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COVID-19’s impact on consumer behaviour: What to watch ahead of the Golden Quarter

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Cyber Weekend 2020 is set to be historically different in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions are still coming into play as spikes in cases are revealed, and retailers will presumably be reliant on electronic commerce more than ever before. However, we believe it’s important to take a step back and analyse the effect of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour – considering these changes will allow retailers to identify the prime areas of their business that need to be reinforced ahead of the Golden Quarter. We took a look into our own platform and what our clients are experiencing in order to highlight these areas effectively to you.

Consumer focus has gone digital

Where consumer focus is now

COVID-19 has definitely shifted consumer focus from bricks and mortar to eCommerce, however, many of our clients are preparing for their physical stores to be fully operational over Cyber Weekend this year. Therefore, they are ensuring they can sell across multiple channels and be fully prepared for either increased or eased restrictions.  A number of our clients still see the bricks and mortar stores as an option this year, with a click and collect service on the agenda. With that said, having the ability to switch between online and offline is really important. Overall, increasing the number of platforms they sell through mitigates any future risk with re-emerging lockdowns if they should happen.

Some companies just take their site, integrate their warehouse, and leave it at that – forgetting about optimisation and the user experience. So now we’re really seeing the requirement for an omnichannel experience and a unified experience at that – both for retailers and consumers. Brands have to go beyond “having a website”. They need to look at how they can drive more traffic, how they can convert more, how does their check out work, and how they are utilising the data of their customers, etc. If you work within a brand, or in particular an eCommerce site you need to have the knowledge of using your online store. Retailers should shop online on their own sites, explore the entire customer experience through to delivery, and look to identify areas that could be improved.

Shopping and social distancing

What demands/issues are arising from our clients

One of the main issues we’re seeing is getting the product out the door quickly enough. A larger volume of orders online has resulted in companies looking at their internal processes. It could be how quickly they print a label or gift wrap. They are all looking at optimising these processes for getting orders out quicker. 

Other areas retailers really need to consider optimising include distribution and payment methods. Kooomo provides a centralised & unified view of all orders, across all channels and provides a suite of order management cycle functions (i.e. generate and print labels, mark as shipped) through our native Order Management System (OMS). Importantly, the Kooomo OMS is directly linked to Inventory, automatically creating movements based on orders as they happen, synchronising stock across all channels, and reducing the risk of stock issues such as accidentally selling ‘out of stock’ items. In addition, Kooomo provides a powerful Automated Order Management (AOM) configuration tool, enabling merchant-specific order automation based on conditional rules.

Our Kooomo developers have turned their attention to securing payment methods and diversifying the options available for our merchants – helping retailers create a check out process that is safe and frictionless for all.  Those who previously trusted offline payments only, have been given a significant nudge towards online.  With that in mind, Kooomo has taken time to improve the payment and security offerings available on our platform, you can read more about payment options in further detail here.

How is it affecting other areas of their business?

COVID-19 has had a knock-on effect on many other areas of a retailer’s business.

Firstly, consumer loyalty to brands has wavered as a) consumers grapple to find items that are in stock, and b) many incentives such as “loyalty schemes” are not synchronised from in-store to online. 

In terms of overall loyalty to brands, A McKinsey report found that more than 75% of consumers have tried new brands, places to shop, or methods of shopping so far during the pandemic. This is down to a number of factors, most notably friction in the supply chain – for example if brands were out of stock of particular items consumers explored new websites/companies to find them. 

With regard to incentives and loyalty schemes, we have clients with great loyalty schemes in place – but they lose out if this is not part of their omnichannel strategy. Having loyalty that can be used in-store and online helps customers feel happier that they didn’t lose out by shopping online. There are a few retailers who have nailed this process, such as Boots, so that points can be both spent and earned either in-store or online; something becoming more and more sought after by consumers. 

Secondly, there are distancing measures and safety processes that need to be considered. Click and Collect is now back on the cards for many retailers as restrictions ease. Therefore, managers now need to consider and develop strategies to maintain minimum distances and allocate special areas of the store to reduce customer interactions. This requires strategy and teams to implement these new set of rules.

What retailers don’t want to happen is a clash of numbers in terms of the last-minute rush, especially before Christmas. Therefore, there may be extra preparations needed, this year in particular, when it comes to collection points. Smart retailers will recognise they need to put cut off’s in place for these services and find a way to organise collections, be they by appointment or ticketing system in order to manage numbers and distancing.

Changes to in store marketing campaigns

How marketing campaigns have been affected 

We have seen an increase in newsletters going out, as brands try to drive customers online with added discounts and special offers. Brands are also extending their campaigns and channels through Instagram/Facebook shops – Smart retailers have realised that consistency is key, and you need to communicate with your consumer across all the channels they may be using, to deliver a unified message. 

We can also assume that in store marketing will be reduced this year with a lack of footfall and space needed for distancing. Therefore, retailers should take this into consideration when putting together ad spend budgets and deciding where to focus their budget this year. 

A comprehensive and flexible promotions engine is a core function available in Kooomo. 

Online retailers, therefore, have the ability to craft and manage specific types of promotions across a range of conditions such as coupons available to a specific geographic location, currency, or user-group. 

The promotions engine incorporates certain features such as:

* Define maximum overall redemptions or on a per-user basis

* Assign a free gift

* Free shipping by courier

* Run multiple promotions and assign priority in event of a conflict 

What have we learned?

eCommerce will for sure be the saving grace of this year’s Cyber Weekend event – while shops will be operational (hopefully, without the threat of further restrictions), it’s the consumer experience that will set successful brands apart. It’s not enough to assume that your online shopping experience is as good as they say it is on paper – we heavily recommend rolling up your sleeves and rehearsing the journey first hand now, to identify areas that need to be optimised. Smart brands and retailers will know their limits and not overpromise on items like next-day delivery if they wish to retain their first-time customers. As we mentioned above, consumers are open to experimenting with new brands, especially if they can gratify items that are “out of stock” elsewhere. So give your consumers, both new and returning an experience worth revisiting when the hustle and bustle have long since quietened down. 

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