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How digital commerce needs to respond to COVID-19

In the last 3 months since the coronavirus began, online retailers and brand sites have seen an increase of 8.8% in online shoppers and 52% in total sales compared to 2019. As social distancing becomes the new norm for an uncertain amount of time, consumers have already started shifting their shopping habits online to help protect themselves and their communities. When we are all experiencing heightened stress, brands and retailers need to ensure consumers can find the right product with ease and speed.

Major retailers and governments are already responding to the increased reliance on digital channels for consumers. Amazon announced it will be hiring over 100,000 warehouse and delivery employees across their global infrastructure to support the surge of demand for online ordering. Supply chain and delivery workers are considered essential workers indicating governments want digital commerce to play a role in preventing the spread of the novel virus.

What can brands & retailers do to support consumers during the COVID-19 outbreak?

This shift to predominantly online shopping means consumers cannot rely on in-store browsing to make purchase decisions and will be experiencing increased stress in nearly all aspects of life. It’s more important than ever for brands and retailers to increase focus on making it as simple as possible for consumers to identify the right products as well as be seen as trustworthy and easy to purchase from. We’ve outlined three ways why conversational search is crucial to help businesses satisfy consumer needs and lessen the stress we are all enduring.

Social distancing requires digital commerce

With nearly all non-essential retail stores closing and calls to stay home as much as possible, consumers will no longer browse aisles searching for the perfect product or ask for assistance. Shopping online should not mean consumers don’t receive similar guidance and assistance they received in-store. The two factors consumers miss the most about in-store experiences are not being able to demo or handle product and guidance from knowledgeable salespeople. Social distancing requires digital commerce to provide a superior search experience that addresses each consumer’s individual needs with questions and answers to make digital commerce easy to use.

Difficult search experiences means unnecessary stress

Prior to COVID-19, 40% of consumers spent 30 minutes or more looking for the right product. In a time of uncertainty and stress, the last thing consumers need to deal with is struggling to make a purchase decision. It’s not sustainable to feel overwhelmed when shopping online when consumers need to increase their online purchases over the next weeks or months. Brands and retailers can provide a stress free search experience that supports consumers by finding what they want online fast and without any hassle.

Consumers need a trustworthy and reliable shopping experience

The average ecommerce return rate is 20% and that’s for non-fashion and footwear purchases. Consumers need to know what they are purchasing is the right fit for their needs-whether it’s a monitor to maximize work from home productivity or a new coffee machine because daily Starbucks runs are no longer an option. Conversational search instills confidence in a time of uncertainty by providing individual guidance and assistance at any time without worry about customer service being inundated with requests and inquiries. 

Above all, brands and retailers must think digital first over the coming months because consumers need them to be available to purchase from. Digital commerce’s success is critical for our ability to protect ourselves and our communities by keeping our distance from public spaces and helping our global economy in an unsteady time. Zoovu is here to help address consumer needs and wants with AI driven conversational search so your business can keep delighting consumers with packages at their door.

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Caroline Egan is the Global Content Team Lead at Zoovu with a background in content marketing and e-commerce technology. She is passionate about educating businesses about modernizing their approach to the intersection of e-commerce and brick & mortar and how to delight customers with unique digital experiences. When not working, Caroline can be found at early morning work out classes, cooking, and sharing a bottle of wine with friends.