At InterQ, we are doing ongoing market research with one of the world’s largest e-commerce websites. From our initial work with them – pre-pandemic, to our current studies (very much current pandemic) – we’ve seen stark changes in how consumers are shopping online. Take note that this applies to marketing messages, UX design, core branding messages, and follow-up communications. Without heeding how consumer behavior is changing during this coronavirus pandemic, your brand could be making some costly mistakes. Here are some key lessons we’ve gleaned that you can consider.
Pandemic shopping behavior change #1: Online is the first stop
Around the world, quarantine measures vary widely, and even here, in the U.S., each county and state has their own laws around retail shopping. However, one pattern is clear, in every country we’ve run research in: Online is the first stop. Even though people often prefer the experience of in-person retail, current health concerns have moved most shopping to online, even for basic essentials, such as household cleaning supplies.
What does this mean for your brand? Optimize your website. If your search features are clunky, your checkout process is cumbersome, or your inventory is not well organized, customers will quickly leave your site for one that is better. With huge players like Amazon dominating the essential shopping space, you simply can’t afford to have a shopping experience that takes unnecessary time or feels out-of-date.
To understand how your UX experience currently stands, hire an external firm to run user experience tests. At InterQ, we have a streamlined method that includes screensharing and in-depth interviews. This allows us to observe and ask questions as consumers navigate the site. We’re quickly able to spot trouble spots and opportunities – far better than any embedded heat-mapping or click-through data shows.
Pandemic shopping behavior change #2: Customers are reading marketing emails
Even though marketing emails tend to have pretty low click-through rates (average click through rates are benchmarked at 2.5%). People are generally subscribed to so many marketing emails, that they quickly get ignored – or, if customers have an email service like Gmail, these messages may be filed away under “Promotions” automatically, and easily filed out of sight.
But don’t let this dissuade you from creating good email campaigns. Now, more than ever, people are looking at their email marketing messages, hoping for deals. From our extensive research in the email marketing space, we’ve come across key best practices, which include:
- Don’t send more than 1 email marketing campaign a week (more than that and you’ll be relegated to the spam folder or unsubscribed).
- Limit the number of products you showcase: Focus on a key category and don’t try to bombard the customer with too many facts and figures in one email. One or two key messages – tops.
- Tailor your messages – but make sure it’s done well. People actually really enjoy seeing campaigns with products they’re in the market for (Note: Not products they’ve already bought.) When emails seem to be truly personalized, people take note.
- Coupons are great, but make it a good offer. A 5% coupon – not worth it. But 20% or more? You’ll get their attention.
If you’re interested in more email marketing tips, talk to us – we can help do a diagnosis on your campaigns and show you how to improve your open and click-through rates.
Pandemic shopping behavior change #3: Deals and free shipping are the cost-of-entry
The world economy has been heavily impacted by the pandemic, and consumers are grappling with lost income or reduced income (or barely any income at all). Now, more than ever, good deals matter. When you promote your sales, though, there does need to be careful strategy behind it. Qualitative research can help give you insight into the types of discounts customers most prefer, because contrary to popular belief, simply offering discounts on everything isn’t the most effective method to keep customers loyal.
Finally, free or discounted shipping is simply a must-have if you hope to compete with the Amazons of the world.