With de-escalation underway and consumer habits altered by the long confinement period, one of the most repeated words in the retail environment is uncertainty. The current situation has caused much apprehension, due to accumulating losses. For example, US retailing suffered a 16.4% drop in sales last April as well as on the other side of the Atlantic where UK retailing plummeted by 18.1% that same month.
With physical stores gradually opening and the relief of confinement, how will consumers react in the new normality? What features stand out in their new shopping attitudes? In our article, we look at how digital marketing must adapt to help support the recovery in the retail sector.
What are consumers looking for in times of uncertainty?
It is obvious that one of the biggest consumer concerns is to maintain a sense of control and security, which conflicts with the desire to go back to normal. Therefore, users are searching for more information online than ever before in order to know all the security procedures and measures taken before making the decision to visit a store. Hence, the creation of content adapted to the situation and its constant updating is becoming crucial to enhance organic positioning in times of uncertainty.
The complex economic situation has pushed users to a more practical approach in their purchases that, in many cases, means going back to basics. Not surprisingly, according to a survey by Bazaarvoice, in the United Kingdom, 64% of the respondents said they had either lost their job (22%), were waiting for an imminent adjustment (8%) or had suffered a reduction in working hours (34%). In the new normality, it will be difficult to replicate the shopping experience of the period prior to COVID-19, therefore, solutions that focus on comfort will be key in this regard. As an example, the reopening of the shops generates long queues in many places and yet the limited capacity ensures that, when you go inside, there is no feeling of crowding.
On the other hand, the lack of continuous supply has made consumers very open to trying out new brands and experiences. According to research conducted by the MIT Sloan Management Review in the United States, 76% of those surveyed have made first-time purchases in e-commerce they did not know about before the confinement and, in addition, 32% of users admit being open to innovate and acquire new branded products.
How should brands respond in retail?
Digital marketing plays a crucial role in the retail sector’s recovery strategy. The availability of online data facilitates the planning of a decisive response based on four fundamental pillars:
- Thinking less about products and more about solutions: during the confinement, many brands have focused their strategy on standing out from the competition. However, in volatile situations, there are no perfect products, but rather solutions tailored to the customer’s needs. For example, a tactic that follows this maxim is adjusting the website’s copywriting to emphasize those aspects that respond to the user’s search intention and placing them even before the brand itself.
- Research trends and consumer insights: studying the evolution of searches in real-time helps to anticipate and adapt the business strategy. For example, Google has created the Rising Retail Categories portal that allows you to research changes in online product demand. On the other hand, Microsoft is also publishing resources that can provide more insight into user behavior. In any case, it is not convenient to leave out of the equation the exhaustive monitoring of data from the brand’s own ecosystem as we discussed in our article on the post-COVID-19 strategy.
- Enhance loyalty programs: as has been proven during the coronavirus crisis, the line between habit and loyalty is very thin. With the physical shopping experience constrained by security requirements, loyalty programs are key to strengthening sales in offline and online retail, as they form a perfect communication platform to keep in touch with customers, inform them of offers and news, as well as, cultivate the relationship with the brand in a personalized way.
- Analyze customer feedback: With the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, many retailers have seen their supply chains disrupted, overwhelming their online sales channel. After the initial impact, it is time to analyze the failures that have occurred and try to make up for lost ground with the users. In this sense, the omnichannel will be a great ally to alleviate the logistic effort linked to e-commerce and will serve to reinvent and enhance the network of physical establishments in the new normality.
In the face of consumer uncertainty, innovation and adaptability are the best weapons retailers have at their disposal. Digital marketing provides the necessary tools to design and communicate new value offerings, thus creating a secure network to accompany customers in a different present and uncertain future.