Purchasing habits changed overnight but, as lockdown eases and shops start to reopen, what does this really mean for brands and retailers both online and instore?

In this month’s episode of The Experience Makers our host Gemma Milne is joined by Hugh Fletcher, Head of Thought Leadership at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, and Herb van der Raad, our very own Director of Strategy and Consulting, to discuss how companies can make it easier for consumers to purchase, whenever and wherever they need to.

Download the episode to hear exactly what Hugh & Herb had to say, but here’s a quick snapshot of their discussion to get you thinking...

So, what has really changed?

There has been a lot of speculation around the effects of COVID-19 on brands, but how has this pandemic really impacted consumers and their outlook towards the future? Most notably and unsurprisingly, it has massively accelerated the change that might have been anticipated over the next few years. The elderly have become more tech savvy and with schools turning to video conferencing, children are already wizzes with Teams and Zoom calls.

And while initially, people turned to buying online because they had to, many new and different sets of consumers have become more comfortable purchasing goods and services in this way, so we’re expecting to see a continued increase in online sales and activity.

What do consumers really want?

With more people transacting online, more often, there’s a greater expectation for frictionless and seamless experiences. Research conducted by Wunderman Thompson Commerce during lockdown showed that factors such as free, fast & convenient delivery, along with product availability are the top customer requirements. And it’s no big surprise that the online retailers who had scale and infrastructure on their side were better able to cope with stock and delivery difficulties. For Amazon lockdown was boom time!

And where organisations did run into supply difficulties, Hugh highlights the importance of clear communication to manage consumer expectation. Consumers want organisations to be honest and clear throughout the customer journey. People are much more understanding when they know what's going on, so it’s not surprising that the research shows that great customer service is winning out over brand loyalty. Consumers will switch brands more readily for better service these days.

Content plays a major role in delivering on this service expectation too. Organisations that are managing to use data to drive customised and personalised recommendations, especially when stock levels are low, are proving far more popular.

How can brands claim their stake?

There’s an ease with defaulting to Amazon and the research findings show this with 35% of all respondents spending through the retail giant. It's easy to search, easy to purchase and used more and more as a destination for inspiration. But we need to remember that there is still a significant amount of online search that goes through brands’ owned digital estates. The challenge is to capture these browsing consumers and get them to transact on those sites, rather than switching to a marketplace option.

Brands need to consider the difference between the inspiration and transactional phases of the customer journey. What can brands offer at each stage that an online marketplace is unable to offer? Value add for customers is key.

Why shouldn’t I take the easiest route?

When customers go direct to a brand, there's an expectation that they receive a benefit for doing so. It may simply be the emotional reward derived from an affinity with what the brand stands for. Make sure you reflect your purpose in your story - ethos and purpose are becoming more and more of a differentiator in difficult times.

What many independent brands can also offer is expertise and community. Whilst Amazon can deliver quickly, waiting for a much-anticipated arrival doesn’t always need to be a negative. Again, content and communication in the waiting phase is crucial and brands can use that extra delivery time to their advantage. The experience around a customer's purchase is what sets brands and companies apart.

Download and tune in to hear more...

Hugh & Herb provide some great advice for brand owners on the topic throughout this episode, but what do they really think is the answer to making every moment shoppable? Download the full episode to hear more!

If you want to read more from the reports that we touched on in this episode, you can download them here:

Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s ‘COVID, Commerce & the Consumer

Wunderman Thompson Commerce & Cognifide’s ‘Translating Content into Commerce’

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