This article was originally published in Localogy.
It is time to face the facts: As a society, we are not “going back to normal.” But is that such a bad thing? Over the last year and a half, we have learned so much about ourselves as consumers, our communities, and what we really want. From shopping online in their underwear at 2 a.m. to never having to find downtown parking, many consumers discovered there are things they like about being stuck at home. A sweeping majority of consumers, 87%, say COVID-19 will lead to permanent changes in their behavior.
As many states lift mask mandates and safety guidelines, and people adjust to a new normal, it’s time for local businesses to take note of what consumers liked about how shopping changed and integrate some of those temporary measures into their permanent business model.
Keep reading to learn about four business marketing changes that are here to stay.
Like it or not, consumers spend a lot of time on social media, so brands need to have a presence on social platforms. In fact, nearly one in three consumers spend over five hours a day on social media. Look at where your customers are interacting and what your competitors are doing to determine which platforms are necessary for your business. Connection is key. Keep a good mix of informative, entertaining, and socially responsible content. Be present to answer questions and keep conversations on your social pages going. The platform algorithms will reward you for it.
Consumers want fast responses, so much so that 68% of consumers are more likely to buy from a business that offers convenient communications. They also want the process of contacting a business to be seamless. Businesses must keep up with quick communications on the channels customers use. Read that last part again. Make it easy for consumers to get their answers about inventory, hours, or return policies where they are most comfortable communicating. This may be via chat, private messages, Google Q&A, social comments, or even reviews. Put your business where customers are reaching out and make your responses timely, otherwise customers will shop for a more responsive brand.
Consumers found some benefits to being stuck at home and shopping online, so businesses need to find a way to keep the conveniences that customers have grown to love. Connecting the online and in-person shopping experience will be crucial for maintaining the business of consumers who loved certain changes. Maintain a seamless consumer experience on all channels (online, via app, in-person) with rewards programs, consistent promo offers, and personalized messaging. For example, offer combination shopping like BOPIS—buy online, pickup in-store. Or, use online promotions to drive in-store foot traffic. After all, 89% of consumers viewed saving as a top priority at the end of 2020.
Although small businesses have certainly struggled during the pandemic, they have also seen a renewed consumer interest in the importance of shopping local—30% of Americans reported planning to increase local spending at small businesses post-pandemic. Most consumers are looking to connect with and support local businesses, especially those that share their values. Shopping local is convenient, fast, and makes people feel good. National brands must lean on their channel partners to maintain a localized focus and build relationships with local stores’ communities. This will keep customers loyal to the brand long after the pandemic ends.
Coming out of the pandemic, we’ll be glad to leave most of our adjustments—sanitizing groceries, social distancing, attempting to bake sourdough—in the past. But marketers should take these key consumer trends with them into the “new normal” so that shopping local can reign again. We may not know exactly what the future of retail looks like, but these four trends will likely be a part of it.