by Malay Sapra
COVID-19 made a huge dent to in-store traffic. In general, the “shelter at home” guidance from the government put a lot of social pressure on Americans to be mindful of the health of themselves and others by avoiding places where crowds might be present. While many large brands and companies were able to stay open and in business, there were others that were forced to close due to not falling under the guidelines of an “essential business.”
Those that were able to stay open saw a significant drop in revenue through the brick-and-mortar channel. With many people fearing what might happen to them while out and about in public, many are resorting to online avenues to fulfill their shopping needs.
It’s scary, but what can’t be found online? Groceries, vitamins, toilet paper, activities for kids, and lasers! It’s like there is no need to ever go outside to buy something again.
For lots of B2C companies, that’s just not the case. They’ve figured it out and are already in front of you wherever they can be. However, this might be a wakeup call for B2B businesses.
The ecosystem of selling online isn’t just eCommerce anymore. It’s everywhere. It needs to be everywhere, and we had to learn this on the fly when our traditional approaches to shopping weren’t there for us when we needed them most (*cough* toilet paper).
Digital Commerce is more than just buying products and services online. At its core, it’s building an ecosystem of governance, processes, people, technology, and tools, including research and marketing activities all focused around the customer’s buying journey.
However, that will soon change as companies begin to question their existing supply chains, where they do business (channels), and where they want to be in 10 years. This is a critical period that will significantly influence the future for many companies.
As consumers engage in new behaviors dictated by social distancing, some will immediately embrace and call it their new way of being while others may revert back to the old ways of doing things.
A strong example of this is telehealth.
Traditionally every person would have to go in person to see a doctor or therapist or some healthcare professional and if you had insurance, that visit would be fully or partially covered. In the age of social distancing, this approach isn’t recommended.
Here’s the thing – the internet has been around for a while now, and so has telehealth. Insurance companies just don’t support it and hence it hasn’t been used very heavily and was traditionally looked to for only special conditions.
Telehealth is now one of the primary ways to continue health treatment and “visit” the doctor (minus all the equipment). Insurance companies are now allowing it, and we are finding it is more convenient, efficient, and cost effective. Apparently, a remote visit is all that was ever needed in the first place.
Let’s ask ourselves similar questions for ecommerce from the telehealth example…
- Why isn’t commerce online for everything already?
- Do we really need brick and mortar and online stores for everything?
- How can I make sure I’m getting what I need when I need it in the way I want it?
Our New World
Our new way of commerce will be defined by three core principals:
- Customers expect all businesses to be available online.
- Customers want to be acknowledged and shown that they are cared for during marketing, transactional, and service related interactions that happen online, just as they would in real life.
- Creating a seamless online customer experience is essential for every company.
Customers expect all businesses to be available online
Commerce as it was prior to Covid will no longer work for many because customer expectations have drastically changed. Not being able to find what you need online will not only upset customers, but it will cause them to take their business elsewhere. Not finding the right info when they are looking for it will also frustrate and cause them to share their emotions to friends, colleagues, and in online forums.
Every company will be expected to engage with customers using online platforms if they want to keep them engaged with brands and offerings.
Companies who choose not to invest in digital experiences will feel the loss of their customer base that expects to transact digitally. All operations need to show that the customer really is at the center of it all and that everything the business does is in support of the customer.
Companies that were able to support the rapidly changing need in the market were successful. The need ranged from bread machines to cat food and some items which typically wouldn’t be thought to be bought online like refrigerators had no other option but to be bought online.
Even after we go back to opening up the world post COVID-19, these expectations will remain and become the new normal. It will show who was really listening to the customers during their time of need.
By focusing on the internal ecosystem of governance, processes, people, technology, and tools, including research and marketing activities to be focused around the customer’s buying journey, and nothing else, companies can stay relevant and excel.
Customers want to be acknowledged and shown that they are cared for during marketing, transactional, and service related interactions.
Customers know that their data is being tracked everywhere. But what good is it if it’s not being used to help their customers be better shoppers in a way that shows the customer they’re being heard?
If a customer searches for a specific product your brand has, let them know the next time they’re looking for it that you really want them to buy it by offering a discount. Or let them know you heard they reached out to the call center and appreciate them returning back to make additional purchases.
Every company has their version of the customer journey and marketing funnel they try to create and push customers through. While acknowledging the more that go through that process, the more revenue, the other thing to keep in mind is how they are moving through that process. As a company, brand and reputation are the cornerstone for what customers will take away from every interaction. It is one of the most important assets to nurture and bring value to as customers move through the buying process.
During that process every touchpoint needs to show that the brand has the customer’s best interest in mind.
Creating a seamless online customer experience shows the Customer they matter
Forrester, a proven name in benchmarking says “When customers have poor experiences, they drive up costs by reaching out to your contact center, returning items, and seeking refunds. In contrast, customers who have good experiences stay with brands longer, buy more products and services from them, and willingly pay more for what they buy.”
By making it easier for customers to buy and complete transactions, customers are less likely to abandon shopping carts. Even in March 2020 when cart abandonment rates were above 85% any experiences that could help bring that number down would help drive revenue growth.
If a customer uses your app and then goes back online to continue shopping, show them they can pick right back up where they left off. This concept of omnichannel between all touchpoints being synchronous and current is essential to survival in a time where convenience is more valuable than price. The brand unifies the omnichannel experience across offline and online touchpoints and omnichannel needs to be a part of both experiences to manage expectations. Companies that do it well have done a great job understanding every little detail about how their customers engage and interact with the brand to make sure there are no loose ends.
The seamless experience is what all customers want during a period where time is more important than money.
Malay Sapra is a digital strategy and ecommerce specialist who focuses on transforming ways of working and creating seamless customer experiences through care, authenticity, and solving complex problems.