April 13, 2020
  |   Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, UX / CX

5 Ways to Enhance the Customer Experience During the Coronavirus

Nearly every company, and their customers, has been affected by the coronavirus one way or another. Consumer buying habits are changing, requiring brands to drastically shift their 2020 strategies. While it’s difficult to tell what the long-term implications are on the digital economy, here’s what we know from Adobe 2020 Digital Economy Index and Digital Commerce 360:

  • There’s been a 25% growth in U.S. ecommerce sales since the coronavirus hit the U.S. This is most likely due to online grocery sales, which have doubled.
  • Food & beverage is the number one product category consumers are purchasing, and online sales are increasing for virus-fighting products, non-perishables, wine, and fitness categories.
  • Over half of online shoppers rate ecommerce performance (aka their customer experience) lower than before the coronavirus. This is most likely due to delivery issues—23% are seeing a delay in online orders.
  • Despite the current circumstances, 56% of online shoppers won’t pay more for shipping.
  • 8% of consumers have placed more orders online to pick up in a physical store.

Based on these statistics, how should brands be reacting or proactively addressing the evolving landscape of the digital economy? It’s all about the complete customer experience, and making enhancements to the customer journey that can make a positive impact now and beyond the coronavirus.

1. If You’re Not Direct-to-Consumer, Now’s the Time

The coronavirus has forced online consumer behavior to significantly change in a short period of time. Food & beverage used to be one of the least penetrated categories in ecommerce, now it’s the number one category consumers purchase online. 

Start thinking about how your brand can become a challenger brand in your industry—it’s not just a title for startups and VC-backed companies. By creating a DTC channel, you own the customer data, generate more revenue by cutting out the middleman, and control the complete customer experience. In today’s competitive market, having the ability to enhance the complete customer experience, from the homepage to returns, is essential to attract and retain loyal customers.

Creating a DTC channel doesn’t mean neglecting your retailer or distributor partners. It’s about diversifying your sales channels to ensure your customers have the best possible experience, where and when they want it—be it online or in a physical retail store.

2. Explore Omnichannel Options

The coronavirus hasn’t stopped shoppers from expecting or taking advantage of omnichannel options. While only 8% of consumers have placed more orders online to be picked up in-store since the beginning of the pandemic, ecommerce experts expect this number to triple. 

Curbside pickup is one example of how retailers and brands can make their products available to consumers locally. This allows shoppers to order products online and pick up their order the same day without ever stepping into a store. While some retailers, like Nordstrom, were already set up for curbside pickup, other retailers have launched the initiative in response to the virus.

From an online perspective, the coronavirus has introduced a new way of interacting with customers digitally. According to Deloitte, consumers are exploring new ways of engaging with brands outside of the typical DTC brand site. They’re using social channels like Tik Tok and Instagram, as well as brand mobile applications, as part of their shopping experience. 

Use this time to try new channels and collect customer data that will help inform future customer journeys. The key is developing a cohesive experience across all channels—any misstep or disruption could linger in a customer’s mind past the pandemic.

What do Warby Parker, Casper, and Le Creuset have in common? They own the customer experience. Find out how you can too with Blue Acorn iCi’s report, Own the Customer Experience: Making the Switch to Direct-to-Consumer.

3. Add New Site Features For a Frictionless Experience

More consumers are shopping on their mobile devices or desktop than before the coronavirus, making it imperative that the customer experience is frictionless across devices. Think about which features you could add to your site that would make a positive impact now and beyond the pandemic.

Payment Options: Integrating a pay-over-time solution gives customers the freedom to buy the items they need now and pay in installments over time.

Subscriptions: Especially for items consumers regularly use, like breakfast bars, paper products, water filters, or dog food, subscription services provide the ultimate convenience factor. CFOs love the predictable revenue stream too.

Personalized Product Recommendations: Whether you personalized product recommendations before the coronavirus or not, the strategy will likely need to change. By capturing customer analytics in real-time, you can adjust product recommendations based on the evolving trends. For example, value and mid-range products will likely convert better due to these uncertain times. Additionally, you can use customer data to determine which products are often purchased together and offer bundling deals.

4. Amplify the UX With Content

The current situation is undoubtedly changing both how and what people buy online. Unable to visit physical stores, consumers are searching for ways to complete more complex purchases online. Review your site and determine how to enhance the UX to reflect the new reality consumers live in.

  • Product images and videos: Leverage imagery to replace the “try-on” or “touch and feel” aspects of shopping in-store, such as how-to videos or detailed product photography. Also, review existing images across your channels and replace any that are no longer appropriate in the current situation.
  • User-generated content: 85% of users find visual UGC more influential than images or videos from a brand. By placing UGC on the homepage and product pages, you instill confidence in the customer’s purchase.
  • Product documentation: Evaluate the documentation you have on the site around product dimensions, warranty, shipping, and returns. By enhancing the documentation, you give customers the ability to self-serve during and after the purchase.
  • Messaging: Ensure you remain transparent and factual while aligning with your brand voice. This doesn’t mean continually leaning into the work from home or quarantine messaging. In most cases, encouragement and empathy will go a long way with customers without getting lost in the inundated coronavirus-related emails and articles they see daily.
  • Promotions: If you’re running a promotion, think of how you deliver the campaign to customers. Rather than focusing on the urgency of the promotion, include the offer around timely content. And don’t forget to adjust your segmentation. Depending on your target audience, you may have some segments that have been more affected by the pandemic.

5. Optimize Delivery and Fulfillment

Proactively address delivery delays: Unfortunately during this challenging time, more consumers are experiencing delays in their deliveries. To manage expectations of delivery, proactively address delays via messaging on the homepage, product pages, and checkout. If you offer a subscription service, send subscribers an email address explaining the delay and what options they have.

For example, many pet owners subscribe to dog food from Chewy.com. To ensure their customers’ pets don’t go without food, Chewy emailed their customers letting them know of the potential delay and suggested moving up the ship date to get their food in time.

Create an engaging unboxing experience: While designing an “Instagram worthy” unboxing experience takes more effort than changing copy on the website, it’s worth the investment. You have the opportunity for an uninterrupted interaction with a customer in their own home. Take advantage of the packaging and include things like a branded design, free samples, or something as simple as a logo sticker. 

Make returns easy: Zach Apter, the Chief Commerce Officer at ClassPass, once said, “Our best source of new customers is old customers.” A returned order doesn’t necessarily mean a lost customer. By creating a frictionless returns process, you ensure the customer journey ends with a positive experience—improving the likelihood the customer will buy again from the brand or tell others about it.

If your brand needs help implementing some of these changes or would like to create a DTC channel, reach out to our team to get started. We’ve helped brands across numerous industries and sizes, such as Pentair, SouthernCarlson, Gerber, and Le Creuset, enhance their customer experiences.

Shannon Abel
After graduating from Clemson, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn iCi’s Media Marketing Specialist, she keeps clients and customers up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the ecommerce world. She also produces and hosts Blue Acorn iCi's podcast, The Funnel. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog and checking out the local breweries in Charleston.
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