As many aspiring baseballers can attest, hitting a curveball is hard. The bigger the curve, the harder it is to hit it. Hitters must see it as soon as possible and adjust their swing to make clean contact.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a huge curveball, affecting many aspects of our lives. From potential unemployment to our health, we have all been forced to adapt to ensure our families are as safe and as happy as possible. At home and in public, we are diligent to stifle contagion by social distancing, wearing masks, and avoiding large gatherings.
Our companies, too, must quickly adapt to a world where customer experience is increasingly remote. For companies built to offer remote services and products, there was an instant boon, evidenced by the skyrocketing stock prices of companies like StitchFix, Amazon, and Zoom. On the other hand, those companies that relied on more traditional methods have seen a marked decrease to their valuation.
The market has caught on to something here: in this new world, winners and losers have been redefined. The winners are those that saw a curveball coming and adapted to e-commerce, digital channels, and ensuring a quality remote customer experience. The losers largely still depend on brick-and-mortar to conduct business and communicate with clients. They have failed to adapt – swing and a miss.
On the eve of the lockdown in the US, in March of 2020, online retailing was responsible for 22.3% of all consumer sales (~$480b). By May, that number had jumped to 33.4% (~$708b). Thus, a $228 billion increase resulted from a consumer shift from traditional retailers to the best-established e-commerce brands with the appropriate infrastructure to support increased demand.
But changes are also apparent in how we communicate with our clients. In a recent survey, 51% of contact centers reported “huge increases in email use,” with 47% noting more webchats, and 37% citing an uptick in social media communication. These numbers make it clear that client expectations have also shifted to a demand for better and easier communication via digital channels (i.e., email, website, chat, SMS). The banking industry offers a clear example: in 2012, 27% of clients reported looking for an entirely digital approach to banking – with that number now at 46%. It’s clear that, increasingly, many people no longer want to visit a branch location but instead prefer to do their banking whenever and however it fits their schedule.
These trends aren’t new, but they are certain to escalate more quickly as consumer habits change. E-commerce grew by 12.7% between 2018 and 2019, and rose 30.1% in the first six months of 2020 alone. While retail sales are expected to dip by 5.7% in 2020, online purchases of clothing are up an astounding 76.7%. An expected decline in brick-and-mortar sales is estimated at nearly 14% in the US. All signs point to a continued need for more and better online presence and infrastructure.
During this pandemic, businesses ill-equipped with strong online practices are losing customers and revenue to their better-adapted competitors. The ability to weather this storm will depend on their cash flow, adoption of digital support channels, and a stronger online presence of e-commerce, services, or portals.
Businesses often help to speed change in society as harbingers of new technology and communication practices. The evidence presented above demonstrates clearly that consumers are shifting their habits, and the best businesses will make it easier for their clientele to consume their products, connect with their customer services, and identify more strongly with their brand. Forging creative ideas that serve the best interests of the client can maximize a company’s potential to beat the market, such as developing subscription boxes that easily promote packaged items and add-on sales. With such boxes, it is more likely that a consumer will develop confidence in a brand overall, after being initially attracted to a specific item. This confidence can be further strengthened by developing communities online. Opportunities to engage with other consumers and receive promotional material directly from the company give the clientele more exposure to the products and services they desire. Providing these opportunities online and with little hassle will remove the obstacles of inconvenience faced by so many businesses with deficient remote communication platforms.
No matter how a client wishes to connect with a company, responsive businesses will ensure prompt communication. This means that they must strive to connect with their customers on their preferred platform, requiring the ultimate online dexterity. Because remote convenience has become so important, quick and easy engagement should be the goal. Removing as many barriers as possible will lead to greater brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.
Making the Leap
It’s easy to assume that your business or industry is immune to these changing trends. It is not. Major disruptors in the digital space continue to eat into the market share of giants from diverse industries, like Redfin in the real estate market and AirBNB in hospitality – even business-to-business markets where traditional colocation providers are increasingly being replaced by companies like Google and Amazon. The biggest drivers of this shift are the ease of consumption, flexibility of offerings, support experience, and online visibility/control. Each of these issues are addressed by embracing the digital revolution driven by market disruptors. History pushes us into uncharted territory. When COVID-19 is finally behind us, we will live in a changed world. Those best-equipped to navigate the new landscape will invariably be the most successful. Thus, it is now critical for businesses to invest in three strategic areas: customer interaction tools that measure and support a broad range of communications platforms, e-commerce improvements that create a more seamless consumer experience, and a greater digital presence that allows for products and services to be more easily marketed.
Why We Wrote this Article
Matrix Networks believes in the power of online solutions to solve the unique set of problems posed by the current pandemic and resultant market shifts. We care deeply about our clients, our communities, and our economy, and we’re here to help them all succeed. As the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and enabling our clients to more easily cater to their customers will surely help raise the tide of our lagging economy. Working closely with our clients and tailoring our products to the unique challenges each company faces, we are committed to assisting them in moving their services online, improving their flow of business and their remote customer experience, alleviating their concerns over whether their online infrastructure is well-suited to the new economy, and ensuring they have all the tools at their disposal to distinguish themselves among their competitors.
Author: Matrix Networks