Customer Expectations & Covid-19: What Every Retailer Needs to Consider
Covid-19 has delivered a variety of challenges for retailers to overcome, yet at the same time, opportunities have presented themselves during the Covid pandemic. Among the most exciting of these opportunities is the chance to bring unity and clarity to consumers—no matter where they may shop—thanks to the data generated from these various touchpoints. Whether online, in-store, via curbside pick-up, or local delivery, customers have heightened expectations of what they want from retailers, what they want for themselves, and how these two experiences need to merge in order for transactions to actually happen. Keeping this in mind, consider the following customer expectations, in direct response to Covid-19.
#1. Customers Want Connectivity Across All Online Touchpoints
Connectivity is an essential consideration for all retailers, particularly those aiming to increase sales despite obstacles created by Covid-19 or any other challenge. After all, without being connected and engaged with your customers, how can you sell to them?
Having a unified and organized solution that brings clarity to consumer behavior online—including social media sites, ecommerce platforms, and even general google searches—gives retailers the opportunity to expand their selling avenues and increase brand touchpoints. Using data from these online sources then allows merchants to better understand their pastimes, and where their customers spend time online—as well as where they don’t. Using this data, retailers can then optimize opportunities for both sales and marketing. Among the clarity gained, this data reveals brand strengths and weaknesses, trend opportunities, customer preferences, and more— ultimately positioning retailers to increase customer connectivity along the way.
Connectivity is an essential consideration for all retailers to consider, particularly those aiming to increase sales despite obstacles created by Covid-19 (or any other challenge, for that matter). After all, without being connected to customers, how can you sell to them?
#2. Customers Want Confidence in Their Return to Physical Stores
Capturing online data undoubtedly adds value to sales and marketing efforts, but this is not where the data intelligence ends. Leveraging online data can also support brick-and-mortar stores in their understanding, preparation, and efforts to reopen physical stores due to Covid-19. By reviewing and reacting to the data generated, stores can gain stronger clarity of their customers’ willingness to engage in-store as well as which weaknesses and strengths their brand may need to act upon.
There are many considerations to address to instill the customer confidence needed to entice shoppers back to physical store environments, including all of the following:
- Installing barriers in stores that separate customers and employees during the check-out process
- Identifying new floor plans that support social distancing
- Requiring face masks in stores
- Offering hand sanitizer to employees and customers alike
The National Retail Federation offers an extensive list of guidance procedures that retailers should follow as they reopen their stores, known as Operation Open Doors, which you can explore here.
Additionally, retailers should proactively invite their customers to share feedback on what their expectations, concerns, appreciations, and other thoughts might be surrounding their return to brick and mortar stores. Leveraging online tools with communication strategies can help retailers capture these unique details, which leads us to the next tip retailers should consider.
#3. Customers Want Communication to Be Clearer Than Ever Before
Globally, consumer income has decreased due to Covid-19 and thus, their spending patterns have shifted. Additionally, no longer can customers browse physical stores like they have in the past due to Covid-19 limitations. Neither can customers buy as impulsively as they have done in our not-so-distant history of retail. Because of these rapid and unexpected changes, brands need to be more proactive than ever in order to be memorable and meaningful to customers.
To help achieve communication that customers can relate to, brand messaging should be clear and relevant, while also sensitive and understanding to the current marketplace. This means translating brand perspectives and purpose through communication strategies that are relatable to your unique audience on their preferred channels—including but not limited to email, social media, in stores, or a collective combination of multiple touchpoints.
Additionally, it’s critical to deliver brand messaging in a timely fashion that connects to your customers when they need it. From providing clarity to what in-store shopping may look like, to offering updated return policies in response to Covid-19, to providing marketing messages that speak uniquely to your demographics of customers, communication is an essential aspect of a successful business. During and post-Covid-19, be sure that the brand messaging your business aligns with complements your customer expectations and the marketplace. It should also position your business to be competitive among other retailers. Many retailers and brands use automated techniques—such as Customer Data Platforms (CDPs)—to automatically examine and analyze customer data in real time.
Retailers must prioritize customer care from both a sales and marketing perspective. Customer connectivity, customer confidence and customer communication should be among the most sought after goals to help achieve stronger customer care, yet none of this can be performed at its best without letting data lead the way.
Prioritize Customer Care and Engagement
Covid-19 has caused many retailers to see significant declines in their sales, yet consumers are still spending. Keeping this in mind, retailers must prioritize customer care from both a sales and marketing perspective. Customer connectivity, customer confidence, and customer communication should be among the most sought-after goals, and none of this customer engagement can be executed well without letting data lead the way. Through ongoing analysis of customer data, retailers can gain a holistic understanding of customers that allow them to better identify new trends in retail that are right for their unique audience, gain updated insight on customer expectations, and provide visibility to the best avenues that will lead to engagement. Collectively, this is why retailers must keep a watchful eye on customer data that could flag quickly changing behaviors and sentiment—and prioritize customer expectations in response to Covid-19.
For more on how martech can help you understand customers and personalize customer journeys, check out this 2020 eTail report.