The COVID-19 pandemic has posed large and small challenges for everyone, translating into various changes for shoppers and retailers alike. During the first months of the crisis, hundreds of millions of people moved more shopping online. As a result, they reconsidered the priorities and values that drive their brand preferences, purchase behaviors, and loyalty.
Looking ahead in 2021, consumers and retailers see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, as life opens back up, these new priorities that drive consumers will mean a higher bar set for retailers. Even though physical retail continues to re-open, marketers should have plans to continue the online engagement of shoppers.
Consumers are now much more likely to shop online, and particularly on their smartphones. Even though shopping online is more complex than it sounds, consumers responded well to the new approaches retailers took, mainly when it came to mobile shopping. Moreover, these online habits are likely to persist post-COVID since two-thirds (63%) of consumers say they plan to continue shopping online that way often in the future.
The Importance of Personalization
With so many more consumers searching, shopping, and purchasing online, personalization has become a particularly valuable tactic for retailers to improve experiences. At the same time, people have a heightened sense of risk when shopping in stores. In contrast, a personalized experience can make them feel safe, help them complete their shopping more quickly, and create much-needed loyalty for retailers.
In the “new normal” shopping experience, every customer touchpoint will require sophisticated data to offer additional services and value. Moreover, customers will expect seamless transitions between in-store and online experiences.
With this respect, here are the top 5 recommendations for retailers to engage more customers in the “new normal” era.
Take personalization beyond product recommendations. Integrate a personalized content strategy for customer emails. That can be very beneficial for retailers with smaller assortments and longer purchase frequency cycles. In addition, personalization can engage and nurture relationships and maximize existing assets like blog and influencer content.
Use personalization behind the scenes. Personalization does not always need to be explicit to deliver a compelling experience. Identify interest affinities such as product-level affinities to help deliver relevant content aligned with the customer’s brand.
Bring in social proof. High-intent shoppers engage with product reviews before making their final decision. Therefore, prioritize social proof efforts through a compelling product review collection strategy across the site, email, and push notifications.
Encourage loyalty in many ways. Building loyalty does not always require a loyalty program. An effective loyalty strategy segments users by shopping behaviors and preferences for everything from shipping options to promotions and incentives even if they aren’t loyalty members. Creating loyalty with personalized offers and a practical post-purchase experience can positively impact sales and customer satisfaction scores.
Embrace new fulfillment options. Offer practical and convenient fulfillment options like BOPIS and curbside pickup that contribute to positive customer satisfaction. Test the demand for different forms of fulfillment in other locations and for different customer segments to deliver personalized shopping experiences.
Conclusion: Create personalized experiences both in-store and online!
During the first months of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been an acceleration of digital retail. Those retailers with solid platforms and sophisticated data analysis have connected with consumers and offered them additional services and value.
However, as the pandemic went on, people returned to stores only when they had to or when they could. Customers care deeply about the values that a brand lives by. Still, they care most about convenience, price, and relevance. Therefore, creating personalized experiences in-store and online is critical for every retailer in the “new normal” era. Still, the payoff is a savvy customer base that’s both loyal and engaged.