January 25, 2021 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused radical changes in consumer habits. Confinement measures, restrictions imposed on the commercial sector and people’s concern for their health, accelerated the adoption of online shopping and triggered new processes in decision-making by consumers.
Facebook IQ, the area of the company dedicated to market knowledge, prepared the study The future of purchases was anticipated , on the prospects for retail, with the purpose of understanding the changes and building a bridge between the current uncertainty with the future opportunities.
From this document, Adriana Peón, commercial director of eCommerce, Retail and Financial Services at Facebook , shares five recommendations for businesses that can help them successfully meet the needs of consumers in 2021.
1. Adapt shopping experiences to meet new consumer expectations
While price is still the most important factor when deciding where to buy, it is also true that throughout 2020 people have reassessed their expectations and taken additional factors into consideration when buying. For example, security is essential to physically go to a store; 71% of consumers worldwide say that a safe environment in the store is very important. For online shopping, reliability has become essential, with 70% of consumers saying that it is important that the products they want are available.
In this context, the recommendation is that businesses adapt the shopping experiences, both in physical stores and online, to comply with security measures and inventory reliability to increase the probability of completing the purchase process.
2. Reduce the friction of in-store and online purchases
People expect a quick and easy shopping experience. When they must take unnecessary steps or experience delays or barriers, the likelihood that they will abandon the process increases. The pandemic increased the possibility of additional friction by having increased both the risks and the intolerance of consumers towards them.
These barriers extend both for physical stores and online. For example, 38% of global consumers say they have experienced time risks (for example, long lines to pay and difficulty finding products) while shopping in the store and 54% say they have experienced functional risks (items out of stock or lack of information about products) while shopping online.
Reducing friction both in store and online should become a central objective for business. Minimizing waiting times and guaranteeing information and product availability, as well as a smooth payment experience , will build trust in consumers and help convert them into frequent customers.
3. Focus on both the transactional and the experimental
Traditionally, face-to-face shopping has been considered an experience, that is, if you want to see and feel a product, you go to the store. While electronic commerce has been classified as a mere transaction. The pandemic has blurred these distinctions and even reversed the roles of both channels. More and more people want in-person shopping to be efficient and e-commerce to be immersive. In fact, 63% of online consumers globally agreed with the statement: “I would like to virtually try the products on from the comfort of my home.”
Technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and live commerce can serve as substitutes for in-store experiences to build trust. The first two reduce the gap between the online and offline worlds by allowing products to be represented digitally in physical spaces, while live commerce allows people to make purchases during live broadcasts of tutorials and product demonstrations, which motivates consumers to complete the purchase.
4. Seek to reach both local buyers and the rest of the world
Many consumers have tried to help businesses in their communities: two out of three people say they have taken some action to support a local business, either by making purchases or promoting it on social media. At the same time, global online sales increased 21% during the first half of 2020, compared to the same period of 2019, as buyers searched for product availability and better prices.
It is clear that consumers do not limit their purchases to one geographic area and are increasingly looking for the products they need both locally and globally. Companies can follow suit and seek to meet the needs of buyers in their own communities and in potential new markets.
Thanks to technology today it is much easier to connect with people who are in a different location. However, it is important to recognize the relevance of localized marketing, for example tailoring the language of advertising and information based on location or customer preferences. In addition, it is also key to try to create a seamless shopping experience throughout the journey, showing details of the purchase, as well as offering reliable payment platforms and various options for shipping.
5. Build loyalty with a multifaceted strategy
More than 60% of consumers globally say they have tried a new brand since the start of the pandemic, while 58% say they have tried a new online shopping platform.1 This diversification has contributed to eroding loyalty and customers. Consumers themselves report feeling less loyal to both physical stores and online shopping platforms.
In addition to the importance of price, additional factors now intervene such as availability (for example, inventory), accessibility (for example, communication channels), attributes (for example, environmental practices), actions (for example , omnichannel experiences), altruism (for example, the response to COVID-19) and safeguards (for example, security measures).
Earning loyalty in 2021 will not be an easy task. However, it is possible to achieve this consistently by developing a multifaceted strategy that responds to the factors that have traditionally influenced decision-making, as well as those that have become more relevant since the pandemic.
“Certainly, businesses cannot afford to stop and wait for things to be as they were before, but must look to transform shopping experiences to make them even more convenient and easy. The great advantage is that today there are technologies available to any person or company that make it easier to evolve and create new business opportunities ”, said Adriana Peón.