No one would argue that the WHOLE world has changed since we first published a set of articles about optimizing your digital ecosystem.
Everything included in those articles remains relevant except now, there is an extraordinary sense of urgency.
Getting your digital ecosystem right is more important than ever.
And you know why…The COVID-19 pandemic will no doubt be a defining moment for this year, this decade, perhaps the century.
The changes in consumer and shopper behaviors we are already witnessing will have a significant impact on how consumers engage with our brands and shop today and tomorrow.
Today’s immediate response revolves around product availability and logistical challenges. The heroes in our industry are on the frontline insuring production and distribution are the most important focus right now – and for that we are in awe of their speed, agility and steadfastness.
As businesses recover, it will be crucial to be prepared for this new consumer omni channel reality and hit the ground running when things get “back to (post COVID-19) normal".
Some of the macro trends we are already seeing as a result of this worldwide crisis and their implications for your digital ecosystem include:
Less brick and mortar shopping; more online shopping (even and especially for staples and food – the categories that were traditionally the slowest to transition to new concepts) with at home delivery and/or click and collect options - are your brands positioned to win profitably in this environment?
Changed shopping behavior is evident across all age groups – especially Baby Boomers and older (those most at risk and previously least receptive to adoption of online shopping) - are your product/service offerings and marketing content ready to appeal to these groups?
Curbside restaurant pick-up- are your offerings available for click and collect?
Bulk buying – new pack sizes and packaging configurations - is your assortment geared toward new buying habits and financial concerns?
Safety questions and concerns around re-usable/eco-friendly items - is your digital content changing to reflect the keywords shoppers are searching on today/tomorrow?
Shoppers buying categories vs. brands – a high level of brand switching (based on availability and relevance) - are you thinking through how to keep your new buyers or attract more switchers online?
More time searching particularly on mobile devices and in search browsers vs. apps - are your platforms, apps, websites, microsites, etc. leveraging responsive design techniques?
Less exploration and experimentation – consumers relying on the familiar, craving normalcy; Resurrection of dormant categories/activities like puzzles, knitting, old TV and movies - how can you optimize your content and offerings to leverage this behavioral affinity to “tradition and comfort” to competitive advantage?
Ad messages transforming to themes of normalcy, purpose, safety, unity - is your marketing content changing to reflect the new consumer attitudes and building relationships?
The need for human connection balanced with the practical value of virtual work/schooling - are you considering what new platforms will emerge to connect with consumers who have been exposed to new products and information exchange platforms?
As we emerge from this crisis, there will be no return to “business as usual". It will be business as unusual (when compared to the past).
It is often said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. We are already well beyond that 3-week window where new habits are taking shape. Consumers have already experimented multiple times with new brands, categories, social platforms, search techniques, technologies, etc.
Although these new experiences may not have been optimal (due to product availability issues, delivery delays, technological disruptions, etc.), for some this may be a baseline for their experience and therefore their willingness to continue with and tolerate it. Yet, there is the opportunity to significantly improve the consumer encounter…even with the most basic of changes, alterations, additions to our content and programs.
Emerging from the crisis, consumers will expect brands to have supported them throughout this pandemic with appropriate messaging, easy access and availability to product assortment across all channels and formats (especially eCommerce), ease of delivery, clear and complete content, safety assurances, reliability, etc.
They may have even explored new brands within your category and need to be 'wooed' back. In any event, it will be JOB #1 to make sure a formula for eCommerce success is followed.