The Impacts of the Pandemic on Businesses Worldwide
COVID-19 has profoundly impacted people & businesses right around the globe. Life as we know it has ultimately been changed forever. With stay-at-home directives forcing more people to work and shop from home than ever before, companies were faced with shortages of goods and services due to this digitised revolution and increased demand that was brought on by the pandemic.
The reality of this situation, combined with factors like safety, accessibility & value, are affecting brand and customer loyalty in ways we’ve never seen before. Thanks to significant changes to the buyer’s journey and the introduction of new shopping behaviours, consumers are now choosing to shop primarily for convenience, value & product availability, along with seeking a positive customer experience.
The effects of COVID-19 on the retail landscape have been felt for some time now, with 75% of consumers making a first-time purchase from a business since the pandemic kicked off. But will those customers revert to their historical purchasing behaviours once the pandemic starts to diminish or has it turned things upside down and changed the market for good?
Interestingly, it isn’t just about price and value though, with 28% of customers reporting that price matters LESS to them now than pre-pandemic. So that must mean that something else matters more to them.
So what is it? Well you firstly need to understand WHY customers have sought so many new alternatives in the past 20 months or so. Based on data & analytics, it can be unequivocally stated that consumers value customer experience now, more than ever before, in their buying decisions.
Importantly, 77% of consumers agree that advertisements should show how brands can help in their ‘new’ everyday lives, as well as demonstrate their efforts to deal with these said challenges. COVID-19 has put brands and business in the spotlight – and it’s up to them to address these emerging pandemic-related challenges & build trust with their consumers.
Key Pillars To Drive Customer Loyalty
Four key pillars that should be implemented as part of an effective loyalty campaign includes:
- Being Authentic
- Contribution Over Conversion
- Optimism Without Over-commitment
- Flexibility Through Varied Experiences
By incorporating these pillars into your strategy, you’ll be set up to achieve your business objectives, while also demonstrating you take your customer’s interests to heart and communicate in a compassionate manner.
Numerous businesses have adapted accordingly and are now integrating customer experience & marketing functions simultaneously, so as to fulfil their customer’s needs and desires.
Brands that act with empathy & compassion, demonstrate that their customer’s matter to them and innovate their customer experience will build stronger relationships that last well beyond COVID-19’s passing.
How To Adapt Your Post-Pandemic Business Model
Here are some key factors driving this shift & what you and your business need to be aware of to stay ahead:
- Brand and customer loyalty are on the line – as business booms online, brands have been pushed to explore new methods of connecting with their customers.
- Consumer choices & purchasing patterns have changed forever – people are now choosing brands that are convenient, reliable & provide the specific products or services they are seeking due to the economic uncertainty.
- Lack of stock – reduced product availability has had adverse effects on customer loyalty right around the world as consumers have been pushed into trying new brands.
- Convenience is king – as one of the main factors driving customer loyalty, being able to buy all of the items from one retailer is driving customers to purchase more at once, rather than going from one retailer to another as they normally would have done.
- Customers searching for value – more consumers are holding onto their money due to economic uncertainty. People are looking for greater value in those items they do purchase, with value & convenience correlating to the provision of exceptional customer experience.
- Brand loyalty is reduced by customer frustrations – every customer touchpoint provides an opportunity to build a positive connection, but also provides an opportunity for customers to run into roadblocks.
- Lasting customer experience – people are more likely to remember the last experience they have with a brand, with their loyalty largely depending on whether that experience was positive or negative.
- More customers are shopping locally to support their community – people have continued to remain loyal to local businesses in the midst of the pandemic.
- New Customer Habits – the adoption of new customer buying behaviours is predicted to continue for years to come, with businesses needing to provide the value & experience that their target audiences want in order to succeed.
Ways to Improve Customer Loyalty & Customer Experience for your Brand
If brands and businesses were able to stay top of mind and favourably maintain a customer relationship during the pandemic through the provision of useful content or resources, then it’s likely that customer loyalty and retention has been relatively consistent throughout this period.
However, if this wasn’t the case, amongst other factors, we have seen numerous businesses unfortunately being forced to shut their doors. Instead of focusing on ongoing customer retention, brands should now be focusing on acquisition and win-back strategies, along with innovation.
The pandemic has led to the emergence of numerous new trends and innovations, like curbside delivery, pick-up or click-and-collect options, touchless services, use of QR codes and cashless transactions, with many consumers embracing & preferring these in most cases.
Whilst it took customers a few months to get used to the ‘new norm’, they have now come to recognise and appreciate the convenience of shopping online, leading to an increased unlikelihood of them shopping in-store in the future. Consumer behaviours like these are likely to persist well after the pandemic is over.
It is clear that trends are moving in new directions, however, no one is truly certain what is on the cards for customer experience in the near and distant future. It is hard to predict, however, small businesses right up to large-scale organisations need to remain adaptable, versatile, continue to provide value to their customers and keep informed on their target audience’s needs to ensure they remain loyal and keep coming back, long after the pandemic is over.
Innovation, authenticity, integrity & humanising your brand will go a long way to helping you achieve your business goals. You can establish and foster stronger relationships with your client base that will last well beyond COVID-19’s passing by acting with empathy, demonstrating value to your customers, providing first-class service and innovating customer experience at every opportunity.
Customer experience is one of the most under-valued assets in business, however, it is key to your longevity. The best way to gain new customers for free is to provide an outstanding customer experience (UX) and excellent service to your existing clientele so that you can convince more prospects to engage with your brand as well. The positive testimonials and word-of-mouth advertising they provide will be more effective than any of your current marketing campaigns – and bonus – will cost you much less too!
Providing stellar customer service and meeting your customers’ satisfaction levels is paramount to ensuring your business continues to prosper well into the future. With excellent customer experience and service, you’ll attract new customers, prevent customer loss, drive customer loyalty, and build a positive brand reputation & image.
In the current context of a pandemic and despite the numerous challenges, many businesses have really stepped up their game – adapting to their capabilities, demonstrating their flexibility & versatility, strengthening loyalty with existing customers, increasing customer retention levels and winning over new customers.
So…the question is – are you one of them?
If you’re looking to improve your customer experience, boost your customer loyalty, drive sales and improve your brand visibility, then contact the iOnline team today!
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