Retail and COVID-19: How to Adapt to Changing Consumer Behavior?
The recent coronavirus outbreak has had a profound impact on the retail and e-commerce sector. While some industry sectors find themselves overwhelmed with orders, others struggle to get customers to buy their products.
The pandemic has forced people worldwide to alter the way they work, shop, eat, and spend their leisure time and has changed buying behavior drastically.
With footfall at physical and mortar stores falling and an added responsibility of ensuring customers’ safety has stretched retailers thin. The trend is visible as retail sales have dipped by 5.7% compared to 2019.
With an end to the pandemic not visible shortly, retailers need to understand the changing consumer preferences and alter their business continuity plans accordingly.
COVID-19 induced consumer behavioral changes
The pandemic is driving consumer buying behavior to change at unprecedented rates. Although countries are beginning to ease lockdown restrictions, consumer behavior continues to be caused by the new-found personal circumstances such as changes in disposable income, spare time, and reconsidered priorities.
Biggest challenges in customer buying behavior.
Digital channels most preferred for shopping
With social distancing norms implemented in some form or the other worldwide, new and old customers accepted the digital-only reality and used the channels for shopping and buying everything from essentials to home improvement tools. Digital sales in Q1 2020 increased by 18% compared to 2019 and will increase by 160% in the future.
Consumers are using a mix of digital touchpoints to evaluate and buy products. Search engines, influencers, and social media feeds are popular channels consumers use along their buying journey.
Customer experiences and journeys gain impetus.
With customers shopping less frequently and buying more extensive stocks of items, retaining customers and bringing them back has become essential for retailers. The best way to ensure customers return to you is by crafting exquisite customer experiences and journeys. By doing so, retailers can build consumer confidence in brands and bring them back.
Customers preferring text messaging for interactions with retailers
With email inboxes cluttered with promotional messages, customers respond and choose to interact with brands on text messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The channels give customers a sense of personalization and cut through the clutter of email inboxes and SMS.
There has been a significant increase in the time consumers are spending on these applications. For example, WhatsApp messaging activity spiked up by 40% during the pandemic, while Facebook Messenger use rose by 50%. These channels are a great way retailers can stay in touch with their customers even when they are not shopping.
AI-driven text-based automation platform – a must-have digital tool for retailers
E-commerce giants have already deployed artificial intelligence in retail. AI is being used for various purposes and in different forms across the retail and e-commerce chain. Text-based automation platform for retail and e-commerce can be used for multiple purposes and is especially useful amidst the current pandemic.
With such platforms, retailers can achieve the following tasks:
Assist remote staff with AI-driven text-based automation platforms
With social distancing norms still in place, personal interactions have dwindled significantly. The challenge is to retain long-term loyal customers without traditional face-to-face interactions; this is where text-based automation platform comes in. These platforms enable retail and e-commerce brands and retailers to personalize interactions with customers at scale.
By automating the initial phases of communication while personalizing it, the platform enables staff to focus on pressing issues and helps utilize various capacities, from handling recurring and basic inquiries to presenting customers with product catalogs. In addition, the capability enables retailers to acquire new customers at significantly low costs and craft exquisite consumer buying journeys. Both are extremely important during the ongoing pandemic for sustenance and scaling.
Keep customers engaged
Out of sight is out of mind in today’s world. With digital channels cluttered, brands are finding it increasingly difficult to reach prospects and customers. Text-based automation platforms for retail and e-commerce provide retailers a way to keep their customers engaged even when they are not shopping via text messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The channels give customers quick access to businesses and save valuable time that otherwise navigates through IVR systems. Thus, text-based automation platforms make brands more accessible and drive engagement from customers. Brands can use these channels to schedule product deliveries, prompt consumers for payments, or take orders.
Analyze conversations in real-time
Consumers are increasingly becoming conscious of brands’ activities and messaging. They are shunning brands that are against their principles. Therefore, brands need to understand customer expectations and derive their marketing and communications messaging accordingly.
AI-driven text-based automation platform provides an effective way retailers can analyze the impact their communications make. The AI also gives brands an option to observe and monitor conversations in real-time, allowing retailers to gain invaluable insights into customer expectations and derive strategies that maximize their ROI on marketing.
AI-driven text-based automation is the need of the hour for the retail and e-commerce industries. Its automation and personalization abilities make it a handy digital tool that enables retailers to cut down on costs, improve customer experiences, engage prospects, and enhance lead generation and conversion rates.