Retail Success Post-COVID Will Rely on Understanding New Customer Mindsets
Almost nine months after COVID-19 started making its mark on the United States, lockdown restrictions and widespread working-from-home offices have caused many American consumers to rethink their shopping habits. While we still don’t know exactly when the pandemic will be declared over, what is clear is that the post-pandemic retail world will be different to what came before.
If brands are to thrive in this new environment, it's important that they understand the intricacies of these new mindsets, and adapt their offerings accordingly.
A Paradigm Shift
The shift from in-store to online has been dramatic. While recent figures show online sales growth slowing since June as retailers started reopening their physical stores, total online sales for 2020 are expected to surpass those of the entirety of 2019 by October 5. It's a true paradigm shift, and one that’s likely to become permanent in some capacity.
There's no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to rethink our spending habits, and this is requiring brands to reconsider their customers and how they market to them. We've seen three clear customer mindsets develop over the last few months and expect them to impact consumer behavior post-pandemic. These consumers are:
- Sustainable and Socially Aware Customers: Many people have become much more conscious of their shopping behavior and its environmental and social impact. They've used the last few months to rethink their habits, and are now committing themselves to a more sustainable approach in the long term.
- Apprehensive Customers: Millions of consumers are nervous about setting foot inside a physical store again or purchasing from an online retailer for the first time. These are the kind of customers that need to be supported in every possible way, especially when it comes to finding the right product and making sure their experience is an efficient one.
- ‘Value-Add’ Customers: Many consumers are having to get by on less and have spent months worrying about their incomes during the pandemic. As a result, people have become more conscious about the need to get real value from their purchases. Again, these customers need guidance to ensure they pick the right product the first time.
Overhauling Customer Guidance: Enter IGS
The next great challenge for brands and retailers is to gain an in-depth understanding of what makes these customers tick, and to implement the approaches and technologies necessary to give them a comprehensive, personalized online purchase experience.
This is where retail technologies will really make their mark in the next few months, with intelligent guided selling (IGS) set to play a leading role.
IGS works by simplifying online customer journeys through enriching and analyzing customer data and applying search, recommendation and segmentation logic. This data is then condensed into a small number of relevant, real-time product recommendations that help consumers make complex purchases — such as a new cellphone or internet subscriptions — with ease and confidence.
Effectively, tech like IGS helps retailers to replicate the traditional in-store experience, where sales advisors ask qualifying questions and guide customers through their choices, in the online world. This means that all customers are delighted, whether they want to be socially responsible in their shopping, are worried about purchasing just the right thing, or want to make sure they get the right product the first time.
Being Human, Every Step of the Way
The ultimate goal for retailers now is to be human in every interaction with their customers. The landscape has evolved and consumers aren’t the same as they once were. The companies that are wise to these new mindsets are the ones that will set themselves up for success going forward.
Brad Christian is the chief customer officer at Conversity, the global leader in intelligent guided selling platforms.