It’s become a cliché to talk about the “new normal”, but the fact is the pandemic was a paradigm shift. There was a before and an after, and the post-pandemic world that lies ahead differs from the one we left behind particularly in the way technology is used to negate physical distance.
The retail industry isn’t alone in having to adapt to a new approach to selling, one which is here to stay. The post-pandemic world is a digital world, and technology laggards are increasingly finding themselves out in the cold. But there is plenty of room by the warm hearth that is digital. And the sooner a business can adapt, the sooner it can start to thrive.
Going full digital
Digital transformation initiatives were accelerated (and in some cases turbo-charged) with the urgency of functional necessity at the height of the pandemic. But doing digital transformation properly means doing it holistically. There’s a lot more to it than facilitating Zoom meetings – it’s about bringing digital technology into the heart of the business.
A global survey of executives by McKinsey and Co. found that companies had not only stepped up their implementation of remote working and collaboration capabilities by a factor of 43, they had also accelerated the adoption of digital technologies to enhance operations and support decision making by a factor of 25.
Digital is about bringing people, processes and technology together to work in harmony. An organisation that achieves this becomes highly agile and can quickly adapt to meet the changing needs and preferences of its customers with the resilience needed to weather unpredictable external forces. An agile organisation can take a proactive approach to change and respond to new opportunities as they arise, even if its teams are geographically scattered.
Understanding the new customer
The reality is that customer priorities have shifted across the board. In a 2021 survey of 25 000 consumers in 22 countries, Accenture found that the pandemic had caused 50% of consumers to “rethink their personal purpose and re-evaluate what’s important to them in life”.
Profound changes in buying behaviour can be mapped in your customer data, and the insights needed to respond effectively can be extracted through proper analysis. It’s vital for businesses to learn how to mine their customer data for actionable insights. What are your customers’ new priorities? How do they prefer to shop and what puts them off? Have their brand preferences changed and why? These are questions you need to be able to answer.
Only by getting this right can your business become customer-centric, and that’s a very important thing to be in a competitive digital sales environment. You need to be able to offer a customer experience that is quick, intuitive and seamlessly integrated across channels. You also need to offer a personalised touch wherever possible to keep messaging relevant and help customers feel more closely connected to your brand. Using your data to do this is what digital is all about.
Using customer loyalty programmes
Acquiring that data can pose another challenge in the post-pandemic world, but a loyalty programme offers a good way to source it. With incentives like discounts, special offers and the like, customers who opt in to your loyalty programme form a deeper relationship with your brand that can cut through the noise.
Considering the B2B space
In the B2B space, interpersonal relationships forged through face-to-face interaction with in-person meetings have always played a key role in sales, but the pandemic has changed this for good.
Research from McKinsey and Co. in late 2020 found that only 20% of B2B buyers said they wanted traditional in-person sales to return post-pandemic, favouring digital self-service and remote human interactions. The feasibility of such alternatives largely depends on the industry but perhaps the best idea is for businesses in the B2B space to offer choice and let customers choose their preferred way of doing business.
It’s not so easy to get all of this right by going it alone but some guidance from experienced experts in the world of digital marketing can help your business unlock its potential. We know that every business is different and we take the time to ensure that our clients get a digital solution that fits perfectly. Take a look at what we can do.