How Consumers Have Changed Their Habits Amid COVID-19, and 3 Tips for Retailers to Adapt
As the nation continues to endure COVID-19, consumers have shifted their buying behaviors. Consumers have gone digital as a result of the pandemic, and retailers must adapt accordingly. Data from a recently released report from SOCi found that while consumers switched to digital, so did multilocation businesses. It’s important to take a more in-depth look into how and why consumers' purchasing habits have changed due to the pandemic. This article provides three tips on how retailers can adapt accordingly.
1. Social media must be a part of your digital strategy.
As data in the report above proved, social media must be incorporated into your company's digital marketing strategy to stay visible to consumers during this difficult time. In March, SOCi reported double-digit increases in social posts, with the highest increase on Google My Business (GMB) with a 39 percent increase. Since many consumers turn to social to provide them with up-to-date local business information, reflecting these updates across your social channels is imperative.
For instance, if your brand has adjusted its hours due to the pandemic or has special hours for seniors or healthcare workers, that should be highlighted across your social media channels. Additionally, use social media to highlight what safety precautions are in place as stores begin to reopen. How have cleaning protocols changed? Are employees required to take extra measures to stay safe? This is the type of information consumers are looking for on social media; ensure this is represented across all social profiles.
2. Start with Google, fine-tune on Facebook.
For brands looking to increase their volume of reviews, Google is the place to start. GMB claims three out of every four new local reviews for multilocation brands. However, Facebook continues to have more positive reviews than any other site when comparing the top three platforms for online reputation — Google, Facebook, and Yelp. If your business lacks reviews, now is an excellent time to encourage consumers to leave them. Reviews matter. In fact, positive online reviews are the No. 1 factor influencing purchase decisions.
If resources allow, having a presence on all three major platforms is imperative. Consumers often check multiple review sites before making a purchase, meaning a positive online reputation is essential for your brand. If other platforms are commonplace for reviews in your sector of the retail industry, like Tripadvisor or Expedia, consider also investing in those platforms. While it's great to have a presence on these platforms, it's also necessary to ensure that your brand is active and receiving reviews from consumers. Without reviews, your presence on these platforms loses value.
While the volume of reviews can help your business when it comes time for consumers to make a purchase decision, responding to reviews is also crucial for a positive online reputation. When responding, personalization is key.
3. Localized search is a trend here to stay.
The pandemic has led to a shift in how consumers look for local business information. Local search, local social, and ratings and review sites were where people turned to first to find the up-to-date information they needed to make a purchase decision. However, this habit didn’t start during the pandemic, it only intensified. Our report showed that a strong localized marketing presence resulted in higher visibility for the brand and 3X the results in terms of revenue growth rate, proving the value of a localized strategy.
To take market share in this digital-first world, brands must claim 100 percent of local pages on top search and social platforms, and populate the pages with up-to-date information.
Moving Forward With Digital Marketing
With a better understanding of how consumers have changed their habits and how retailers need to adjust, your brand is prepared to meet consumers where they’re spending even more time online. While there's no promise of when things might go back to a new normal, your brand can begin making changes to its digital marketing efforts to meet consumers where they're at — on social and reputation platforms.
As a brand in today's society, it's essential to be agile and adjust to the times as they change. Through a prominent search and social media presence, your brand can stay visible throughout these difficult times and be in an even better position to rebound when the country begins to emerge from the pandemic.
Monica Ho is the chief marketing officer at SOCi, an all-in-one platform built for "next-level" multilocation marketers to reach and engage local customers across limitless locations.