Trends that will shape post-lockdown online experiences
Time spent online increased during the height of lockdown. Ofcom’s annual Online Nation report showed that in April 2020, UK adults spent a daily average of four hours and two minutes online, an increase of 115% in comparison to September 2019, just 7 months earlier.
The increase in time online was spread across a range of activities, including:
- Watching/listening/streaming entertainment increased by 51%
- Reading the news increased by 46%
- 31% of people were learning new skills through digital courses
- 61% of people in the UK admitted to shopping more online during COVID-19.
However, many brands are not meeting their customers’ needs. 76% of respondents said they felt that not all companies were making the effort to customise their online experience during the pandemic.
This comes despite 73% of consumers revealing they expect online personalisation as standard, and 83% want to receive personalised emails from brands. If personalisation is not part of your website strategy it might be time to talk to your digital agency.
So, what trends will shape the online experience after lockdown, and what can brands do to keep their customers coming back?
1. Increased e-commerce activity
Lockdown has dramatically sped up trends towards online shopping. In fact, around 77% of consumers say that they expect that they will continue to purchase more online once the lockdown has finished. It's time you carry out a user experience audit, ensure your website design is user centric, and checking out is as fast and intuitive as possible.
It’s unlikely that this change will be reversible now that consumers have built a trusting relationship and experienced the convenience of online shopping during lockdown. With shoppers expecting to continue their online shopping behaviour post-lockdown, around 50% will switch brands that have given a poor online experience so far. We've seen so many traditional brands that have not used digital to their advantage reach out to us recently. Put simply, businesses can't afford to ignore their web design and digital marketing anymore.
COVID-19 has opened the eyes of many brands to the risks of relying on physical retail shops. With the shift in consumer behaviour we can expect to see many trends in the coming years, including:
- Greater focus on a digital experience. From easy online payments, to using new technologies like AR. Retailers, especially clothing stores, can use augmented reality (AR) to create online fitting rooms that help online consumer visualise real-world purchases.
- Increase in online-only shoppers. Online purchases will become a more significant part of the relationship between retailer and consumer.
2. A shift towards digital transformation
As reports emerge about our online behaviour during the UK’s first lockdown, more retailers are starting to realise that their online activity is vital to the survival of their business. As a result, the e-commerce space is going to become busier and more competitive than ever before.
The brands that come out on top will be those that listen to their customers and swiftly upgrade their e-commerce capabilities. Memorable design, useful functions and fast loading pages are key.
If brands want to thrive in the digital space, they’ll need to offer exceptional customer experiences that distinguish their brand from their competition. This means:
- Choosing effective digital channels to communicate with customers.
- Adopting technologies like AR and virtual assistants.
- How brands use customer data to personalise the online experience. This doesn’t just mean using their first name in an email. Think email automation and loyalty programmes to generate an ongoing sales cycle, recommending relevant products, storing information and serving a more personal experience.
3. Relevant marketing communication
Lockdown has forced brands to rethink how they communicate with their customers. Many businesses have shifted focus onto products that make sense in the current situation.
It’s especially important for brands to carefully think about the need for sensitive communication during the coronavirus crisis. Many people have lost their jobs, homes, savings and their loved ones to the pandemic.
Brands should thoroughly check their messaging to ensure they're not coming across as completely tone-deaf. Brand activation is more important than ever.
Many businesses have taken a softer, more compassionate approach to their marketing communication, which prioritises keeping customers up to date with important information as well as providing light-hearted entertainment, instead of using the pandemic as a sales opportunity.
And to prove just how important it is to get your marketing communication right; we’ve compiled a list of brands that received good and bad reactions from the public from the way they handled the pandemic
Lockdown brands: the winners and losers
Burger King and McDonalds’ have competed with one another over the years to be the UK’s most popular fast-food chain.
But as the second lockdown loomed over the UK, Burger King posted a heartfelt statement to its customers asking them to eat at their rival, McDonald’s.
They earned praise from customers, who named them “classy” and “impressive”
Louis Vuitton’s parent company pledged to use its perfume factories to manufacture hand sanitiser to help reduce the shortage in France during the height of the pandemic.
Premier League players raised funds for the NHS during the pandemic and distributed them “where they were needed most”.
The #PlayersTogether initiative came after Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, suggested that footballers “take a pay cut, and play their part”, for which he received backlash from the general public and Premier League footballers.
The pub chain received widespread backlash against its behaviour during the crisis. During a time where businesses, big and small, pulled together to support each other, JD Wetherspoon's announced they would not be paying their suppliers until its 874 pubs could reopen at the end of lockdown.
They also sparked outrage by saying it wouldn’t pay its staff until furlough money came through from the government, which left staff who are usually paid weekly without money for up to 5 weeks.
Owner, Tim Martin, suggested that staff find jobs at supermarkets to cover the loss.
A Weatherspoon's in Crystal Palace was even vandalised following Tim Martin’s treatment of his staff.
Sports Direct is part of The Frasers Group (which earned £116m profit in 2019) and owned by Mike Ashley. Whilst the behaviour of the company has long been questioned, their response to the coronavirus lockdown earned them even more backlash from the public.
Initially, Mike Ashley refused to shut his shops during the first lockdown, saying they were an “essential service”. He eventually reconsidered after negative responses from the public, staff, MPs and the media.
What consumers expect from their online experiences after lockdown
Many of the trends outlined above were in the works for years before the pandemic hit. Whilst COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in many aspects of life, it must be noted that it has acted as an accelerator in forcing brands to create the online experience their customers have been asking for. The pandemic has transformed future digital plans into urgent business development solutions, and forcing brands to embrace change quickly.
If you’re looking for a digital agency to help you reach your consumers online with a thoughtful, relevant marketing strategy, then get in touch.
We specialise in creative web design, performance driven development and digital marketing that makes a difference. Visit our digital agency in Basingstoke, Hampshire or give us a call. We’d love to help your brand thrive online.