Restrictions on mobility and people’s fear of being present in public places are changing consumer habits. Customer retention and engagement has become a challenge for most sales companies. New tools are needed to maintain relationships and customer service, and above all — build a top-notch customer journey.
The evolution in sales is accelerating rapidly, and with it the shift towards e-commerce and omnichannel. The new normal is shaping now, and cloud-based applications and mobile interactive solutions with significant personalization will be its technological foundation.
Currently, we are dealing with many trends in customer behavior, and these require an appropriate business response with the support of technology. People are watching the market closely and are now making important decisions in their companies’ strategies.
Among the currently noticeable phenomena, I singled out what I consider to be most important.
I. Customer behaviour change
The current crisis has put trust in the spotlight of consumers’ approach to brands. It actually has become the most significant factor influencing purchase decisions (40% of respondents confirmed that in Searchengineland’s market research).
With COVID-19 looming, mindful shopping has become a thing. Consumers are more aware of the way they spend their money; they are more open to switching from products they usually buy to cheaper ones. They also do more research before they make the final purchase decision. Take a look:
Discretionary spending is being adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. People visit retail locations less frequently and they think twice before they buy something that does not belong to strictly essential categories. There is an increased likelihood of a downturn in discretionary spending that extends well into 2021, says Fitch Ratings. Their projections are that retail discretionary spending will be down by mid-to-high single digits in second-half 2020, and sales in 2021 are set to decline by 8%-10% from 2019 levels.
Most of us shop less frequently, but try to buy all we need during one visit to the store. See what happened in Switzerland, where the average value of the shopping baskets skyrocketed: while in February it was around 35 CHF, it reached 50 CHF in March! That is an increase of almost 45%. Weekly purchases, for example on Fridays, have also increased in value massively. While the average used to be CHF 50 per Friday shopping, the figure rose by over 30% to CHF 65 in March.
The fundamental change on the global level is that due to offline sales channels disruptions, e-commerce has probably started its golden era. Customers switched towards online channels everywhere. It is predicted that in the United States alone, by the end of 2020 e-commerce will grow by 18%. Meanwhile in China, online channels enjoyed a healthy 19% year-over-year growth in the first quarter of 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, while offline sales dropped by 13%.
II. Technology and media consumption shift
While thinking about sales, relations and communication with your customers, it is worth remembering that the crisis has changed the way the media and technology are consumed. The pool of potential points of contact with brand communication and sales channels is actually larger than it used to be, but it will also be different: according to GWI’s research, people will watch more news coverage (23%), watch more content on streaming services (23%), or watch more videos (24%) and use more social media services and messaging apps (20% each).
The new normal? Definitely yes, if you are a marketer.
III. Neccesity to answer new needs
New customer habits and media consumption are pulling companies even deeper into the digital. But customers now demand services to be tailored to them, reflecting their individual needs, in every aspect of the customer journey. Sales must be carried out on a mass scale, but at the same time they also have to meet individual expectations. This is only achievable with the support of technology. The biggest challenge for companies will be transferring customer service, logistics and other sales-related processes into the digital world.
And it should definitely be done in line with technological trends, like the assistance of AI and machine learning to get a better insight into customer behaviours, so as to deliver more personalized services to customers.
IV. Companies have to act quickly
Our shopping habits are changing. So is customer service. This, in turn, involves a change in companies themselves. According to BDO Global Risk Landscape, almost all (97%) managers agree that an organization’s business purpose should evolve in response to social changes over time. What is even more significant today is the fact that as many as 99% of BDO’s survey respondents see a direct relationship between data integrity and their brand’s reputation.
In August McKinsey launched its really interesting multimedia series: “How six companies are using technology and data to transform themselves”.
From McKinsey’s analysis we see that many of the actions of companies that have coped well with today’s challenges have common denominators.
These three have caught my attention:
- Data-driven decisions
High-performing organizations are three times more likely than others to say their data and analytics initiatives have contributed at least 20 percent to EBIT (from 2016–19).
- Being “customer centric”
Top companies that sustain a comprehensive focus on the customer (in addition to operational and IT improvements by meeting their needs at every touch point) can generate economic gains ranging from 20 to 50 percent of the cost base.
- Digital speed
Successful companies just operate faster, from reviewing strategies to allocating resources. For example, they reallocate talent and capital four times more quickly than their peers.
The last one — digital speed — is crucial — the time it takes organizations to adapt to new conditions can be a game changer when it comes to business continuity.
Making fast decisions and rapidly adapting to a new reality is the only way to survive in future crisis situations like the current global pandemic — being digital helps the cause.
Use low-code platforms to adapt quickly
Digital businesses can rotate on the market at will, which is why they will be successful. Optimization of service delivery and receipt of payments will be dominated by those who offer seamless and continuous customer experiences. Transparency and accountability for all business operations, for both internal and external customers, will be as important as collaboration and workflows.
To survive, businesses have to adapt. The challenge is that traditional software development will not deliver: it’s slow, expensive and heavily relies on specialist talent — a bottleneck nowadays.
Right now, the implementation of new solutions must be fast, stable and easy to scale to meet dynamic market demands. The time has come for an agile approach to IT. Now is the time of tailor-made, scalable and flexible solutions. Building new applications quicker and more efficiently will become, or rather has already become, a necessity.
This is why, according to Gartner, by 2024 already 65% of all software will be built using low-code.
And I am convinced that this forecast will prove to be quite accurate.