Posted: Thursday 21st May 2020 in Services.

Even before COVID-19 the way consumers shopped was changing. Yet, what this means for retailers and the future of their brands in the here and now has been brought to the surface amidst the recent pandemic.

According to a report published by Global Webindex in April 2020, 28% of those surveyed in the UK said they would be shopping online more frequently post-pandemic. Similarly, 25% said they would be buying more online for home delivery and 18% will be spending more time browsing and researching online before going in-store.

With plenty to break down and understand our Director of Customer Experience, Adrienne Burns, talks us through some of the key themes to consider and how to set your business up for success.

Tell us about your role at Summit?

At Summit we believe in a customer first approach across our full product offering, my role is to help our clients uncover their customer’s missions, needs, behaviours and painpoints. Our research is then translated into a defined customer journey to inform client’s ecommerce and omni-channel strategies. We focus on creating actionable insights that won’t die in a drawer because they are not designed or disseminated in a way that works for our clients.

What do you believe to be the biggest challenge retailers are facing during COVID-19?

For a while now we have been talking about how the customer journey is changing and that it is important for brands to focus on becoming truly customer-centric.

As the world changed with COVID-19, the focus shifted to ecommerce readiness and marketing adoption at a rapid pace. This focus on tactical activity makes it very difficult for brands to step back and truly understand how to shape their proposition and create roadmaps.

With more people likely to be continuing their lockdown behaviours post-pandemic, the biggest challenges our clients have asked us to support with are how do they plan their ecommerce roadmap and what does this mean for the role of stores going forward.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the way you conduct your client’s projects ?

Our methodology focuses on gleaming insight from several sources including our client’s teams, their existing data and most importantly, from customers directly. Our retail experience allows us to layer in the latest industry data, trends and tactical knowledge when building out actionable insights to drive customer engagement. In these uncertain times our approach is still the same, but it is our retailing experience that enables us to be more reactive.

What should retailers consider when creating a post-COVID-19 roadmap?

Prior to the lockdown, our research showed that many consumers said they go in-store for reassurance, as they can see a product in person and ask questions before making a decision to purchase. With the inability to go in-store, customers are spending more time researching and validating their decisions online. The new ecommerce experience should consider these needs and focus on making these moments of uncertainty even easier for customers.

The first place to start is looking at the hygiene improvements needed to meet traffic and device demands. I would then suggest undertaking activities to identify the painpoints across the journey, from purchase through to loyalty. From there it is about prioritising, looking at which painpoints stop customers from completing their shop and which ones drive the most value from your high-spend customers.

For longer term planning, focus on new developments or features that make the customer’s journey even easier and more inspiring. When designing a new feature, also look outside of your specific sector to see who is setting the benchmark.

Another key area in the roadmap is the omni-channel aspects of the customer’s journey. Supply chains are under immense pressure right now but with shift to online set to continue, investment in the post-purchase experience is vital to ensure customer satisfaction.

What is the most important thing retailers should be focusing on right now?

Alongside reviewing the relevance and priority of their roadmap, for those that have physical stores, it is time to really think about what the return to store journey might look like. This includes where in the journey behaviour will change now that consumers have become more confident shopping online.

“With many people now having bought products online that they would have bought in-store previously, their skills and confidence of navigating their own journey has grown.”

As we come out of the pandemic, I would consider a phased return to store approach, considering how technology can play a bigger role in areas such as post-purchase (e.g. location-based shopping apps and improved Click & Collect experiences). Brands and retailers will later need to consider how they elevate the in-store experience for customers at the top of the funnel.

Ultimately, brands that focus on understanding what has changed in their customer’s behaviour as well as investing in ways to improve and excite through new experiences, will be the ones that thrive in the new normal.

If you’d like to chat more about your own brand’s customer experience and find out how we could support you now and post-COVID-19, get in touch via [email protected]