News Article

Attention Marketers And Customer Experience Leaders: Here Is How The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Changing Customer Behavior

Customers want transparency and proactive communication.

“We are reaching a point where stay at home or shelter in place is becoming more and more normalized with many restrictions set to remain in place for some time.

Given that, new research about how customer behavior is changing is starting to emerge and is worth bearing in mind if you are a marketer or customer experience practitioner.

Here are some highlights:

Customers are watching brands

Recent research from Edelman shows that 90% of customers from across the world believe that, “Brands must do everything they can to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and their suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses until the pandemic ends.”

If they don’t, then 71% of global consumers say that brands “will lose my trust forever” and this will have a huge impact on their likelihood to buy from that brand again in the future.

More customers are responding to marketing emails

Iterable, a mobile-optimized growth marketing platform provider, has found that during the coronavirus outbreak marketers have been turning to email marketing to update, inform and engage with their customers. This has resulted in a significant rise in the number of marketing emails that are being sent.

Now, in normal times, we may have expected low and lowering engagement rates given the rise in email volume. However, Iterable’s data reports that brands are seeing both engagement and conversion levels increase despite the increase in email volume. Specifically, they are finding that email open-rates and click-throughs have increased by 21% and 14% in the last month respectively. In turn, this is has driven an 8.5% increase in purchases attributed to email over the previous month.

Customers are flocking online

Given the lockdown restrictions that are in place, it’s no surprise then that customers are flocking online to source the products and services that they want.

But, the swing to online sales is enormous. Emarsys, a customer engagement platform provider, is reporting that 43% of all online sales for brands in the US in March were driven by “new customers”. Meanwhile, second-time buyers represent 5%, active repeat customers 23%, defecting customers 14%, and inactive customers 8%.

Note: Emarsys points out that its numbers don’t add up to 100% because mapping purchases from individuals that check out as a ‘guest’ onto these customer categories is impossible.

Customers want to shop local but are conflicted

Meanwhile, Convey, a provider of Delivery Experience Management (DEM) software, in a recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, found that customers are also conflicted.

While the overwhelming majority of customers (87%) are saying that they think it is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to support local retailers, customers are also reporting that free shipping was the number one (64%) key driver in terms of what would entice them to shop online. Other drivers include the ability to purchase online for curbside pickup (58%), and providing an Estimated Delivery Date (EDD) before checkout (44%).

But, despite expressing a desire to support local retailers the majority of customers are reporting that they are still shopping at large retailers with only 22% of customers saying that they were using local retailers with online stores.

Typically, convenience can trump choice for many customers. But, what we are now seeing is that price is now starting to trump choice too. Interestingly, this could be the first signs of price consciousness and sensitivity creeping into customer behavior and could be a leading indicator of the future economic discomfort that many are expecting.

Customers are forgiving and are willing to wait

Convey also found that 60% of customers are pretty understanding when it comes to low stock levels and that over 90% of them are willing to wait for a while to get the stuff that they are ordering.

According to their research, 60% of respondents felt retailers deserved an extra 3-4 days to deliver goods, 19% were comfortable to wait 5-6 days, and 17% said that more than 7 days was acceptable.

But, they want transparency and proactive communication 

However, even though they are displaying patience, customers want transparency and proactivity around deliveries.

While Convey found that customers are willing to give retailers some leeway when it comes to inventory and delivery times, in return, they expect more transparency and proactive communication with regards to deliveries. According to their research, nearly 70% of customers said they want more communication, 86% said it’s ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for retailers to tell them when an item will arrive, and 75% say that they are more likely to buy when an EDD is shown on the product page or in the shopping cart. Finally, recognizing that many deliveries are facing lots of problems right now, 70% said they were less likely to shop with a retailer or brand again if they were not informed in advance of a delay.

So, with restrictions set to stay in place, in many places, for several weeks yet it’s likely that these swings in behavior will persist.

What is also clear is that the longer the restrictions do stay in place, the more likely that these new customer behaviors that are emerging n response to the pandemic will harden into habits.

Marketers and customer experience professionals would do well to factor this into their thinking, given that it is looking decreasingly likely that we will ever return to a ‘normal’ state of affairs.”

This article was originally posted on 4/28/20 on Forbes.

Read the full article here.