Statistically speaking, the pandemic has had a profound impact on how consumers are making decisions, as well as on the factors that lead to customer love or customer dissatisfaction.
In addition to the uptick in online shopping and direct delivery, we’ve also seen consumers embracing new options on everything from where to source their food and how to stay fit and well, and how they're increasingly prioritizing all things close to home. The Jackman Human Insight study, which has surveyed approximately 4,500 consumers on a rolling basis since the outset of pandemic, has revealed how familiar themes and trends we've been keeping an eye on for some time are now amplifying and getting more extreme.
1. The Rise and Importance of Making Experiences Easy Across Channels
Easy was growing in importance before, but now it truly is a de-selection factor, a key reason consumers drop their pursuits mid-transaction online or drop an armful of stuff mid-shop because of a long checkout line or a complicated in-store experience. Today, if it’s hard, it’s over. Not just in the moment but most likely forever. Consumers are telling us life is hard enough these days — shopping must be easy. Retailers have to look at the possible pain points they’re creating that makes the shopping process more difficult for customers.
For example: Can they see your inventory from their phones? Can they transparently track their order in real time? Do they need to start again when moving from one channel to another? Can they be assured that the price you offered in one channel will be guaranteed in another, and your best price is the one you give to them as a reward for their loyalty? If not, you’re not easy by today’s standard.
2. The Need for Speed
This is a consumer trend we’ve seen building for some time and is now accelerating. What once was a "nice to have" and a sort of surprise and delight factor (“Wow, I can get that altered today" or "That item is available for delivery tomorrow?”) is increasingly a "must have" for most consumers today. In fact, 29 percent of consumers rank speed of shipping and delivery as their most important online purchase driver. Getting what we want when we want is primary to more and more people, amplified further by the anxiety brought about by the pandemic’s disruption to supply chains. Regardless of your strategy, you cannot ignore consumers’ growing need for immediacy, as tough and economically challenging as that may be these days.
3. Seamless Channel Choreography
While data confirms that fast and easy are increasingly, even urgently important, these two factors alone aren’t enough. What brings it all together is getting the channel choreography right. Consumers value digital and physical channels and intend to keep using both. We know from our consumer insight work that both must be designed to work together to meet consumer expectations. In the consumer’s mind there aren’t multiple channels; there's one channel, the customer channel, a valued and connected customer experience across touchpoints.
Stores are definitely not dead and will continue to be an important part of the customer channel into the future. Approximately 36 percent of consumers surveyed see equal value in doing their pre-purchase homework online AND in stores, and regularly do both. In fact, given an either/or choice, 69 percent of them indicated they still prefer to shop in stores, with only 29 percent having a strong preference for digital channels alone.
While stores are seeing traffic upticks again and online purchasing continues to hold as a now normal part of today’s shopping scene, the only thing retailers have yet to figure out — at least in most cases not as well as they must to meet consumer expectations — is how to choreograph a beautiful, efficient and customer-centric relationship across channels. This takes effort and a clear and actionable strategy. What’s the right role of the store today in a truly digital world? How do digital and physical best come together? Where and how can we deepen customer engagement beyond the transactional? These are the questions every retailer is grappling with today as consumer expectations continue to shift.
4. Defendable Value
Consumers have cared about value — quality over price — for, well, forever. But I would describe value differently today, as an evolution toward quality over price and accessibility (considering my first points on ease of access and speed). This uptick in value sensitivity wasn’t created by any particular economic force, like a recession, but the ease with which we can all instantly price compare combined with a growing sense of what constitutes a fair price. It's still surprising to see retailers trying to fake or obfuscate their true positions on value. In an omnichannel, technology-enabled and social media world it’s no longer possible. Rather, retailers must accept that the curtain drawn back by technology to reveal the truth in pricing and value will remain open. Therefore, they must work harder at creating real and defendable value positions, and get full credit for where and how it's delivered.
5. Values Counting as Much as Value
Let’s return to the research. What's new in the data we're seeing, or at least newly nuanced and becoming more of an outsize factor in consumer decision making? The rise of values alongside value. Your own company’s values, and how they show up to your customers, matter more today. In fact, your customer loyalty is likely riding on it. Fifty-seven percent of consumers today are willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact, and 40% of them are actively seeking products and services that align with their values. These values can be expressed in a variety of ways, from a brand’s position on sustainability or its own internal culture and treatment of employees. It could be where a brand stands on the pressing issues of the day that matters to consumers, including social and political, or whether the brand invites consumers into a true community where they can engage with content, experts and each other.
Values as a decision-making framework are becoming increasingly important for younger people in particular. Seventy percent of Gen Z and millennials say they believe a brand should have a purpose they personally believe in, as compared to 48 percent of baby boomers. Increasingly, data say it's your values and how you bring them to life that will be your most potent and meaningful differentiator.
So, which of the aforementioned things are most important to get right?
The way I think of it is this: speed, ease and value keep you in the game, and values are what give you the means and permission to deepen your engagement with customers on what increasingly matters more to them. While many of these trends have been around for a while, in a (hopefully) post-pandemic world they're clearly growing in importance. If a brand can’t be perfect or leading on the dimensions I’m describing, at least it shouldn’t get too far away from the bar set by its best competitors.
In summation, ease across channels, speed to fulfilment, and defendable value are new table stakes of competitive strategy, and values are emerging as the surprising WIN.
Joe Jackman is the CEO and founder of Jackman Reinvents, the world’s first and foremost reinvention company. He's also the author of "The Reinventionist Mindset: Learning to love change and the human how of doing it brilliantly."
Joe Jackman is the CEO of Jackman Reinvents, the world’s first and foremost reinvention company and author of The Reinventionist Mindset: Learning to love change and the human how of doing it brilliantly. Throughout his 30+ career as strategist, creative director, marketer, and Reinventionist, he has helped companies create the most powerful and relevant versions of their brands and businesses in record time; he is widely considered to be the leading expert on rapid reinvention. To learn more, visit www.joejackman.com and connect with Joe Jackman on LinkedIn and Instagram.