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Preparing Your Brand for the Post-COVID-19 World of Retail

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Preparing Your Brand for the Post-COVID-19 World of Retail

By: Rocky Longworth, VP of Strategy

Imagine spending two weeks of your life in a grocery store.

That’s the average amount of time U.S. households spent buying groceries in 2019, picking up fresh produce, restocking pantries and fridges, and getting something quick for dinner that night. Considering 40 percent of consumers consider shopping a chore and another 32 percent would instead rather wash dishes, it’s no surprise that people were already motivated to seek alternative methods for shopping before the coronavirus pandemic (Amato-McCoy, 2017).

Now, with shelter-in-place and social distancing orders affecting grocery habits, COVID-19 might have accelerated consumers’ transition to online shopping. McKinsey analysts suggest that over the next few months, e-commerce transactions will double to 40 percent and are unlikely to retreat to previous levels post-pandemic (Skeldon, 2020). Here’s how brands can prepare for these fast-paced changes.

Reboot E-commerce Strategies

Consumers are buying online, picking up in-store, and getting items delivered through digital platforms. They’re finding the experience intuitive and efficient, which makes it more likely that this behavior will remain permanent. So, expand digital/online programs and capabilities beyond selling on Amazon.

  • Reexamine and refresh your brand’s SEO/SEM strategy.
    • Identify how people are searching for your brand; are they searching by category, solution, or problem?
    • Invest in improved content that demonstrates your brand’s inherent value.
  • Explore direct-to-consumer pathways and partnerships to remain in front of the curve.
    • Home delivery, replenishment services, and subscription boxes.
  • Optimize brand websites.
    • Develop and test direct-to-consumer programs for sales.

Develop Your Brand’s Voice Strategy Now

Forty-five percent of U.S. households already rely on virtual assistants daily (TMA, 2019). While these devices are in early development, they are becoming increasingly skilled at recognizing and anticipating their owner’s needs (Dawar, 2018). COVID-19 is accelerating the adoption and use of AI devices.

AI assistants find the best deal for and provide owners with a sense of relief, voice also provides unprecedented convenience. The challenge to brands and retailers is the pending shift from brand allegiance to trusted devices (Dawar, 2018). As successful interaction with AI devices grows, so does owner trust in its ability to meet their family’s needs.

So, consider the following for your voice strategy:

  • Primarily, consumers use voice as a search vehicle – identify how they currently interact with and refer to your brand – brand name, product or category reference (e.g., tissues versus Puffs).
    • Include distinction by device – Siri, Alexa, Google
  • How do people refer to competitive brands when searching?
  • Gain a fresh understanding of the evolution of the path-to-purchase post-COVID-19.

Connect Social Strategies to Commerce

Social networks are sources for building communities and exchanging value (The Collective, 2020). However, they’re also pathways for connecting brands to targeted consumer groups, establishing trust, and driving measurable conversion and ROI (Digital Marketing Institute, n.d.). 

Because these networks are social, focus on generating brand awareness, engagement, and creating a community-based social identity. Ramp up your online selling capabilities to drive sales through social networks. To increase sales on social platforms, consider the following:

  • Connect emotionally – create and tell stories that ignite curiosity and compel your prospects to want to know more and to share with others.
  • Frequently refresh brand content – avoid managing content to a calendar, focus it on your prospects’ interests, passions, and needs.
  • Reduce friction to the buy – make it easy for consumers to find your brand and use “buy” buttons on platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram to drive impulse purchases and immediate sales.

What’s Next?

COVID-19 is accelerating brand and retailer evolution. This pandemic is redefining traditional shopping habits quickly while new ones are developing just as fast.

People will most likely not revert back to the traditional ways given the rapid transformation and immersion into the new ways. These newfound behaviors are likely to become permanent. Consequently, your brand must adapt now to thrive on the new normal that’s still developing.