They may not have thought so at the time, but looking back at 2019, marketers used to have it easy. Consumer behaviors were easy to predict and slow to change, and relevant data flowed like tap water. Once Covid-19 struck, all of the traditional logic of how to boost retail sales went out of date almost overnight. The rules have to be rewritten.
There are already a number of great minds figuring out how to adjust marketing for a post-Covid-19 world. One aspect of the customer experience that has gone woefully under-considered, however, is the pre-shop.
Many people are no longer comfortable browsing around a store before they check out. Instead, consumers are doing more research than ever before they buy, and companies need to have a lock on that step of the purchasing process.
While the pre-shop will look different for every business in every industry, there are still a few fundamentals to be grasped no matter what, such as:
1. Use technology to provide local updates.
With Covid-19 came a seismic shift in the marketing landscape, one from which retailers have yet to recover. One ongoing challenge is stocking: Marketing products consumers can’t actually buy in some areas, resulting in unmet expectations.
What customers see online needs to match what’s in store. Marketing technology firm Genesis suggests aligning announcements with restocking timelines to provide more localized value to customers. Push notifications can work, but the better solution is organic content that consumers see on-site, where they do their research.
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Invest in marketing infrastructure that caters specifically to the pre-shop process. Otherwise, customers might be in for an unpleasant surprise when they try to buy.
2. Perfect your consumer’s preferred messaging.
Appealing to consumers during the presale is never easy, but Covid-19 has upped the difficulty to entirely new levels. Balancing action-focused messaging with language that’s sensitive to the pandemic is the finest of lines to walk, and slipping up can be costly.
That doesn’t mean count yourself out entirely, though: “coronavirus” is now the single most blocked keyword at Integral Ad Science according to AdExchanger, an integrated media company devoted to digital advertising, and every brand that has it blocked is missing out on a key opportunity.
Instead of ignoring Covid-19 entirely, learn more about who your customers are and how their needs have changed according to the pandemic. Whether you emphasize price drops during the pre-shop phase or focus on new products, ensure that your messaging is clear and speaks to the concerns of your customer base first.
3. Focus on personalization for a high payoff.
Tailoring your messaging on Covid-19 to your customers doesn’t have to mark the limits of your advertising personalization. The brick-and-mortar pre-shop experience often involves an in-store expert on your products or at least a display that is designed to appeal to potential buyers. There’s no reason that the digital pre-shop can’t be just as well-constructed.
That being said, marketing personalization remains cost-prohibitive for a number of brands—especially during times like these. Martech Advisor reports that personalized ads cost about 2.7 times as much as regular ads, making them high buy-in investments with payoffs that are hard to pin down. Thankfully, there are now more ways than ever to affordably personalize your business’s pre-shop, ensuring that no customer slips through the cracks.
4. Be honest to hook consumers.
As time goes on, customers are more concerned with their experiences than ever: In 2018, Salesforce reported that 80% of consumers think their experience with a brand is as important as the brand’s product—that number has since risen to 84%.
Almost every brand knows this by now, but what they may not understand is that both the experience and the product have to match one another in order to work together; their journey needs to be an honest one.
During the pre-shop, list prices clearly and legibly display any discounts. Make the process easy, keep the numbers of steps down, and impose no surprise costs. The product may be important, but the way customers get their will leave more of an impression on them than most marketers are willing to admit.
Even after Covid-19, the shift to digital will not be a trend that reverts. Any investment you do in the virtual pre-shop now will continue to pay dividends for years to come. Notice your customers and your customers will notice you back.