What marketers once knew about our consumers and how to do business with them, no longer holds true or, at the very least, needs to be reconsidered, writes Sinead Mooney of Red C.
As we navigate the uncharted waters of living with Coronavirus and begin to re-open business and services, we are entering a world that has changed. In two short months, how we operate and how we navigate our day to day has been turned upside down.
Our analysis suggests it is important for all business to re-evaluate their customer’s journeys
- With a lens of government restrictions and regulations
- Taking into account changes in the way real people will go about those journeys as a result of Covid-19, both initially as we emerge from lockdown and as we become more confident again.
Government guidelines of what we must adhere to in order to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 virus, has radically changed consumer journeys already. When and how people make purchases and use services has for many, changed out of necessity to adhere to these new guidelines.
We have all probably experienced the impact that the logistics of grocery shopping in-store can have for those that are able to visit. With only a certain number allowed into the store at any one time, queueing 2 metres apart to wait for entry, the wearing of masks and avoiding other shoppers!
This can make the experience much more stressful, and in turn have a negative impact on the brand. No one whose experience is stressful is likely to feel good about a journey, so taking away as much of the stress and distress as possible is vital. Ensuring space is sufficient, providing protection for shoppers and training staff are all important aspects of reducing customer stress on their journey.
As we continually require certain items currently not yet available, there are further challenges resulting in a complete shift in journey type, from in-store to online shopping. Businesses that already have an established online trading presence are most likely to have been best placed to adapt and take advantage of this. However, others will have had to deal with the challenge this presents, especially in the areas of showcasing the product range, customer queries, online payments, delivery of goods and managing returns.
Online is also increasingly being used by consumers to plan for their shopping trips, searching for opening times, special shopping times for vulnerable groups, requirements such as masks, can I bring children are all things that need to be factored into the trip before leaving the house. A simple trip to a store is now fraught with stress and tensions that simply did not exist previously.
Most of these changes to journeys are as a result of government regulation or advice. But what about the emotional needs of the consumer?
We know from our ongoing tracking work we know that it is not only the restrictions imposed on shoppers which is causing barriers to return consumers to making “journeys”. For many, the virus and lockdown has left people feeling more vulnerable and less likely to make journeys without re-assurance.
Many in marketing will know the importance of system 1 emotional connections to brands. Our work on the Brand Reaction Index last year showed how important these connections are for brands. Positive emotional reactions help make brand choices easier, and reinforce the choice as a good choice in the consumers mind. Therefore, driving or maintaining a positive connection is vital.
We have seen that consumers are more emotionally open at present, due to the virus and the lockdown. So driving positive emotional connections will have a really good impact, but conversely driving negative emotional experiences will have a more damaging effect now more than ever.
Our research shows that we are generally more cautious in our decision making. Consumers have changed their thought processes and consequently, their heuristics. The mental shortcuts that they take when quickly choosing one option over another are now different to pre COVID, and for some this change is intended for the long term. So, what we once knew as marketers about our consumers and how we do business with them, no longer holds true or at the very least, needs to be reconsidered.
It is also true to say that concerns vary for different people. For example, our journey mapping suggests that some consumers are particularly concerned with the space given to them, while others are more concerned about touch. Understanding the human impact of COVID-19 on the customer journey will therefore be as critical to future business success, as delivering within Government guidelines.
How have customers’ needs and emotional reactions to journeys changed? What do customers expect, or hope will be implemented in order to better meet the changed environment? Are there things that can be done better or even differently to enhance overall customer experience and re-assure customers?
We all want to emerge from this crisis as strong as we possibly can. The actions taken now will ultimately define how we regenerate. It is hugely important we get this right, as to not do so not only damages the business and the brand but also places staff and customers at risk and sets back the roadmap to recovery. Our economic recovery requires us all to play our part in ensuring we can live our lives and conduct our day to day business in a safe manner.
AT RED C we have developed a framework to provide a clearer understanding of the combination of government regulations together with the human needs of customers and staff, in order to re-define the journey bearing both legal and emotional impacts in mind.
We rather dramatically called it RED Phoenix. It takes into account government and logistical impacts, but also brings consumer emotional needs into play, and then finally looks at staff emotional needs as well. Ensuring that we keep emotional influence at the heart of reaction to government requirements.
While we hope that not too many brands are currently actually in the ashes, we do believe this approach is vital to help brands and services carefully emerge from the crisis, with the consumer in mind!