There’s no doubt COVID-19 has changed the world forever. We all couldn’t be any further from “business as usual”. To survive (and possibly thrive), businesses need to adapt to a new style of customer journey. Businesses must now reconsider how customers can purchase from them.
Most of us are still in some form of lockdown. So how do we continue to buy stuff? What stuff do we need to buy? And most significantly – how do we actually get it?
With the fear of transmission, most brick and mortar stores have now shut, with some pivoting to “takeaway-only” options. Most services we are used to are severely restricted with human contact reduced to a minimum.
So what does all this mean for the “Customer Journey”?
How does it impact the way people will buy now and in the future?
The most pressing focus for a business right now should be how to adapt to meet this new journey, especially following the Australian government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy.
Ultimately, us business owners are faced with two decisions:
a) Change our operations for the foreseeable future
b) Just stick our head in the sand.
Although the outcome of either choice is unclear, the real unknown here is – how long will this thing last?
If the hold of COVID-19 on business operations is lifted, there’s not much to change, we just need to hold on.
But, if we consider the impact of a further 6-month period, or even longer (there’s the pessimist), we need to start thinking strategically about how we can continue to work without exposing ourselves, or our customers, to COVID-19. This creates a huge change to the customer journey.
The Old Customer Journey
Let’s start with a flashback to what the traditional 5-step customer journey looked like before COVID-19.
At the core of every purchasing decision is an underlying need – a problem to solve. This issue needing a resolution could be physical or emotional. Your car may need a service as it’s making a funny sound. You may need to buy some chocolate as you feel like you deserve a little treat. You might have just used the last square of toilet paper and need a new roll.
- Awareness – At this stage, an individual grows aware of a problem they need to solve. This could be quite obvious, as perhaps they have a blocked drain (problem) and need a way of unblocking it (solution). Or this could be more gradual, and they become aware of a solution to a problem they didn’t even realise they had. Perhaps your friend shares an app that tracks their daily calorie intake and health, causing you to immediately think, “I sooo need that”.
- Consideration – The individual looks at multiple solutions and decides which is right for their situation.
- Purchase – The individual actually makes the purchase and becomes a customer.
- Experience – This includes both the shopping experience and what happens after they purchase the product or service.
- Loyalty – This is when the customer continues to make repeat purchases in the future.
Take a look at your business right now – are your customers still there, and what does their current journey look like?
The New Customer Journey
Funnily enough, the new customer journey looks just like the old one. The journey itself hasn’t actually changed. We all still go through the same, natural phases in our mind and on our route to purchasing a product or service. What has profoundly changed is how we move through that journey.
The new customer journey involves a change in interactions at each step for the foreseeable future. Possibly forever. This will impact your business whether you’re a:
- Brick and mortar stores
- Online retailers
- Service providers (such as a trade service or gym)
- Sole traders
Step 1: Awareness
The process of an individual becoming aware of a problem has now completely changed. We used to venture out of the home and experience things. We used to physically interact with the world around us. We used to see people! For now, we are mostly confined to our household with minimal outside interaction.
This severely limits the possibility of new experiences.
Old School Marketing options that may enjoy a resurgence in this situation include:
- Road signs
- Vehicle signs
- Print ads
- Letter box drops
However, the current climate also makes it easy to grow awareness through New Marketing Activities including:
- Social Media and YouTube advertising
- Google Display Ads
- Local newspaper ads
- Printed Catalogues
- Content Marketing (blogs, eBooks, How To guides, e-newsletters)
How can potential customers find you today? What you can do to make it easier for them? Start developing a presence on your choice of the above New Marketing Activities. Many of them are free to join.
Step 2: Consideration
How do customers weigh up their options during COVID-19? How do they even know what options are available?
Perhaps this is one of the most dramatic changes to the traditional customer journey – we simply don’t have the luxury of multiple options (particularly if the competition is slimming or disappearing). With fewer alternative products or services to consider, comes great news for businesses staying afloat.
Old Paths to Consideration:
- Printed Directories
- Yellow Pages
- In store
New Paths to Consideration:
- Social Media channels
- Google Search results
- Online directories
- YouTube and video platforms
Are you making it easy for customers to find you at the consideration stage? As customers can’t stroll into your store any more, you need to bring your store to their home. Is there a way you can help them to see, touch or feel your products? Video is a great solution for this. Video content can give your customers incredible insight into specific products and how they will solve their problem.
Step 3: Purchase
Brick and mortar stores have been asked to shut for health and safety reasons. Those that haven’t shut will likely close their physical store at some point over time as we continue to live with COVID-19, and as their customers migrate online. It’s no longer an option for people to always be able to purchase in store, and it’s definitely not a smart option for businesses to plan around this.
Old Purchase Options:
- Pop in store to browse and buy
- Pick up or collect at store
- Pay in person with cash or card
New Purchase Options:
Due to the change in circumstances and in store availability, online shopping is seeing a boom. More customers are forced to browse for products via online shopping platforms, even for the bare essentials.
Looking at your business model, list how people can still make purchases from you. If you have never dipped your toe into the world of online stores and e-commerce, now is the best time to explore. How can you change the way you sell to make it easy for customers to purchase? What guarantee can you give them that buying from you won’t put them at risk to COVID-19? Find a way that makes it unlikely for them to say “no” when buying. Find a way to deliver your product or service to them online, touch-free.
Step 4: Experience
While many items can simply be ordered online and shipped to customers, delivering a service is a whole new challenge during this global pandemic. Many businesses have to completely re-engineer how they deliver services and how they can solve problems for customers going forward.
Old Customer Experience
Provide a product or service to the customer in person.
New Customer Experience
Zero touch. Next to no interaction. Products left at our door step. Services completed in isolation and post-service disinfection essential. Information products delivered remotely.
How can you continue providing your products or services while also keeping your customers, staff, and yourself safe? Consider if this is possible. Coronavirus will be impeding on ‘business as normal’ for some time. We need to work together to develop alternative ways to deliver our physical services, without transmitting the virus.
Step 5: Loyalty
As they say, it’s a lot cheaper to keep a customer than to try and attract a new one. At the end of the customer journey sits the ultimate goal – to create a loyal, repeat purchasing customer. Finding the most effective way to keep in touch with customers and encouraging them to continue doing business with you is challenging at the best of times. But with COVID-19? Nurturing this step of the customer journey is more crucial than ever.
Old Channels to Grow Loyalty
- Word of mouth
- Loyalty discounts or physical cards
New Channels to Grow Loyalty
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
- Online Customer Accounts
- Payment Plans
- Future Discounts
How can you continue to stay “top of mind” to your existing customers during COVID-19? Can you find a clever way to keep them coming back? How can you transform them into an ambassador for your brand and encourage them spread the word digitally?
The Real Digital Revolution
The customer journey structure remains exactly the same as ever. What has profoundly changed is how people interact with businesses and information throughout that journey.
Many traditional marketing and service delivery options are no longer relevant, or even possible. If we thought the 90s and the 00s ushered in the ‘digital revolution’ – we haven’t seen anything yet.
We are witnessing a dominating move to digital in almost every way we interact with businesses. It’s the businesses who adapt to this mass migration who will ultimately thrive.
More Online Resources to Help your Business Fight COVID-19:
Why Google Ads still Works Wonders during a CrisisDuring a crisis, your natural instinct is to view paid Google Ads as an unnecessary expense, but here’s proven reasons why AdWords is now a significant marketing opportunity, even during a global pandemic.
Inspiration From Central Coast Businesses Dealing With COVID-19
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5 Ways Your Marketing Strategy Can Cope With Social Distancing
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JobKeeper Program: 3 Important Considerations For Businesses
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7 Ways Marketing Can Help Your Business Survive COVID-19
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Adapting To COVID-19: Video & Tech Tools For Business
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