Has Online Consumer Behavior Changed – What Marketers Must Know

Marketing in the digital era has never been easy. Every time marketers seem to have sensed a path to the holy grail; there is a disruption. With reduced attention spans, fierce competition in practically every product category, rapidly changing trends and platforms, and ever-evolving algorithms, cracking an online consumer is harder than it seems. And just when the marketers get comfortable with a strategy, new challenges, sometimes significant enough to take over the entire global market, erupt. COVID-19 is like no other scenario we’ve ever seen previously and will make some permanent changes to the way we deliver value to our customers. Organizations that adapt well to these changes will emerge with happier customers and more sustainable brands.

The world kicked off a new decade, reasonably unaware of what lay ahead. But COVID-19 hit, and it changed the world’s dynamics altogether. We entered an era we honestly were not prepared for, from countries moving into lockdown to people being home 100%.

COVID-19 and increased online consumer presence

COVID-19 has caused a colossal shift in the behavior of the online consumer. Seemingly overnight, the entire world moved to the digital platforms- for learning, working, education, getting entertained, working out, and shopping. Internet usage spiked up; conventional consumers moved online, people start making essential purchases online, and well, if there was anything non-essential, the consumers altogether postponed the purchase.

Even when the world reopens gradually, it is highly unlikely that the consumers will flock to shopping malls, retail shops, or hobby/learning classes/gyms very soon. The online retail activity has seen a consistent upsurge, and this trend will continue for at least one or two more quarters. In fact, according to a study, 24% of consumers said they wouldn’t feel comfortable shopping in a mall for more than six months, while only 16% said they would feel comfortable after the next three months.

Many user transactions- be it for retail shopping or for acquiring a new skill will continue to be online. The online consumers will now be massively, and perhaps exclusively, online, and this calls for marketing strategies to evolve to cope up with the consumer expectations.

 

 

Mobile is the way forward

COVID-19, home quarantining, and social distancing have resulted in the higher use of mobile devices for entertainment, food ordering, delivery services, and social media. Consumers are spending more time online, and for marketers, this creates new opportunities to reach out to potential consumers, whether via social media, display ads, or organic searches. According to a report, 72% of the consumers are choosing mobile for online purchases, and there may never be a better time to focus on the mobile marketing strategy. ‘Mobile-first’ will now be replaced with ‘mobile-only’ for many brands!

Live sessions are coming to life

Right from B2B companies to influencers, everyone is now cashing in on the additional time consumers are spending on the internet. From Facebook Live to LinkedIn live, online sessions are gaining massive popularity among the consumers who want to spend their newly found time productively. Marketers need to seize this opportunity by including interactive live sessions, Q & A sessions, and free demos and training into their strategy. This will not only help add value to your brand but also help you reach new potential customers and build greater trust in your offering. Marketers, at this point, should focus on influencing rather than converting so that when business cycles kick in, as usual, your prospects will remember you, popularize you, and transact.

Focusing on interactive content creation

43% of the B2B businesses that participated in a recent survey are planning to reallocate their budget for content creation. The kind of content also matters. Interactive content garnered a 90% approval against the 70% approval for static content among marketers. Marketers need to leverage content creation capabilities like never before. Employing immersive technologies such as AR and VR could be a cherry on the content cake in this context.

Resonating with the consumers

COVID-19 has impacted the spending habits and patterns of the consumers by and large. In a survey, 45% of consumers said they are now making more sustainable choices when shopping. Apart from being conscious of their purchase choices, consumers are now looking to associate with businesses and brands that actively display ethical and social responsibility.

From contactless delivery to contributing to charity, promoting local employment to maintaining high hygiene standards for their employees as well as customers, brands are doing everything to let their consumers know that they care.

Brand marketers need to, proactively, design their content, and social media messaging on these lines to connect with online consumers. There couldn’t be a better time to establish your brand voice or reinvent it. Of course, execution needs to be authentic, without exploiting the crisis for an improved reach and brand identity.

Adopting the new search engine trends

Cutting back on Pay Per Click campaigns just because business is low and slow is not recommended. Of course, the search engine patterns are unpredictable, and the search terms that were once popular might constantly be shifting out of favor. But changing to fit the new normal is the way to move forward. Marketers can now cut back on non-essential keywords and invest in keywords with low budget high conversion probability.

In times when competitors might be reducing their marketing spends, the chances of landing a good deal with PPC campaigns is higher, so it is vital to be vigilant! Changing times call for flexible and intelligent tools that enable such changes to be driven proactively.

To summarize…

It may be a cliché nonetheless true that these times are unprecedented. In the wake of COVID-19, marketers need to be contextual, empathetic, and relevant while continuously evolving to cater to the consumer’s fluid needs. The brands that will stand the test of this time are likely to thrive when the world returns to normalcy or adjusts to the new normal. Those brands will likely look back with a sense of achievement at how they leveraged marketing during this sensitive period.

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