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People are buying more things online.

Consumer behavior is changing in 2020. Can your business keep up?

People are buying more things online. It’s official. HubSpot research into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected consumer behavior in the second quarter of 2020 reveals a 20% increase in global site traffic since March. That changes things for brick-and-mortar shops all around the world, wouldn’t you say?

If you were lucky, or cautious enough to work on your online presence before the pandemic started, this change in how people buy things can only be good for you. If, however, your business still relies more on face-to-face sales, and hasn’t established a strong home on the internet yet, it’s high time you built one.

What does this change in consumer behavior mean for your business?

The pandemic has most of us tired, afraid, confused, unsure of what the next step should be. But in times like these, the best thing we can do is stop and look at the data. And right now, the data is telling us that people spend more time shopping online, comparing products/services for the best quality and price, before deciding to spend what little money they have on the things that they need. Consumer behavior has become more cautious.

You’re going to draw your own conclusions about what all of this means for your business in particular, but don’t get discouraged. It’s not all bad news. Embrace change, and create opportunities for growth during these challenging times.

We’ve identified 4 steps that you can take right now to keep up with buyer expectations and stay in the game. Here’s what you should do:

1. Work on your website.

If you don’t have a website, get one.

Nowadays, it’s not difficult at all. What’s more, it has become mandatory. You have the option of building it yourself, or hiring a designer and/or developer to help you out. Plus, the hosting and platform options are so varied that you can get a really cool website with minimal investment. WordPress, Shopify, Wix, Squarespace are some of the most popular options, but you can make your website as custom or as generic as you want.

Contact a developer at NerdPilots to talk specifics and get a no-strings-attached quote. The easiest way to answer all your website-related questions is to talk things over with a person who knows the ins and outs of web development.

Still, if you prefer to do more website research yourself, we have a lot of useful resources on the NerdPilots blog:

You already have a website?

When was the last time you updated it? Products and product descriptions, your mission, your story, your terms and conditions, all need to be up-to-date. If a potential buyer visits one of your landing pages, they should find it captivating enough to stay a while.

Therefore, your pages must be simple, easy to navigate, mobile-friendly (70% of all emails are opened on mobile -> mobile websites are a must), up-to-date and attractive to your target consumer. A fast way to come up with effective content is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and imagine what their questions would be. Answer those questions, and you’re golden.

One mistake we see over and over is website neglect.

Business owners investing in solid websites only to forget about them for months/years to come. If a website is your business’s home on the internet, well, that home needs maintenance. So, update your content regularly: post at least once a week on your blog, keep all policies (shipping, returns) current and easily accessible, update your product list, fine-tune product descriptions, update your security measures.

If you don’t have time to do all these things yourself, you can assign them to the marketing person in your company, or you can always outsource them.

NerdPilots does a great job at regularly maintaining your website. Check out our WordPress Support, Wix Support, Squarespace Support, and Shopify Support plans.

2. Stand out with quality over quantity.

Filler content is out. Targeted, relevant, informative content is definitely in.

A side-effect of people spending waaay more time online in 2020 is the fact that they’ve become more selective about the things they consume. With so many things vying for their attention (emails, texts, video, articles, social media), people read only what they need.

So, throwing content at your visitors hoping something will stick is a waste of resources. Don’t make them dig for information, because they won’t.

Instead, focus on defining your goals and getting to know your ideal buyers. Then, develop content that’s perfectly tailored to their needs, to stop them in their tracks and get them to engage with your brand. This approach to marketing has been around for a while, but it’s becoming more than good practice. It’s becoming a necessity.

Developing quality content will help your business in a lot of ways: your SEO will improve, your advertising budget will get more ROI, your social media activity will generate more engagement, people interested in what you’re selling will interact with your brand and remember your business. Why? Because it speaks to them.

Check out these articles for more good content tips:

3. Facilitate online communication.

According to the same HubSpot report, there’s one more aspect of consumer behavior that has changed in the last 3 months: customer-initiated chat. Chat volume has increased by 25 to 50%, depending on the industry. But that’s not weird at all, considering all the social-distancing measures necessary to stave off the pandemic.

What does this mean for your business? Get ready to drive and maintain valuable conversations online.

A. Install live chat on your website.

Get in touch with a NerdPilots developer to set it up. It’s a must-have, and it should be configured flawlessly. Live chat is your first line of communication, and any hiccup will reflect badly on your company.

B. Put together a customer support team.

Train your staff in basic customer service. Make a plan and get ready to answer questions, solve complaints, sell and market your products/services in the most efficient way possible.

Use automated replies only to guide customers through the process. Don’t limit your customer service to pre-written answers. People don’t like talking to bots. They want to feel heard.

Learn how to talk to your customers so they don’t run away.

C. Adapt and course-correct.

Things won’t always go smoothly. Be honest, forthcoming and fair. People will appreciate that.

4. Get your team ready to work online.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the trend of remote work and fully-online companies. It’s not just consumer behavior that’s changing. We’ve gone from thinking about switching to remote work in the next 3-5 years, to making it happen almost overnight. Granted, some businesses were more prepared for this than others, but that still leaves a whole lot of employees and managers trying to figure this out.

Daily scrums have suddenly turned into Zoom events. Customer sales meetings have moved to Skype and WhatsApp. Only a few months ago, our biggest problem was what to wear to work. Now we need to figure out how to create a friendly backdrop to our video conferences, how to keep our pets and our kids from storming our workspace, how to manage our online meetings efficiently, how to stay productive and professional in a home setting, and so on.

If you’re hoping to just manage “somehow” until this whole thing passes, you’re in trouble. For one, remote work is not going away any time soon. And, if you don’t use this time to adapt, things are going to become increasingly hard for you.

Where to start?

How about getting on board the SaaS train? Software as a service has already permeated many aspects of running a business. Chances are you’re already using some sort of software for emails, communication, marketing or sales, and it’s helping you stay organized. Here are 4 more reasons to dive deeper into what SaaS has to offer.

Finally, get your team the training it needs to cope with new work challenges. You can find online courses for almost anything these days. For example, have you looked at LinkedIn Learning recently? Productivity skills, time and project management, communication (online and offline), Zoom manner, stress management, etc. – tons of useful stuff packed in short video courses taught by professionals.

By the way, if you’re worried about investing in your employees only for them to leave and join another company, you can stop. There are numerous studies proving that employers who invest in continuous education create loyal and productive employees.

Conclusion

The main takeaway: go online where your customers are. They spend more time online shopping, streaming, playing, learning, working, socializing. You should meet them there with quality products and messaging if you want to get their attention and stay in their lives. Get your website in order, start using live chat, and create value (content, products, services).

Need help with any of this? Drop us a line.

How does this shift in consumer behavior impact your business? Are you ready for it? Share your ideas and challenges with us in the comments below.

Written by

Writer and online content strategist. Loves stories, technology and entrepreneurship. Wants to help you leverage online tools and best practices to grow your business. Ask her questions! She’ll get you answers.

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