This article is part of Raydiant’s Consumer Behavior series which interviews top industry experts to better understand the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on consumers, how businesses can adapt to these changes and how it will shape shopping experiences in the future.
The following is an interview we had with Dave Cherry, Principal at Cherry Advisory, LLC.
How has consumer behavior evolved over the past 5 years?
DC: The expectations of today’s consumer are rising faster than ever before, seeking new levels of quality, service, value, and convenience. Consumers no longer compare brands simply within industries– e.g. within retail, financial services, healthcare, or travel/hospitality. They now expect the quality of Apple, the convenience of Uber, the service of Nordstrom, and/or the value of Costco from all of their favorite brands. And they expect this regardless of size, location, or channel. This is the new Customer Experience industry – it includes everyone with customers.
What are the biggest consumer behavioral changes you’re seeing due to COVID-19?
DC: The single biggest behavioral change impacting retailers is the consumer’s fear of leaving home. A recent report from Big Red Rooster (A JLL Company) showed that 39% of consumers are staying home even after the re-opening of some stores, as compared with 25% pre-COVID. So, what was a big hurdle to get her off the couch and into the store when just a few clicks would deliver packages to her doorstep within a day or two, has become even higher. Retailers must now deliver an amazing “available only in-store” experience combined with a level of “health assuredness” to recapture store traffic and conversions.
How can brick and mortar retailers adapt to these changes?
DC: They need to go beyond new baseline expectations of curbside pickup, extreme cleaning, associate/customer health checks and masks. Stores need to deliver something that you cannot get online, creating that “must-see in-person” attraction. Doing this will require unprecedented levels of service, expertise about your products/services, and knowledge about your customers. It will require personal human interactions and immersive experiences that are exponentially better live, in-person. This will also differentiate you from your competition and deepen your connection with your customers.
What behavior trends should retailers be focused on?
DC: In the same Big Red Rooster report referenced above, they identified 7 behaviors influencing the post-COVID-19 shopper. I’m going to expand on the one that I feel is the most important and really hasn’t changed at all – “Confidence-Based Loyalty”. Loyalty has always been based on confidence and more so, it is a function of consistently exceeding the customers’ expectations. Whether personal or professional, loyalty comes from deep, well-developed relationships. So yes, retailers need to address tactical trends around contact avoidance, social distancing and virtual lifestyles. But the best approach will be to further lean into those shared values and connections that your brand has with your customers. That’s a trend that if managed well, will continue for a very long time.
What will the consumer shopper of the future look like?
DC: Tomorrow’s consumer will be as dynamic as ever, always shifting, and often unpredictable. She will be herself. She will be unique. Some will continue to shop exclusively in-store while others eagerly adopt VR/AR and other digital shopping options from their couch. Most will do some combination of both. We won’t be able to broadly categorize her from a generational or behavioral segmentation perspective. Consumers will want to feel that they are heard and are being addressed as an individual. Brands will need to be even more personal, more relevant, and deepen each individual relationship. This sounds very difficult, but there’s a silver lining. Most consumers provide lots of hints and trails of data about their behaviors, wants, and needs. Brands need to listen, observe, and use this data to make bold decisions. Doing so will develop that “it factor” that separates them from the competition in the eyes of their most loyal customers.