In the three months since the Coronavirus began, online retailers and brand sites have seen an increase of 8.8% in online shoppers and 52% in total sales compared to 2019. As social distancing becomes the new norm for an uncertain amount of time, consumers have already started shifting their shopping habits online to help protect themselves and their communities. Under heightened stress, brands and retailers need to ensure consumers can find the right product with ease and speed.
Major retailers and governments are already responding to the increased reliance on digital channels for consumers. Amazon announced it will be hiring over 100,000 warehouse and delivery employees across their global infrastructure to support the surge of demand for online ordering. Supply chain and delivery workers are considered essential workers indicating that governments want digital commerce to play a role in preventing the spread of the novel virus.
This shift to predominantly online shopping means consumers cannot rely on in-store browsing to make purchase decisions and will be experiencing increased stress in nearly all aspects of life. It’s more important than ever for brands and retailers to increase focus on making it as simple as possible for consumers to identify the right products as well as be seen as trustworthy and easy to purchase from.
Retailers Need to Rely on Digital Commerce
The fact that there is no immediate end in sight means that online retailers are becoming more reliant on their digital commerce strategies, to make it through this crisis. Shopping online should not mean consumers don’t receive similar guidance and assistance they received in-store.
The two factors consumers miss the most about in-store experiences are not being able to handle products and guidance from knowledgeable Sales associates. Social distancing requires digital commerce to provide a superior web search experience that supports each consumer’s individual needs, throughout their buying process, with questions and answers to make digital commerce easy and quick.
Your #1 Priority Should Be Offering Guidance and Assistance
Prior to COVID-19, research showed that 40% of consumers would be willing to spend more than 30 minutes searching for the right product online, however, this is not sustainable when consumers will be relying on digital channels to make all of their purchases. Furthermore, 84% of consumers are demanding more assistance and guidance when searching for products online.
It is absolutely essential for every retailer and brand to provide new levels of guidance online as consumers navigate a new digital-commerce-first reality. Making the process of searching and finding products online conversational and feel more human is what consumers will need in this new world of social distancing and self-isolation.
In doing so, you ensure consumers are able to find the products they need quickly and easily, with 24/7 assistance, in a language they understand and can engage with, and that recognizes each individual consumer’s needs and circumstances. This will help consumers overcome any stress or anxiety they feel today as they turn to online shopping for 100% of their needs, whether it be essential or not.
Why Acting Today May Save Tomorrow
As more consumers are forced to shop online to stay safe, they will inevitably habituate searching and buying products online, even in product categories that they may not have previously considered. Retailers must shift their commerce priorities, not only to act as an emergency buffer to what is happening but to ultimately provide long-term value to consumers, for when the world eventually gets back to normal.
Without sounding too much like a pessimist (I prefer realist), how quickly retailers meet these challenges may be the deciding factor on whether they make it through the tough times ahead.