Executive Managing Director, Americas at Criteo, the advertising platform for the open Internet.
Prior to COVID-19, marketers were already testing new ways to connect with consumers who, more than ever, have a wide variety of products to choose from. Today, with social distancing measures in place at a global scale, consumers have no choice but to shop online, resulting in an exponentially competitive e-commerce landscape.
In today’s environment, consumers are shopping with a purpose and know exactly the type of merchandise they’re searching for and in need of. In the past, they would have weighed their options carefully before making a purchasing decision, but now they are shopping out of necessity and more than ever lack a sense of brand loyalty.
This means that brands need to work harder to amplify their voice and stand out among competitors, while also remaining sensitive to the current state of the world. Online sellers must adjust to the new way consumers are shopping and prioritize building relationships to ensure success for the eventual rebound.
So how can brands capture consumers’ attention and make a connection during these trying times? These four strategies can help.
Ensure messaging is relevant.
It’s more important than ever to be conscious of the messaging that your brand is displaying across its website and advertising and adapt it to today’s reality. To ensure that you’re providing your consumers with added value, display products that are relevant for a social-distancing lifestyle. Whether it’s essential items such as hand sanitizer or arts and crafts for children, showing the consumer the exact product they need at the right time will ensure a positive experience.
If there is less demand for the product or services your company provides, focus on upper-funnel marketing initiatives. Gaining awareness and building relationships instead of pushing sales will go much further for when the consumer is ready to shop again.
Prioritize the mobile experience.
With quarantine and social distancing in place, consumers are not only relying on apps for entertainment, but also for other key activities such as shopping for essentials, staying connected with friends and family, and reading the news. In fact, more than ever, they are relying on their phone to provide speed, convenience and relevance.
Now is the time to drive more investment toward creating a positive mobile experience to maximize app traffic. Brands should be thinking long term and building those relationships with consumers by showing relevant products, launching app loyalty programs and providing incentives to make app purchases. Consumers might not keep all the apps they have downloaded during COVID-19, but by creating a connection now, brands can ensure that their app will be around to stay in the future.
Connect with the customer.
Conversational commerce has been growing in popularity among retailers, and it’s easy to see why.
Modern consumers are accustomed to getting almost everything with the click of a button. However, for consumers who typically shop in-store and now have no choice but to turn to online shopping, customer service will be an important part of their shopping experience. Since these consumers are losing that one-to-one connection they get when visiting a brick-and-mortar store, brands must communicate with them in real time, or they risk losing out to competitors that are investing in conversational commerce solutions.
Chatbots and messaging are a way to preserve that engagement, especially during this time of crisis. This consumer who is new to online shopping might stick around for the long run with retailers who provide a positive customer service experience during times of need.
Explore payment options and discounted shipping costs.
With many consumers feeling the financial strain during this time, a retailer that can offer additional payment options will stand out among the crowd. Affording your customer the ability to pay via financing options and post-purchase payments will be extremely useful for reducing shopping cart abandonment.
As you consider your payment choices, be sure to take a close look at your shipping options as well. Fast and discounted or free shipping will be a major incentive for consumers who are shopping for essential products on a minimal budget. For those who are struggling with the supply chain and distribution, be honest and open with your customers. Transparency will be the key to building a strong relationship with your buyer.
In this time of uncertainty, today’s consumer is adopting new behaviors and following a path to purchase that e-commerce has not experienced before. Many of these new behaviors may be here to stay long after the pandemic has ended. By adapting your current strategies to fit the lifestyle of today’s social distancing consumer, you can build a lasting relationship that ensures these consumers will return in the future.
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Author: Jessica Breslav, Forbes Councils Member