Cast your mind back to late March 2020. Boris had just announced a ‘three-week’ lockdown (*rolls eyes*), the nation was obsessed with building toilet roll forts and furlough was still a funny word that needed googling.
Businesses needed to adapt, like yesterday, to the long list of new rules and uncertainty and fear kept us all awake at night.
As we ride out another nationwide lockdown in the UK, that uncertainty hasn't lifted. We wait. And wait. To be told what we can do, when and how.
For a while I surrendered myself to feeling powerless. But, that drained all motivation and creativity from my soul. So, I researched. I looked for the silver lining. The things I could control as opposed to all the things I couldn’t. And I did a Tom Daley-inspired, triple somersault dive into what consumer behaviour and mindsets look like against a covid-19 backdrop.
If you want to snatch back some control and pivot your business - whether you’re an online store or service-provider like me - these 2020 lockdown learnings are a great place to start.
1. Convenience over everything
Convenience was the key motivator behind the majority of UK retail purchases, according to Google’s Smart Shopper Survey.
Let’s face it, ‘convenience’ is a euphemism for ‘lazy’. So when you think about your target customer, look at them through a lazy lens.
Ask yourself, how many times have I probed them to click before they reach the checkout? How much effort do they have to put in to find key information?
If you’re burying key information (like delivery times) you’ve lost them.
Small Instagram businesses - if I had a penny for every time I saw ‘DM to order’ in the bio. JUST STOP. If you have time to answer a back-and-forth DM conversation with every single prospect then you have time to set up a super-streamlined sales checkout or at the very least, a landing page with a price list.
For service-providers, your availability and your prices need to be spelled out for those lazy could-be clients. Make it so clear, they won’t even have to ask you on the discovery call.
2. Customers are becoming detectives
84% of shoppers researched online before buying last year (compared with 76% in 2019). Shopping on the sofa gives us more time to browse, more distractions from checking out, more ways to seek out competitors.
This means it is not enough for you to have a killer website (although that helps). What would happen if your customer did a quick google search? Or read your last 5 reviews?
While you can’t control what other people say about you, you can try and get your own content upfront and centre.
Create SEO-led blog articles or interactive landing pages with quizzes, to aid that ‘research-focused’ shopper.
3. Online shopping boom is here to stay
It’s a no brainer that when storefronts close, online sales will go up. Even our grandparents have been on the blower asking how to order from ‘the internet’ (why is it always a ‘the’?).
According to some clever guys at Brandwatch, 73% of consumers surveyed said they would continue ordering online post-covid. This new wave of online shoppers are now converts for life, so it’s vital you hold their attention.
My top tip is to keep your website fresh as often as you can. Make sure every time that customer visits you, they are seeing new (to them) content and products. Engaging visuals. Big shiny buttons. Don’t just ride the wave of higher traffic - convert them.
4. Apps are making a comeback
A few years ago I worked for a super successful eCommerce business that spent years developing an app. When it was finally ready for the big reveal, they scrapped it. Why? Because app usage had dropped considerably in the time it took them to build it - it wasn’t worth the effort of launching.
One minute apps were all the rage and the next, resources were thrown at better mobile-responsive sites instead. Until that is, the unprecedented year that was 2020.
Mobile app usage increased, with 37% of consumers reporting purchasing via an app in 2020 (compared to 24% in 2019).
Whether you have an app that is gathering a bit of dust, or you have been toying around with the idea for a while, this year may be the perfect time to finally launch or relaunch with a hungrier audience hovering over the download button.
5. Sustainability is not a trend
It isn’t just the Martha Grünbergs of the world that care about sustainability and social issues. If you haven’t got an ethical strategy woven into your business, then stop preaching that you do.
It isn’t a buzz word. Or a movement. It is super important to consumers and 62% of them care what you’re doing as a business behind the scenes as well in your glossy campaigns.
In fact, they care about how you treat your staff. Your supply chain. Your F ups and fix-ups. Don’t try burying the bullshit. Own it and do better.
I refer clients to Beauty Pie for their constant honesty. They had huge shipment delays and restock issues last year and they didn’t hide behind ‘we’re sorry for the delay’ emails or promotional smokescreens. They took full responsibility and spelled it out straight in my inbox. They gave me so much information, I felt like adding their supply chain manager, Michael, on LinkedIn and messaging him ‘I feel you boo - chin up’.
Take a leaf and live your brand values every, single day.
6. Community is everything
Overwhelming support for small, local businesses has kept people going - some even thriving.
We don’t want to make rich people richer. We want to keep our favourite hairdresser snipping. Etsy sellers creating. Coffee shops serving.
If you’re small and scrappy (I use this term in a go-getter way, not in a scruffy dog kind of way) and you don’t have your own website, set up a business page on Instagram, Etsy or Facebook (the latter saw a 23% increase in clicks on local business pages). Sell gift cards. Reply back to your DMs and have a genuine chat. Create your own community, within your community.
My final thoughts (Jerry Springer style)
We can’t change what is happening around us. But, we can match our business mindsets to our customers' new wants and needs. Arm yourself with this knowledge, not just to stay afloat during lockdown, but to grow into a more ethical, community-driven, efficient machine that is ready for whatever 2021 has got in store.
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