The coronavirus has pressed the reset button in our lives. From social norms to shopping habits, everything has changed and adapted to a socially distant environment.
In the wake of the pandemic, companies have seen their sales plummet considerably. With lockdown imposed – and everything but essential services closed – they have to improvise and develop a new business strategy.
This new reality impacted retail businesses the most. They found themselves in a fast-changing digital landscape. According to Veem, 81% of U.S. small businesses expect to feel long-term impacts from COVID-19, with 87% preparing for an economic slowdown.
A New Customer Persona is Emerging
Even though they are financially constrained, current conditions have made buyers more digitally advanced. But it’s not only consumers who are changing.
Businesses worldwide have started to innovate and accelerate their move to digital space. They are aiming to add more value to the life of their customers.
With governments enforcing social distancing and lockdown protocols, the retail industry alone has suffered billions of dollars in losses. So, moving the business onto the digital platform was the only- solution during the pandemic.
Bazaarvoice conducted a study showing that 49% of consumers worldwide admit to shopping more frequently online during the pandemic than before. The situation has compelled retailers to strategize their moves and take their brands on the high roads of digital success.
It’s true. COVID-19 is not going away any time soon.
Everyone is adapting to the new normal. If the present situation persists, it will propel customers toward ecommerce and away from shops and stores.
You’ve probably already noticed COVID-19’s impact on ecommerce, from search interests to buying habits to overall business performance. Brands have also come up with new marketing strategies to attract more customers.
According to research, 88% of global consumers plan to stick with the new brands they’ve tried during the lockdown. It has left retailers scrambling to cater to consumer demand.
So, as a business owner, you need to prepare for a post-COVID-19 era.The customer experience (CX) has become the top-most priority for brands during the pandemic. They no longer base loyalty on price or product.
It’s all about the online experience. Statistics show that 86% of people are willing to pay more for better customer experience.
Just for a moment, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. There are hundreds of online brands to choose from. Which one will you choose?
Obviously, the one that offers services that enhance your online experience, whether it’s something that makes it easier to buy and gives you an accurate idea of the product. Or maybe it’s something new to wow you.
In a survey of small and mid-sized businesses, it was revealed that 25% are either investing in new technologies or upgrading their current setup to adapt to pandemic conditions.
The popularization of online technologies and the mainstreaming of niche industries is only the beginning. The need for retail apps is prevalent more than ever.
Mobile apps were and still are one of the most powerful marketing tools for a brand. Moreover, it’s the perfect way of reaching your target audience to foster connectivity and improve interactions.
What is the new normal for your business app?
Businesses are now investing more in the Application Performance Monitoring (APM). It is one of the top digital transformation trends you’ll see in 2020.
APM allows businesses to track and monitor their app’s performance. These metrics can be used to enhance the end-user experience, detect problems, and troubleshoot the issues.
Research shows that 91% of companies that went this route accomplished excellent outcomes, such as enhanced user experience, better customization for clients, efficacy and automation of business operations, etc.
Based on your business niche, you will need to develop an app or incorporate services that match consumer demand. As a retailer, I bet you’re already thinking of ways to provide your customers with the best online experience and make more profits.
So What Should Your Retail App Be Offering?
Here are some of the things that you should be looking into.
- ‘In the moment’ shopping experiences
“A store has to be just as exciting or more exciting to shop online and as easy to shop,” said Tiffany Hogan, a Kantar principal analyst.
Customers need to feel special, whether they are online or physically present. And as lockdowns relax, brands will need to adapt to circumstances to cater to customers on both platforms.
What happens now?
Retailers such as Sephora are working to fill these gaps. They’re eager to create a new type of retail experience. Even though augmented reality and virtual reality gained traction before the outbreak, it has picked up momentum since the pandemic.
So instead of worrying about social distancing and sanitization, Sephora has an app that allows customers to apply lipstick or eyeliner virtually. They’re embracing COVID restrictions to amp up services, improving the chances of making sales and product recommendations.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) has become increasingly useful during the pandemic. They’re helping shoppers engage with brands and products before purchase.
So the retail sector can expect to see an increase in the usage of these technologies. According to Statista, in 2020, spending on AR and VR technologies is projected to reach $7 billion, and distribution and services spending could reach $4.4 billion.
- Open channels of communication
Humans, by nature, crave social interactions. They tend to prefer brands that interact with them on a personal level. Sprout Social reported that 76% of consumers would buy from a brand they feel more connected to.
Retail brands will need to rely on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and chatbot technology as a way of offering self-support sessions to their customers and giving them access to quick, reliable answers.
Chatbots are the next big thing. According to MarTech Series, retailers saw an 86% increase in customers using chatbot communications from March to May. They’re helping retailers scale down the risk of contact through service centers, yet improving customer services online.
Messaging apps, adaptive FAQs, interactive guides, etc. promote self-help services to incorporate the rapidly growing customer care trend.
Gartner’s research states that by the end of 2020, about 80% of new enterprise applications will make substantial use of chatbots.
Chatbots can also help deliver more accurate suggestions, exclusive access to previews, and create a more highly personalized atmosphere.
- Supporting the omnichannel experience
As brick and mortar stores are slowly reopening, retailers will need to interact with customers across multiple channels. PWC reported that businesses investing in omnichannel experience in 2020 jumped from 20% to more than 80%.
The challenge is providing a consistent experience both online and offline and integrating consumer preferences. While customers are open to different levels of service from multiple channels, some retailers will settle for nothing short of perfection.
Take the example of IKEA, who likes to set high standards when it comes to the UX of their app.
Whether you use their app or visit an outlet, you will get the same customer experience. It is because the company invests heavily in the omnichannel shopping experience.
IKEA labels its app as the smallest IKEA store – “so small it fits in your pocket,” it says. IKEA boasts that the app makes shopping convenient and more inspiring. Customers can create wish lists, shop from their devices, check stock availability, enjoy special offers with the Family card, and much more.
Yes, IKEA’s new app is a bucket load of inspiration for other retailers worldwide. Retailers must diagnose their omnichannel capabilities and allow consumers to shift seamlessly between online and offline shopping experiences.
- Fast, contactless payment alternatives
Buying will continue to increase as back-to-school and holiday shopping hits retailers head-on. While online payment systems must be swift and secure to encourage consumer trust, in-store experience needs to be just as streamlined.
It’s not surprising that nearly 25% of shoppers are looking for contactless payments. More interestingly, according to a new National Retail Federation and Forrester survey, 58% of retailer respondents accept contactless cards, an increase from 40% last year.
Statistics indicate that this trend will not slow down anytime soon. In a survey, 94% of businesses said they anticipate contactless payments to increase over the next 18 months.
Walmart is rightly capitalizing on this trend. The retail store is currently testing cashier-less stores. Not only will this limit human interaction and help prevent the spread of coronavirus, but it can also speed up checkout times.
But this is not the only response to COVID-19 from Walmart. The multinational retail corporation has successfully incorporated a touch-free payment system so that shoppers can use their phone to pay or add money to their Walmart shopping app.
Moreover, in-store shoppers scan a QR code synced with their Walmart Pay app and make contactless purchases.
COVID-19 is accelerating the integration of various new trends. In the times of pandemic, retailers are discovering how apps can take their business to greater heights.
It all comes down to offer the best experience to customers through apps – from immediate home deliveries to supply chain transparencies and everything beyond. But the critical question is, are you geared up for the post-COVID-19 revolution?