How the pandemic is shifting the way brands think about digital
An Omni-channel strategy was never a consideration for a lot of brands. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, several brands within the consumer goods space would often prioritize retail over other channels. There’s no doubt that a retail-first approach has always been the desired option for brands; after all what better way to reach a large number of potential consumers than by capturing their attention as they browse through aisles and store shelves. Placing products directly in the face of consumers have also proven to be beneficial for smaller brands – several independent beauty brands for example, have grown to become household names just by getting stocked at large department stores. Unarguably, giving consumers a chance to see and hold your products as they attempt to make a decision has great advantages.
The pandemic brought with it many changes and one of such changes is a massive shift in consumer behaviour. In a space of a few months, consumers were forced to interact with brands and the world around them differently. The uncertainty that came with the pandemic also disrupted everything from how consumers choose to spend their money, what they place relevance on when shopping, the amount of time they can spend at physical stores, and a bunch of other behaviours. According to a recent study, many of these new consumer habits are expected to remain post-pandemic.
Across many cities of the world, consumers no longer have the luxury of time to browse through store aisles or even test out food, make up or skin care products which were usually available for sampling in stores. Events that were once categorized as in-store experiences have suddenly become a health and safety threat. Even as stores begin to re-open, safety measures are being put in place to limit physical interaction in order to ensure the safety of both employees and consumers.
In the past, brand owners often viewed digital (specifically e-commerce, digital advertising, and websites/apps) as ‘nice-to-have’. While they acknowledge the usefulness of technology, many were slow to adapt because they never felt the need to. Others questioned the need for technology-enabled platforms that could help consumers test out how products would look on them before they made a purchase. In their minds, consumers really didn’t need to have a virtual experience when they could simply just walk into a store.
For several forward-thinking DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) brands, such offerings had already been incorporated into their broader business strategy prior to the pandemic. Take a brand like Warby Parker for example, who had already invested in an app that enables consumers to renew prescriptions from the comfort of their home. For quite some time now, a lot of DTC brands have opted for more innovative ways to serve consumers virtually either through virtual consultations, try-ons, or a simple ordering service.
There’s no better time than now to have a technology-led strategy in order to reach your consumers. While there is nothing like the physical touch, brands have to prioritize digital as a way to reach their consumers. Digital is no longer just another channel and research shows that most brand categories have seen more than a 10% growth in their online customer base.
As consumers struggle to prioritize their own health and safety, e-commerce websites have become more beneficial than ever. Targeted digital advertising is also useful in pushing products in the face of consumers. Brands have to rise up to the challenge of going where their consumers go – whether it’s to another website, their email accounts or on the social media pages of their favourite influencers.
Social media has been one aspect of digital that has soared greatly in the past few years. However, brands need to invest more time and resources into creating content that cleverly educates their audience about their products or services. With the pandemic creating a gap in how much non-virtual interaction brands can have with consumers, social media has become a huge channel for addressing customer-related concerns. Where you would have otherwise had a customer service representative, an online community manager has become the middle man faced with the responsibility of educating consumers about products and services in a light-hearted way, as well as responding to problems that these consumers may encounter. The goal is to slowly replicate offline interaction online. Although it can never be a completely similar experience, online channels continue to provide a way for brands to improve closeness and make consumers feel at ease as they shop.
For consumer goods giants, an e-commerce website might not be essential; however, maintaining partnerships with e-retailers can help increase product availability. Retailers themselves must then heighten the online experience of consumers by making virtual shopping on their platforms more enjoyable. Ease of access, customization and offering value through digital channels could greatly heighten the customer experience.
With more people working from home across the world, in-store shopping has taken a significant dip. More screen time automatically translates to a bigger opportunity for brands to reach more consumers digitally and also collect relevant data. There will be a lot of competition as more brands begin to invest in building or re-building their digital channels. Disruptive and innovative ideas will be useful in capturing the attention of consumers. There’s no better time than now to establish connections, implement personalized services, and build community – luckily, digital makes all of this a much easier and smoother process.