2020 was a tumultuous year when it came to interactions between customers and businesses. Much of the change was driven by the pandemic. Physical retailers had to shut their doors, and online ones had to quickly find new ways to reach a customer base hungry for new kinds of product and service.
2021 may yet be just as transformative. Marketers will need to come up with new ways to interact with customers – who in turn may come to raise their expectations. So what might the changes in customer behaviour look like, and how might businesses deal with them?
More Older People Online
The pandemic has forced many older people into a digital environment that they might otherwise not have previously inhabited. And, once the skill and familiarity barriers have been overcome, those older people are not going to revert to their previous behaviour. Online shopping will likely persist until after the vaccine has been rolled out.
Customers market to one another
Word of mouth and endorsements count for a great deal to the modern customer. Those who’ve heard from friends that a particular product is worth investigating are much likelier to do so. Behaviour of this sort can be driven by the right loyalty program. This might be done through text – but, increasingly, it’s done through photos and video.
Emphasis on Visual
Similarly, customers have gotten a little more cynical when it comes to glossy marketing videos. Those exposed to video and pictures from other happy consumers are more likely to make the purchase. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever for happy customers to share images of their experience – particularly if the item in question happens to be a highly desirable piece of equipment, like a musical instrument, an elliptical machine, or a motorbike. Anything that business can do to incentivise this kind of photographic evangelism is likely to be rewarded.
During the early stages of the pandemic, customers were constantly on the lookout for information about what would change. Often, the answers were complex. Businesses who were able to get their messages across succinctly and regularly were appreciated; those who remained silent were not. This applied to supermarkets, who re-opened under a series of conditions, but it also applied to SMEs, many of whom injected a little more personality into their status reports.
It’s likely that this approach will remain a fixture of modern public relations. Businesses will always have challenges to overcome and successes to report, and customers, it turns out, are interested in hearing about them.
Customers have come to expect a higher degree of personalisation in the marketing materials they receive, through email and other channels. Vague, generic correspondence is likely to be discarded. Business will therefore have to be extremely savvy about the data it collects, and how that data is implemented in targeted marketing.