While lockdown has kicked-in, consumers have become increasingly unable to participate in their usual shopping activities and this has contributed to their boredom. In amongst all the Amazon prime orders and the supermarket shops consumers are looking to the omnichannel retail environment as a way coping with this boredom and some consumers, particularly those who are high involvement (passionate & frequent shoppers) are planning their purchases post-lockdown, particularly for categories such as clothing and footwear. In today’s blog post I look at why retailers and brands need to understand current consumer behaviours in order to make the most of post-lockdown retail and why the current pandemic has highlighted this opportunity.
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Consumer Boredom and Engagment
“As boredom, anxiety, and uncertainty set in, people are looking for new ways to stay occupied, productive, and composed. ....How are we embracing novelty to help consumers fight boredom?" (Think with Google / Kantar, 2019).
Covid-19 has affected consumer spending dramatically and consumer segments purchasing habits towards clothing and footwear have seen a huge hit with some segments of consumers spending up to 90% less on the category (EY, 2019). Yet an interesting observation is that lockdown, high involvement consumers spending some of their current omnichannel shopping time around planning future purchases. They are holding out at the moment yet we will see some of them execute transactions based on plans they had made during lockdown. For some consumers that could be waiting to pull the trigger on luxury fashion items too.
Planned purchase decision-making
As panic has eased planned purchasing is replacing it. As consumers rely increasingly on an omnichannel format they are seeking ways in which to curate, edit and plan their future purchases. Instagram bookmarking, Pinterest, Amazon Alexa lists, Shoptagr profiles, retail wish lists, saved items lists and retaining products in a digital shopping basket tools are all ways in which consumers are identifying the products that they need, want and aspire to buy later down the line. People are shopping more consciously and planned purchasing is a way in which consumers will feel a greater sense of control and agency in what they are doing. For many a shopping enthusiast these aren't new tools but consumers are conducting customer journeys where they don't check out immediately to fulfil their need, want and enjoyment of shopping during this unprecedented time.
How can brands facilitate planned purchasing?
Facilitating a truly omnichannel approach to planned purchasing is an area which I think has been significantly overlooked in omnichannel strategies. While wish lists and saved items and online baskets are readily visible in the online domain we haven’t seen that translate fully into the omichannel physical store in particular. Consumers need to be reminded of planned purchasing as they enter the store to trigger their memory as to the items they were coveting and considering while at home during lockdown and to help make their inshore experience more fulfilling, sastifying and useful. As we know, physical retail will see a resurgence as people miss the act of shopping and physically interacting with garments.
Staff Customer-Brand Experience
Better utilisation of staff to support omnichannel retail experiences is also key right now. Brands such as HERO are light years ahead on this. Working with major fashion brands they are using live chat technology to connect online shoppers with their local store to build a connection and relationship with local stores to solve customer queries. The role of video customer service will also be valuable to support a better customer experience online. While albeit many stores are closed at the moment. Retailers should be implementing these tools to support and facilitate the customer brand experience. As we have seen John Lewis have implemented online advisory appointments which would normally take place in store for nursery and giftlist items to help consumers continue more traditional planned purchasing journeys in the online domain. This supports customer-brand engagement but also facilitates a closer connection with the brand.
In someways the onset of lockdown and coronavirus has brought a spotlight on the concept of planned purchasing. However through my own research on omnichannel customer journey behaviour highlights that highly involved consumers enjoy the experience of planning and curating future purchases. Yet somehow brands have switched off from this and it has been an overlooked area. While retail brands certainly need to tread carefully in terms of how they respond to the Covid-19 pandemic by switching from a sales focus to reinforcement of brand values, retailers should not invest in strategies to leverage planned purchasing when consumers are once again ready to transact.