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Consumer Behavior in the New Normal: How to Better Serve Your Customers

Due to the pandemic, changes in consumer behavior have emerged across all areas of our lives. For example, more people are now shopping online than ever before: U.S. e-commerce sales grew 44% in 2020, and online spending represented 21.3% of total retail sales for the year, according to Digital Commerce 360

Online sales are just the beginning. Additionally, many people are now working from home (4.3 million people in the U.S. work remotely, which accounts for 3.2% of the entire workforce, according to SmallBizGenius), and remote communication is now the norm.

The way people work and live has changed, from the way consumers shop to the way they communicate and consume information to the way they play and entertain themselves — and these new trends are expected to continue in a post-COVID-19 world.

As an entrepreneur, what does this change in consumer behavior mean for your business?

Simply put, these changes in consumer behavior will reshape the way your ideal customers make decisions moving forward. As a response, you need to adapt to these changes fast and rethink the way you plot your customer journey to meet their expectations.

How the pandemic has changed consumer behavior forever?

Consumers want a seamless omnichannel shopping experience.

An omnichannel approach involves integrating different shopping methods to meet your customers where they are, i.e., online, in-store or by phone. 

So, how can you meet your customers’ needs using an omnichannel approach?

You must engage with your customers where they are and where they want to be. Use data to optimize your business, and provide your target customers with what they want. While it might require a bit of legwork to get these additional channels up and running, your business will benefit in the long run: Marketers using three or more channels in any one campaign earned a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single-channel campaign in 2020, according to Omnisend.

While most entrepreneurs have rightfully been moving their businesses online over the past year, do not overlook the importance of SMS in your omnichannel strategy, either. According to the same Omnisend report, omnichannel campaigns that involved SMS were almost 50% more likely to end in a conversion.

While it’s important to have an omnichannel approach, make sure you provide a consistent and seamless shopping experience across any and all platforms. 

Consumers expect brands to engage with them more online.

Since consumers spend most of their time online, specifically on social media, you must increase your digital engagement, and aim to stay relevant across all touchpoints.

In order to engage with your customers online in 2021, start with authenticity. It’s essential to showcase the human side of your business. Consumers want to know about the person behind the brand. In fact, studies show that 70% of consumers feel more connected to a brand when the company’s CEO has an active social media presence. Furthermore, a reported 90% of consumers buy from the brands they follow on social media.

In addition to authenticity, it’s essential that your brand delivers a highly personalized customer experience. A reported 76% of customers expect customers to understand their needs and expectations, and you can deliver on this by providing personalized experiences through the use of AI and chatbots.

Chatbots can help you take your customer service to the next level by delivering a more personalized experience (i.e., answering questions in real time, providing product recommendations, driving customers through the sales funnel and eliminating errors) while also taking some of the burden off your sales and marketing team.

Consumers expect businesses to care.

If you don’t already have one, now is the time to create your company’s value proposition, which is a clear message that states the primary value your brand provides to its customers.

Consider adopting the SRI value creation process, which is broken down into four components: NABC

  1. N: What are the customer’s needs?
  2. A: What is your unique approach to meet these needs?
  3. B: What are the benefits and costs to meeting these needs?
  4. C: What is the competition or other alternatives for meeting this need?

Reimagine what it means to create value during these times. This goes beyond solving consumer problems with your products or services. What does your target audience truly care about? 

Today’s consumers, especially post-pandemic, support and purchase from the businesses they feel connected to through shared values and beliefs. In fact, 81% of consumers said they need to be able to trust a brand in order to make a purchase from them, according to Oberlo.

Key takeaways on changed consumer behavior

Today, your company’s survival depends on your ability to pivot and respond to consumer behavior changes fast! When it comes to adapting to the new normal, smart entrepreneurs must make sure to provide an omnichannel shopping experience, engage with customers online and establish (and share!) company values.

Originally published Sept. 15, 2021.

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