From word-of-mouth recommendations to in-store browsing, the pandemic has forever changed how consumers behave. Unfortunately, this means that any journey maps you developed before COVID-19 need to be re-routed.
Consumers have already gotten used to a new way of doing business, from opting for curbside pickup to increasing their use of subscription services. Even as the country reopens, these changes in consumer habits and expectations are not going away—they are becoming the “new normal.”
This is not only the case for general consumers, either. If anything, B2B customers have changed their journeys even more, as office settings change and many plan to work virtually for the foreseeable future. About 30% of office workers want to work from home at least three days per week.1
Consider these factoids:
Email open rates shot up by 17% on average compared to pre-COVID-19.2
Website traffic volumes are up 20% on average.2
Social media usage has increased 41%.3
Almost 40% of adults say they’ve increased broadcast TV consumption since the pandemic (compared to just 8% who say they’ve decreased broadcast TV viewing frequency).4
Streaming TV is also up—over 45% of viewers have increased frequency, while less than 5% have decreased.1
Brick-and-Mortar vs. Online Shopping
In June (three months into the pandemic), over 90% said they would continue to purchase products online at the same rate or more over the next 90 days.1
Similarly, over 80% said they would continue to order food for takeout or delivery at the same rate—or increase further—over the next 90 days.1
Almost 29% don’t plan to return to dine-in restaurants until 2021 (or later).1
Online banking has increased 98% during COVID-19.5
Given the extent of these changes in consumer behavior, now is the time to deepen your understanding of how your customers and prospects are reacting to this crisis. Because many of the habits being established right now will likely stick around for some time, building a deeper understanding of your customers’ journey can give you a competitive edge as we move into the new normal.
A new chance to reset the mindset
While the new normal presents many challenges, it also presents the opportunity to sway your target customers’ brand preferences, even in low-involvement categories. Where a consumer may have made their brand purchase without much thought before, now they’re rethinking everything.
Consider this. A customer might be in the mood for pizza. Normally, they’d head to the shop down the street, but COVID-19 guidelines make them pause. They go online and research a few pizza shops nearby and find some they haven’t been to before. This gets them thinking: What kind of safety precautions are they following? Do they have faster or safer ordering and delivery options? This customer is suddenly rethinking everything, when their purchase before might have been automatic.
When you remap the customer journey, you have the opportunity to capitalize on this changing mindset and promote your brand in ways you couldn’t before.
Five considerations for mapping the customer journey in the new normal
Re-routing your customers’ journey might be difficult as you adjust to their new behaviors. Use these five tips to guide your mapping process.
Revisit your face-to-face touchpoints: Check the face-to-face touchpoints your business relies on and learn what alternate routes your customers are taking. For example, on-site campus tours have always played a critical role in the journey for prospective students and their parents. By rethinking this step of the journey, universities can overcome this challenge and delight prospects by developing engaging and interactive virtual tours.
Improve interactions along the new path: Some consumer habits were already trending positively pre-pandemic and are now accelerating even faster, including video chatting, using social media and shopping online.6 This presents an opportunity to build on the momentum. By mapping your consumers’ new journey, you can identify the specific points where customers have shifted their behavior to digital channels. The next step is to build new contact points to improve how they interact with your brand. For example, adding a video chat option to your website can help you deliver great customer service online instead of in store.
Add safety considerations into the journey map: No matter how their buying journey has changed, customers and prospects have increased their attention to safety. Take time to review the journey map from a safety perspective. Where should you add communication about the precautions your business takes to keep customers safe?
Pay attention to changing search keywords: The pandemic has affected every aspect of our daily lives so it stands to reason that there would also be large shifts in the way people search. What keywords are your customers and prospects searching for now? Are you optimizing your website accordingly? Consider how this will impact your paid search campaigns.
Get human with customer service and support: How many times are your customers hearing this message right now: “Due to the pandemic, we are experiencing longer wait times than usual. Your expected wait time is…”? Yet 80% of consumers say their experience with a company is as important as its products.7 Consider re-investing in the human touch. You have the opportunity to delight your customers by exceeding their expectations with prompt, friendly and supportive human service. Investing in this area of your business can lead to raving supporters and have a major impact on brand preference and loyalty well into the future.
Re-route how you learn about the customer journey, too
Mapping the customer journey requires watching, speaking with and, mostly importantly, listening to your customers. However, in the new normal, face-to-face research activities like shop-alongs and focus groups just aren’t feasible.
You need new ways to capture the voice of your customer. Consider using a few of these innovative research methods to hear directly from your target customer as you map their journey:
Conduct online video interviews and focus groups
Incorporate video capture into online surveys
Monitor social media
Do frequent keyword audits
Encourage and monitor customer reviews
Conduct brief user experience surveys after website visits and call center interactions
Interview customer-facing sales and service staff
In today’s economic climate, it’s more critical than ever to invest every marketing dollar wisely. With a good customer journey map that reflects the new normal, you and your marketing team can determine where to put resources to most effectively impact customer acquisition. Even better, a refreshed customer journey will delight consumers, increasing customer loyalty and retention for the long term.
1. Gensler’s U.S. Work From Home Survey, May 26, 2020
2. Hubspot, June 15, 2020
3. BCG, May 22, 2020
4. Resonate, June 29, 2020
5. InMarket COVID-19 Impact Report, March and June 2020
6. BCG, COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Snapshot #11, June 2, 2020
7. Salesforce State of Service report, 2019