Shaping the New Retail Customer Experience
Its's no secret, the impacts of COVID-19 have been felt across the globe. After the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic in mid-March 2020, states began shelter-in-place initiatives and businesses closed their doors. Retailers looked for agile ways to stay engaged with customers and turned to e-commerce to fulfill their needs.
According to data from Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud platform, digital sales in the US were up 65% from January to May compared to that same time period in 2019. Even as states and stores began to open up, May’s digital sales growth was up over 120% compared to May 2019.
To better understand how consumer behaviors are changing in light of COVID-19, Salesforce Research has been conducting consumer surveys every two weeks. According to a survey they conducted starting on June 16th, 40% of Americans are shopping online now more than they did pre-COVID-19. Survey respondents were asked how their specific shopping activities have changed: 55% of Americans said that they’re shopping in stores less frequently than they did before the pandemic. 31% of Americans are doing more contactless delivery. When going into brick-and-mortar stores, Americans are choosing self-checkout and contactless payments more frequently, with 28% buying items online and picking up in store. Social media is gaining greater prominence with 13% of Americans buying products directly over social media platforms more than usual, with 41% spending more time on social media now than they did prior to the COVID-19.
Navigating the new world
Knowing what you now know about consumer behaviors, what can you do to adjust your customer experience to meet these new behavioral demands? How do you adjust communication and UX strategies from the traditional e-commerce conversion funnel to build consumer confidence? Let’s examine the Old World (OW = pre-COVID-19 era) vs the New World (NW = how we’re living now).
Starting in the Awareness stage, in the OW it was possible to generate awareness by leveraging social channels and other marketing efforts (like email, affiliates, etc.) to create demand generation and brand interest—things like sweepstakes, giveaways, and viral videos could really create a buzz. Today’s shoppers have shifted focus and are looking for the latest up-to-the-minute buying information. In the NW, social channels should be used as a way to distribute key communications—highlighting store hours, in-store shopping requirements, curbside pickup logistics, and more. Bigger retailers with multiple stores should leverage Google maps to list more specific store information. Affiliate feeds should be update to date with the latest warehouse and store-specific inventory. As big box retailers may be sold out of certain essential items, make sure your Google Merchant feed is up to date. This will help you capitalize on Google Shopping as customers start to look for their items elsewhere.
As we move down the funnel into Consideration, the OW leveraged UX best practices and focused on personalization throughout shop flow to increase cart size and product exposure for online channels—as well as on cross-sells, upsells, and videos to support product detail pages (PDP). In the NW, focus should shift to providing information about new store regulations, store availability, and estimated delivery dates. When implementing curbside pickup, inform customers of the new pickup process and help customers navigate in-store experiences. Consider adding new information on the PDP about pickup timing or use a global banner to set clear expectations before customers even enter into the purchase flow.