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The Online Experience: Adapting to New Consumer Behavior

Claire-Émilie Lecocq

December 23, 2020 | 4 min read

In 2020, an unprecedented health crisis took the whole world by surprise, sending businesses of every size scrambling to pivot their operations and keep up with new user behaviors. While a period of digital channel marketing transformation had long been underway, the pandemic accelerated it at an unprecedented pace. According to a study carried out among 2,500 corporate decision-makers by cloud communication platform Twilio, the pandemic accelerated companies’ digital marketing communication strategy by an average of 6 years.

Companies have had to get creative to adapt to the economic situation and new consumer needs. While some have seen a boom in digital traffic, from their existing customers as well as from customers new to online shopping, others have worked tirelessly to keep their audiences engaged, despite their services being interrupted. 

In Chinese, the word “crisis” is made up of two ideograms: Wei which means “danger” and Ji which means “opportunity”. To frame things more positively, the world health crisis has given us an opportunity. It’s giving us a moment to reflect on the future of digital and determine how we want to define and shape it. One thing is certain: the businesses that will survive this year are the ones who can rise to the new challenges of the digital channel marketing experience.

 

Agility: The Art of Meeting Customer Expectations

Amid these difficult times and abrupt changes in customer habits, the brands that will come out of this are the ones that have been agile. They not only were able to quickly pivot to understand their customers’ new or temporary concerns, but they have also managed to reshape their messaging and offerings to better respond to these new priorities. 

Distilleries have branched out to manufacture hand-sanitizing lotions, beauty brands have launched soap campaigns, and clothing brands have produced reusable face masks. To keep past customers and attract new digital users, brands need to show that they have a perfect understanding of their consumers’ needs and priorities by personalizing the online consumer experience. They need to create experiences that address customers’ concerns about privacy, as well as optimize customer journeys to help new and returning users reach their goals quickly and easily.

Beyond product offering, eCommerce companies’ had to be agile this year as their entire supply chains suffered delivery problems and stock shortages. Again, the most agile businesses have been able to quickly roll out innovative solutions to manage these problems and avoid a long wait for their customers, or at the very least, increased their transparency to communicate delays and supply shortages to customers, so their consumers can make informed buying decisions. 

Throughout this year, the key characteristic separating good companies from great companies has been agility. In order to survive this period of incredible change, brands have to be able to adapt to customers’ changing expectations and evolve quickly. 

 

An Exceptional User Experience for Everyone

During lockdown, many eCommerce brands saw an increase in new user profiles on their sites. Many older people unfamiliar with eCommerce and digital services turned to the web to safely and conveniently buy the things they needed. Brands needed to ensure their digital experiences and customer journeys were easy enough for these new users to navigate and accomplish their goals. 

Older generations aren’t the only customers who might struggle to use the web. Many people with disabilities (temporary or permanent) have specific needs that haven’t been sufficiently considered by brands before. This new reality cannot be ignored. The UX of the future will either be inclusive or it won’t! The good news is that inclusive design is an opportunity to improve every consumer’s experience.

During the pandemic, the average time a customer spent per session dramatically dropped. The more valuable and scarce a buyer’s time, the more demanding they are when it comes to UX design. Yet in its current form, the online digital journey is still too often an obstacle course. 

In fact, based on the analysis of billions of user sessions on over 700 brands’ sites, the average customer views an average of 24 pages before converting. And that’s not all! Fifty-six percent of customers abandon their shopping carts before entering personal information, while 44% of customers do not complete their transaction on the payment details page of checkout.

Many steps in the journey still present a risk of losing a customer. By analyzing shopping cart abandonment rate and conversion metrics at every stage, brands can simplify their conversion tunnel and improve customer satisfaction at the same time. Behavioral data is powerful for understanding what your customers are trying to do online and how your UX might be holding them back. From that data, you can implement major changes that help you win over customer loyalty and offer everyone user-friendly experiences that are accessible to all.

 

Increased Proximity to Brands

Whether your industry is booming or struggling, it’s more important than ever to invest in the relationship your brand has with your customers and communities. Communication based on trust and transparency is indispensable to maintain customer loyalty for your brand. Even if your business has drastically dropped off, it is crucial to focus on sustaining your customer relationships.

Beyond communication, the direct to consumer approach is growing in significance as it allows brands to maintain a direct link with their customers and have more control over the customer experience. The brand Le Slip Français, a French clothing retailer, is a classic example – by cutting out the middleman and selling straight to consumers, this distribution model means brands can reappropriate the end-to-end relationship with their customers and respond better to their demands and expectations, all while building up their community. Direct to Consumer is now attracting more and more major brands, such as L’Oréal, Nike, Yves Rocher. 

 

2020 has proved to us that while it’s impossible to predict the unpredictable, it’s still possible to prepare for it. Collecting, analyzing, and using data at all levels of the business is more useful than ever for understanding customer expectations. With consumer behavioral data, companies can make the right decisions and overcome the new challenges of the digital experience they need to survive 2021 and beyond.