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As lockdown measures ease and things begin to open up again, there has been a significant, permanent shift in consumer behavior. For businesses to survive and grow post-COVID, they’re going to have to adapt to this change in customer expectations.
The pandemic has forced many businesses to communicate with their customers more than they usually would. They’ve been keeping customers informed about how they're handling the pandemic — how they’re operating, the steps they’ve taken to minimize risk, and what products or services are available.
Messages from CEOs and other key members of staff show the human element of business, not just a faceless sales email. This has given customers a new insight into how businesses run and what goes on behind the scenes. Going forward, customers will want to see this level of open communication and transparency continue.
For tips around company messaging post-COVID:
With everything shutting down overnight, there has been a dramatic shift towards conducting almost all of everyday life online. Customers have been socializing, exercising, learning, working, and shopping online, which has increased their expectations of online experiences.
Post-COVID, customers are going to expect well designed, easy to use, secure websites. 88% say they're less likely to return to a website after a bad user experience (UX). Customers have many options, so businesses need to look at ways of improving their sites' UX, so they don't lose customers to their competitors.
A website doesn't need to be complicated and over the top to impress customers — it just needs to do the basics well. It should load quickly, look good visually, and work well to give visitors a pleasant experience. It's also essential that a business's website is mobile-friendly.
Security is another concern that customers have, and your website is the primary way to build trust with them. To reassure customers your site is secure, you need an SSL certificate, contact details, a trusted payment method, and security certifications. Using a website builder that offers professional templates and built-in security features is an excellent place to start.
Customers are bombarded with marketing and advertisements everywhere. Now that large numbers of people are spending more time online, it's harder than ever to stand out from the masses of marketing communications. People are used to filtering out generic sales emails, Facebook ads, and content marketing. In fact, 72% of consumers will only engage with messages tailored to their interests.
Especially post-COVID, when customers are going to be more careful about how they spend their money, customers are looking for a more personal connection. The brands that manage to offer them specific, personalized marketing messages are the ones that get through to them.
The expectations for personalized marketing are beyond just the use of a customer's name at the beginning of an email. They want to know about products or services that are relevant to them based on their interests or their previous purchases. And customers are willing to share more information with businesses to receive more personalized marketing.
Hyper-personalization is the next step, which combines all the data collected about a customer's behavior to provide targeted emails with relevant products or offers.
For more on the importance of personalized marketing:
In the same way that customers are looking for a personal connection in marketing messages, they're also going to engage more with content that's highly relevant and valuable. Post-COVID businesses need to reassess what content their customers are looking for — what's going to be useful information to them, or what problems they can offer solutions to.
Customers are going to be looking for more value from the brands they buy from, and they need to be able to trust and relate to them. Blog posts need to be entertaining and engaging, as well as address current concerns and answer questions. And businesses need to look into creating video content, interactive tools and resources, behind-the-scenes posts, and how-to guides.
For more on how to create effective video content:
As online shopping has increased exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the offline aspects of businesses struggled to keep up. Many customers were frustrated by delays in deliveries from some of the biggest brands, while local companies have been able to bypass these issues by offering free, same-day, or next-day delivery within their area.
As the pandemic eases, customers aren't flocking back to shopping malls — there are still concerns about spreading the virus. Instead, they're looking for seamless experiences between their online and offline interactions with a business, such as a quick delivery option or a straightforward click-and-collect system to minimize contact.
Businesses need to invest in safe and efficient delivery methods to get products to customers as quickly as possible. For small retail businesses, using a dropshipping fulfillment method might work best. You won't have to buy and store inventory upfront, and you can work with suppliers who ship the products directly to your customers. You'll be able to focus on selling products and rely on experienced suppliers to handle quick and safe deliveries.
Customers are also going to expect better customer service post-COVID — they'll need more reassurance about spending their money and the value they're going to get. It's going to be important for businesses to make it easy for customers to get in touch with them and provide real help.
And with people more reluctant to go out due to the virus, returns processes must be more flexible. Customers will need multiple options for dropping off online returns, and in-store returns will need to be streamlined for minimum contact.
Is your business ready to re-open? Use this checklist to find out.
Originally published on July 27th, 2020, last updated on August 16th, 2022.