Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 67% of consumers said brands need to do more to guide their purchase decisions online and preferred visiting a physical store to decide on a purchase. This is according to new research by Zoovu. (download page) Of course, the pandemic has substantially changed consumer behaviors. Consumers are primarily shopping on digital channels and brick-and-mortar store visits has sharply declined. Consumers are also looking for different types of support, often driven by more sophisticated types of technology. So what exactly are consumers looking for and how can brands compete and stay relevant among digital shoppers?
Consumers have stated that they appreciate the help and support offered by in-store sales associates. However, shopping online can be a little overwhelming without this level of support many consumers are used to receiving. One solution is digital assistants powered by conversational search.
According to Zoovu’s research, 74% of consumers are interested in a self-guided solution that understands their needs in real time based on their answers and makes a personalized recommendation. Conversational search offers many benefits such as 24/7 availability, guided online experiences and help with narrowing down searches.
This type of functionality is even more important because traditional support channels are often mot adequate in today’s environment. Customer support across email, phone, and chat are often overwhelmed and there is a lack of network infrastructure and support when employees are working from home.
Online Shopping Has Increased Exponentially
Quarantines, store closings and changing attitudes have left many stores empty on more and more consumers heading online for their purchases. Changes in consumer behaviors that we have seen over the last several months include:
- 28% are making online purchases they usually would make in-store
- 25% are buying products they otherwise would not buy
- 22% are spending more time online shopping
In additional research, these finding were a common theme with 56% of consumers saying they increased online shopping during the pandemic and 14% stating they have made purchase for the first time.
What do Consumers Expect Today?
- Support & Assistance: 64% believe it’s important for brands to provide them with guidance
- Confidence in purchases: 55% think it’s very or extremely important for brands to support them in making the right purchase decision
- Simplified Choice: 84% wish search identified their needs and narrowed down results to 5-10 choices
- Personalization: 70% want brands to interact with them on a personal level
CMOs are also weighing in how they see their customers’ behaviors changing. In research by the CMO Survey, the biggest change for nearly 97% of respondents has been lower in-person marketing engagement as fewer people visit stores of attend events.
While the decrease in customer visits may be obvious, other areas of changes included:
- 84.8% – Increased openness to new digital offerings introducing during the pandemic
- 83.8% – Increased value placed on digital experiences
- 79.1% – Greater acknowledgement of companies’ attempt to do good
While 67.2% reported a lower likelihood to buy, this is offset some with 65.4% reporting that new customers have been attracted to their products and services.
When the survey was conducted, CMOs remained optimistic that several of the consumer behavior changes seen during the pandemic will return to normal (pre-pandemic levels) in 6-12 months. Indeed, the largest share of respondents believes current behaviors such as the unwillingness to pay full price (38.5%), lower likelihood to buy (37.7%), and weaker loyalty levels (36.4%) will return to pre-pandemic levels within that time frame, as opposed to within 6 months or in longer than a year.
What the new normal will look like and how consumers behaviors will evolve in the coming month is anyone’s guess. However, brands must put protocols in place now to weather the storm and ensure their business thrives.