The business landscape has changed dramatically over the past couple months, leaving business owners in uncharted territory. While our world has gone virtual almost overnight due to the pandemic, the truth is that it’s been heading in that direction for a long time.
Rather than taking a step backward, we’re hurtling forward into a new reality where consumers rely on technology and digital media in new, although not unpredictable, ways. In the face of all these changes, are you ready to show your flexibility and willingness to innovate?
Below, we’ve outlined some of the new purchasing patterns and consumer habits you can expect to encounter as you strive to meet your customers’ needs. While challenging, this “new normal” also presents an opportunity for your business to reinvent itself, cater to customers’ changing preferences, and implement innovations that lead to improved efficiency for both your team and your clientele.
What’s Changed: Consumer Purchasing Patterns
In light of the requirements of social distancing, many customers have been forced to explore new experiences they may have eschewed in the past. It goes without saying that ordering groceries online and holding appointments through video chat are now as commonplace as sitting in a waiting room or perusing supermarket shelves once were.
Now that consumers have experienced the convenience that these new options offer, many of them won’t want to go back to the old way of doing things.
In short, consumer preferences are changing, causing them to develop new habits that will lead to new buying patterns and expectations. Even those who do choose to go back to their old ways will be more aware of the possibilities available to them through technology. They will likely also become more comfortable with the idea of trying out new opportunities in the future.
As the marketplace is moving online, these virtual experiences are becoming increasingly important to customers. Real-time communication with brands is now a necessity, as is a fluid purchase journey. More than ever, customers are focusing not just on the quality of the product or service they receive, but the quality of the purchase experience as a whole.
Adapting to this new baseline of consumer expectations may require different actions on the part of different businesses. Whether the crucial adaptations for your business involve streamlining your website, installing a chatbot to connect users with the right department, creating an online scheduling application, or arranging the logistics of delivery, it’s now your mission to follow through on these changes so your business can rise to the occasion.
What Hasn’t Changed: The Need to Focus on the Customer
While many things have changed, one factor will always stay the same: Your focus should remain on improving your customers’ experience with your business in every way possible. Examine each point of interaction, from initial contact to returns and reviews, and don’t overlook any opportunity you have to improve their experience.
Although it’s easy to think of customers as a category separate from yourself as a business owner, the truth is that you’re a customer in many aspects of your life, too. You can help eliminate the ambiguity of these uncertain times by analyzing your own thoughts and actions. Ask yourself:
- What changes are you expecting from the businesses you frequent?
- How have your purchasing preferences changed?
- What patterns have become habits that will stick?
Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes will help ensure you create an environment that will make your customers comfortable in the “new normal.”
Another thing that hasn’t changed, despite the upheaval in the market, is the importance of data and measurement. As you begin to make adjustments to your business model, implement new marketing strategies, and roll out new services, be sure to review results often and gain as much feedback as possible. Not every innovation or experiment is going to resonate with your customers, but you can’t be certain until you try.