How to Embrace the Customer Journey Today and After COVID-19
Humans are creatures of habit.
We know change is inevitable, but we typically take time to adjust to new ways of working and doing things. When evolution happens, we prefer it to be well-planned and organized.
Web Chat Audio: Customer Journey
The behavior changes imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic from late 2019 into 2020 – social distancing, quarantines and facility closures – impacted our lives and the world’s economy at a rapid rate. The implications of the outbreak have been called “novel,” “unprecedented,” and “drastic,” leaving little time for proactive planning. Yet, through it all, we continue to interact, shop, and communicate. We’re just doing it differently.
Customer buying behavior is going digital
For most of us, our livelihood depends on our customers needing and purchasing the hard or soft products we sell.
Because limitations on mobility and face-to-face personal interaction have redirected buyers online, electronic presence and outreach to consumers is now essential.
As consumers become used to using digital services for almost all of their needs, it will be natural for them to develop new purchasing habits and continue to buy online after the pandemic is over. Companies that are taking an innovative and agile approach to reaching their customers are navigating the crisis more effectively and developing options to address new needs. For example, businesses are weathering the storm by offering online versions of their services. We’ve seen everything from fitness training to music lessons to virtual doctor appointments.
The faster a business can shift its services online, and the more creative those services are, will be keys to success in the future. Look to China, the first country affected by the pandemic, for examples of innovative solutions that limited physical contact ranging from robots and autonomous vehicles providing contactless delivery services across the country to unmanned grocery stores opening inside hospitals.
Invest in SEO and analytics to maximize your online presence
Because COVID-19 is forcing shoppers to shift their buying habits,
it’s important to invest in search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and remain visible in search results. If you’re unsure how to optimize your online presence for SEO, Vela’s digital marketing strategists can help, but in a nutshell, queries will tell you what search words and terms people are using to discover your website. You’ll get information on where your website falls on the search engine result page (SERP), as well as your click-through rate for those results. In these pandemic times, here is some of the key information Vela looks for in this area:
• Are people discovering your site because they’re using one of your existing products in a new way?
• Which products and services are most relevant to your audience right now?
• Is your website ranking high for the keywords it should be ranking high for?
Based on the answers to the questions above, you can devise a content strategy and potentially a digital marketing campaign to support the direction you’ve found in the search data. If you need help, you can always hire an agency to do this research for you.
In addition to search, it’s important to measure current opportunities for your business using Google Analytics. By comparing some of the most commonly used metrics to year-over-year metrics, you can quickly see if interest in your brand, product or service is being affected by COVID-19.
Comparing year-over-year data also will help you assess if any current uptick is comparable to tax refund season last year, the seasonal weather change or other annual events that tend to have an influence on your business. Some of those quick metrics include:
• Number of sessions
• Number of page views
• Average session duration
If you have connected your Google Search Console to your analytics you will be able to access additional information. The two key pieces Vela recommends assessing are the in-market segment and the queries.
In-market segments will tell you, based on other website visits and searches, what products and services Google thinks people are shopping for during the same time window they are visiting your site. At Vela, we would look for any segment that might be related to your brand to show an increase, indicating we need to continue reinforcing our messaging, or a decrease, indicating that we need to assess if there is a way your brand could be adding more value to today’s conversations.
Understand your competition
At the very least, you should know who your primary competitors are, examine their websites and market positioning (including their social media and reviews), and understand their pricing. Keep in mind that a number of governments across the world, including in the United States, have made adjustments to the enforcement of certain competition laws and enacted strict guidance on collaboration among competitors in various sectors so their prices don’t become prohibitive.
So, what’s next?
The long-term impact of the pandemic on new customer behaviors and initiatives remains to be seen, but the customer journey likely won’t return to what we remember.
We can expect that going forward, our customers’ journey will become even more complex, as their choice of paths has increased. Digital interactions will likely remain at the forefront, as many consumers adopted and became more comfortable with online shopping while they were sheltering in place.
Vela will continue to monitor trends in this space as we all gradually move closer to our new normal and #WhatHappensAfter. Stay tuned for next week’s blog post, “This is What You Should Be Saying.”
Until then, don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need marketing support. We’re here to help.