Our world has been upended and has gone virtual: Education, work, and even casual hangouts with friends are now all conducted online. Yes, the world will eventually revert back to physical interaction, but there will be serious lasting changes to all consumer behavior. Here is what we should expect.
The World Was Primed for Massive Change
Our world has undergone a radical change in the past few years. For many of us, this change has flown under the radar, but when you pull back to look at the numbers it becomes clear. We were a world ripe for radical change. Here are a few stats to consider:
- There are 25 times more connected devices today than there were in 2007.
- There are 30 times more broadband connections in the world than in 2007.
- There are 100 times more people each day connecting on Facebook than in 2007.
- We as a world create 500 times more data each day than we did in 2007.
There are more devices connected at lightning speeds and enabled with more capabilities than we could even imagine just a few years ago. This isn’t about more technology, it’s about what people can and will derive from instant access, connectivity, and openness.
No Consumer Is Left Out
In 2019, 84% of consumers said the experience a brand creates is just as important as the physical product or service they sell. While the data was clear, many brands have yet to embrace the notion of experience because they simply believe their consumer hadn’t changed. The world is on lockdown; virtual is now the global standard.
Microsoft is tracking 9 billion minutes of engagement every week on their MS Teams. There were 14.5 million combined new subscribers to the tools Slack and MS teams in the first half of March 2020. There was a 1,000% spike in the use of Facebook group calls. All consumers were forced into a new existence overnight. The foundation was there—this was the spark to set a new fire ablaze.
A New Baseline of Expectations
When we normally look at technology adoption and consumer behavioral change, it follows a standard bell curve. There are the early adopters, then the early majority, late majority, followed later on by the laggards. That’s what happens when things follow their normal path—but this isn’t normal. Entire populations were forced into new behaviors overnight.
Humans are creatures of habit, and these new behaviors will become new habits for many, but not all. Many will return to their prior way of life. However, knowledge of what is possible will remain. The fear of change is gone. This is a big impact.
Consumers will return to their prior lives armed with this new reality. They will see their old lives and routines through new lenses and begin to operate in new ways. Consumers know what is possible, have the tools in their hands to live that new reality, and are comfortable using them. This creates a new baseline of possibilities for all consumers.
Experiences That Win
Consumers’ time is precious. Consumers are going to begin to notice just how much time they waste by operating in their old ways. The experiences that win are going to be the ones that help them put time back in their day. This will hold true for all experiences across the customer journey.
For retail, online experiences are a must. Ecommerce was already 15% of total retail and expected to climb to 30% by 2025. Now that consumers have eCommerce as one of their only options for retail shopping, we should expect that prediction to happen much sooner. Brands will win in those moments if they optimize the entire experience from how customers engage, find products, evaluate them, purchase them, and return them.
Brands that focus on real-time commerce experiences such as dynamic websites, headless commerce, and social commerce, will see the highest engagement rates. Brands that combine AI with tools that help evaluate their items—such as Zappos ensuring every product has a video review, or IKEA’s Place app, which allows you to see the furniture in your home before you buy it—will see increased purchases. Brands that refine the delivery of those experiences, letting customers know where their shipment is in real-time and make returning items an effortless experience, will create the greatest customer satisfaction.
Local businesses that require people to make appointments and expect people to wait to be seen will have to reimagine those experiences. Scheduling is going to move online for a wide range of businesses because it will simply be faster for people to book time. Many professionals will also have to realize their value isn’t in face-to-face conversations, but rather their expertise. This can be delivered over FaceTime, Zoom, or plenty of other methods. Get ready to have a video call with your mechanic!
Communication with all businesses is going to be affected. Consumers will expect real-time communication. Chatbots and messaging applications are simple ways brands can deliver that. Brands should not see chatbots as a replacement for a human, rather the fastest way to be connected to the correct human, and the ability to answer simple questions that don’t require a human touch (hours, locations, product availability, etc.).
Our current situation is a major and lasting change that has brought the entire world to a new baseline of expectations. New habits are being formed, but—more importantly–new expectations have been set. Marketing, now more than ever, is about experiences. Businesses that are currently looking at every customer interaction and identifying how they can make those experiences better are going to win.