In part one of our series, we looked at new data on emerging consumer habits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In part two, we will be looking a little ahead. There have been new developments regarding the virus itself, with many experts fearing the possibility of it returning to the northern hemisphere in the fall. If that occurs, we could see the same trends that we’ve talked about before once again. However, this time we may be able to be proactive if restricted living policies are reestablished in the latter part of the year.

 

Online sales shift based on lockdown status

It’s still too early to tell, but the boost in e-commerce activity caused by lockdowns may be less permanent than initially predicted. Countries that have extended lockdown policies such as the UK or France have continued to maintain high e-commerce sales. In contrast, others like Denmark, where lockdowns have begun to ease, have seen a drop in e-commerce sales1. Even if this is the case, it is still uncertain if this will also occur in every country that is beginning to ease restricted living.

So, what does this mean for brands?

In short, those that benefited from the increase of online sales should not be complacent. After all, gaining customers is one thing, but retaining them is another. There are strategies that brands can use to retain as many shoppers as possible once limitations are lifted, including:
 
/        Engaging customer support

/        Enhanced loyalty programs

/        Increased promotions and discounts

/        Personalized shopping experiences

/        Improved communications

/        Extended returns
 
Take note from Vuori, an athletic apparel brand that used some of the strategies above to improve consumer engagement. Forced to close their stores due to the pandemic, they switched their attention entirely to e-commerce. To boost shop sales, Vuori offered discounts to consumers that shopped at their existing locations, while enabling them to shop for their favorite items online. Vuori also shifted their messaging to improve engagement, making it timely to align with the reality that consumers are facing today. Furthermore, they prioritized their web and mobile experiences2.

 

Preparing for the next COVID-19 wave

As many pandemics have done in the past, the COVID-19 pandemic may resurge in waves3. Whether these waves will be fueled by the lessening of restricted living and social distancing policies, or due to seasonal aspect of the virus, remains to be seen. However, when it comes to consumer behavior, brands may likely see similar trends repeat should there be a resurgence of the virus later in the year.

This means that brands must prepare for potential store closures and another bout of increased e-commerce activities. It would then be wise to follow Vuori’s example and focus on e-commerce and social media to maintain and improve engagement with consumers.

Brands like Vuori, however, had an advantage over other brands when the pandemic hit – they had embraced a D2C strategy early on, making it easier for them to focus on e-commerce and to move away from physical stores when the need arose. This initiative helped them naturally adapt to the changes brought by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, most brands are not yet prepared for e-commerce. A few months ago, only 17% of brand executives believed their organizations were leading competitors in e-commerce, and 71% said their businesses were merely catching up or keeping pace4. With everything that has happened since, more brands have taken a serious look at their e-commerce strategy. For those who don’t have anything in place, time may not be on their side.

 

Looking ahead

If the experts are right, the world may face another COVID-19 wave in the fall or winter on the northern hemisphere. Therefore, brands have a very short time to put a strategy in place and acquire the tools and capabilities needed for them to be ready on time. Furthermore, we must remember that it’s not just about benefiting from the increase in e-commerce activity borne from restricted living policies, brands must also implement ways to build and bolster customer loyalty and engagement if they want to retain them in the long run.

Daniel Murillo-Vargas

Director, Product Marketing at Contentserv

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