Business owners across the United Kingdom need to be fully aware of just how much consumer behaviour has shifted since the beginning of the global pandemic, as we near the time of its end.
Later this year, just as long as everything goes to plan, we will be back to normal and free from the shackles of social distancing rules. Although, things have changed from the perspective of the customer, and you need to be aware of that.
What is consumer behaviour?
Consumer behaviour is exactly what it sounds like, so don’t try to overcomplicate it too much. When we say consumer behaviour, we are talking about how people are making purchase decisions to satisfy their needs, wants or desires, as well as how their emotional, mental, and behavioural responses influence their decisions to purchase certain items.
These behaviours obviously change over time and one of the largest causes of that change is the environment surrounding us.
Lately, we have all been living through the global pandemic and it has caused major knock-on effects to how consumers have behaved around the world. Keeping up with those changes is one of the most difficult tasks a business can face, regardless of its size or where it is located.
Change was inevitable
After being in a national lockdown for so long, the average consumer has changed the way they behave quite drastically. Not only is there research to back up the fact that when people get used to something they accept it as the new norm, but it is logical to assume that eventually people will accept changes as a permanent fixture in their lives.
The Swiss Re Institute reported on this back in December, “Behaviour and habit changes are also directly linked to the extent of exposure to new environments. Research shows that it can take between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit; on average it takes about 66 days.”
It continues, “People more quickly adopt habits that do not significantly change existing routines. Today, consumers are settling into new patterns of behaviour for considerable lengths of time in response to the multiple waves of this pandemic. This is fertile ground for new habit formation”.
While many of the changes brought on by COVID-19 have had hugely negative effects on us all, a few have been surprisingly well-received. Or even if they had not been considered to be positive at first, over time they have become more commonly accepted by the UK population.
Convenience is king
One thing people expect now is for things to be extremely convenient and always cater towards them. We have grown used to have things delivered at a single click of a button, for groceries to be delivered during our chosen time slot and for clothing retailers to allow us to view how items look on us without actually ever going into the store.
If you return as a business that isn’t always convenient to the consumer, you’ll likely experience less sales than you may have first hoped for. The world is ever-changing and thanks to the impact of the global pandemic, consumers have far different expectations now to what they had previously.
Business Cloud reports, “64% of consumers for example now want mobile and contactless pick-up or check-in options. Accessible shopping will become the standard, with consumers around the world coming to expect a contactless experience as part of a seamless, efficient, and flexible omnichannel customer approach”.
To be a success in the post-pandemic era, you’ll need to understand that consumers want everything to work for them. This may well be rather difficult to wrap your head around at first, but it is indeed something that you’ll soon need to get to grips with.
Messaging is everything
If you want your venture to be at the forefront of your target audience’s mind, you’ll need to let them know how you plan to impress them. You may have so many different factors influencing the buying decisions of your potential customers, but if they don’t know about it they simply cannot acknowledge it.
Make your marketing message one to remember and one that stands out from the rest of the crowd. Include social media channels in your thinking here and connect with your audience on the terms they like to be connected on. Keep in your mind that your messaging is the key to keeping up with consumer behaviours and maintaining their purchasing decisions in a way that works out well for you.
The customer experience starts with your messaging, so don’t fall at the very first hurdle. Customers buy from companies they both trust and understand, hence why your messaging must be clear and confidently stated.
Stay up to date with changing attitudes towards your business
You should make an effort to find customer feedback and create a useful communication stream between your customers and the business itself. This will allow you to keep them up to date with all ongoing developments throughout this difficult period, especially if you have to temporarily close again. It’ll also allow you to ask your loyal audience for help, should you eventually need it, in terms of custom and finances, as well as making it easier for you to tell them when you plan on reopening.
If your business has an online counterpart, which it should do by now, or is completely based in an online space, collecting customer reviews and feedback on how you could possibly handle another lockdown, shouldn’t be too difficult at all. As an online business, you can get customer feedback easily and quickly, as they can give your service or product a rating via a single click of a button or offer you a single sentence review which could potentially carve out the future of your company.
Consumers of your business are far more likely to do this online than they ever were in-store, because it only takes a moment or two while they’re at their desktops, rather than having to go through a drawn-out process in person of speaking to a manager, etc.
Your customers and consumers should have an ongoing dialogue with your business if you want to succeed in a world that is as unpredictable as the current pandemic climate we’re living in at the moment.
Consumers want social media exchanges
Many small business owners in and around the UK fail to realise just how important it is that they are connecting with consumers across a wide range of social media platforms. This is because they either believe their respective ventures are either too small for it to make a difference or see it as another time-consuming activity that won’t get them anywhere fast.
You shouldn’t fall into the trap of completely avoiding social media simply because you fail to see how beneficial it may be to your firm. In the modern world, almost everyone is on social media in some way, so your company will need a presence on it too.
You’d be amazed at how many small businesses are failing to properly utilise social media output in order to connect with a wider audience. To avoid falling into this category, you should attempt to start using social media to your company’s advantage. If you’re not maximising the number of views on your posts or followers on your account, you’re missing out.
How to keep up with consumer behavioural changes
Consumer behaviour is an ever-changing landscape. Of course, there are trends that stick around for a while (some longer than others), but in the end everything takes its turn and swaps out for something new. As long as you are making your products and services easily accessible to your consumer base, you should be absolutely fine in the post-pandemic world that is fast approaching us.
If you can make the customer experience one to remember at your business, then as is usually the case, you’ll have a great chance of connecting with an audience and capturing their hearts. Keep profits maximised by ensuring you are satisfying the needs of the consumer at all times.