. 

If your brand is ready to get serious about adopting the technology and strategies that will allow your business to thrive as the virus recedes into a memory, get in touch with Adimo today!

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