The country is in lockdown 4.0. This is a much-relaxed lockdown, focussed on containment of the virus and gradually reopening the economy. 75% of India is in Green or Orange Zone and open for commerce. The retail fraternity is eager to get back to business now. Stores are implementing health and safety best practices including social distancing measures, limited store hours, elevated cleaning procedures, shopping by appointment, contactless operations etc.
While the stores are reducing risks all along the customer journey, gauging the mood of customers and personalizing customer outreach still remains a challenge.
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold, it’s impact on consumer’s expectations and their buying behaviour will become apparent. People will be cautious of walking into the stores. There will be no roaming around stores now, browsing aisles, try and buy— Shopping will no longer be a leisure activity like it used to be.
Key consumer trends to consider amid coronavirus crisis:
Consumers switched to online shopping, only leaving the house to buy the most essential items which they cannot buy online.
There is a rise in conscious buying. Consumers are more watchful of the stuff they are buying. They are preferring options which are more sustainable.
While consumers are at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, social, mobile and OTT usage have increased.
Consumers are preferring contactless delivery and payments
Getting the consumers to visit stores will require brands to show that they are making efforts to provide consumers with a safe shopping experience.
In a way, the crisis provided an opportunity for retailers to rapidly accelerate technology changes to their working technique. As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention”, and increasing technical efficiency during this tough time can be the key to business growth.
While a timeline to post coronavirus is still hanging by a thread, industry players have started to adapt to the new normal and adjust to cater to the changing customer behaviour.
Retailers need to take actions which can prepare them for their future and address immediate customer needs:
1. Meet your customers where they are
Don’t let the crisis distance you from your customers. Innovate business models to reach customers by bringing your business to their homes.
Look for more one to one communication channels riding on consumer’s new habit of shopping online. Be creative about the ways to personalize interaction with customers within the confines of their homes on a channel which is available easily to them- Mobile.
Combine the benefits of a physical store and an online store by using AI chatbots to sell products directly to consumers.
2. Share that you care
A few things will still linger in the minds of customers as the threat is still not over. Yes, there is pent up need to go out and shop, but it’s tempered by the fear.
Share how your brand is ensuring high level sanitization and hygiene practices in the store. Communicate about your new and safe trial room policies, regular temperature screening of staff is being done.
Share the steps you are taking to focus on customers’ needs. Announce new features like touchless procedures like contact less payments, appointment based shopping and digital receipts.
Communicate about how have come forward to support the effort to fight this pandemic, maintaining the staff strength and significantly the new Mantra: Vocal about Local. Many bigwigs have announced donations to various organisations working in this direction
Given the scenario, brands are not overtly communicating about their steep discounts. Marketers are informing customers about the availability of products, encouraging them to visit the store and hence boosting sales by creating brand visibility.
All the above outreach is generally done through channels which customers are already using, like social media for frequent communication, and to some extent TV Spots for larger brands. In a nutshell, above-the-line (ATL) marketing.
These initiatives are educational in nature to create a positive environment of shopping so customers can start visiting the store.
Channel deployed is ATL and is based on hope that customers would visit the store.
Adoption of ‘Phygital’ is the need of the hour
Utilizing Whatsapp Ubiquity and Mobile penetration buoyed by new love of online, retailers are looking at assisted shopping through Whatsapp chatbots and Webbots. Leveraging the loyalty data and analytics, relevant personalized campaigns for the customers can be initiated. The store staff can reach out to customers in vicinity and assist them to shop with same day delivery or curb side pickups.
Where customers are willing to venture out, they are assured to do so by booking appointments basis number of customers and customizable time slots. They can also pre-select the shopping items for better utilization of slots. The store can keep the items ready for trial.
The communication is based on past buying behaviours. Through analytics, relevant audience, products and offers are mapped. The assistance by store staff is embellished by ready insights like last product bought, preferred budget, and readiness to new purchase.
The one to one personalized communication has higher propensity to translate the interactions into business; the real need of retailers.
Even after the lockdown is lifted, social distancing will continue to be the new normal. Brands need to prepare for the future by reimagine their CX strategy and deliver fulfilling shopping experiences to customers.
Looking towards serving the needs of the consumers, EasyRewardz helps brands facilitating highly personalized campaigns, one on one interaction on the ubiquitous mediums through its highly intuitive and competitively priced offering Shopster.
Shopster is a plug-n-play retail toolkit that assists brands in driving offline sales by bringing store to home through conversational commerce.
“WhatsApp and WebBot commerce allows the store staff to contact customers and assist them throughout the sales process – from product discovery to delivery. Store staff can send product catalogues, customized recommendations, receive digital payments, ensure timely delivery of the product and seek customer’s feedback.”
Ultimately, COVID-19 is reshaping the customer experience and showing us the value of interaction and putting people first in order to grow the business. The way brands deal with their customers, employees, and the community in a crisis is likely to build stronger relationships.