Like it or not, the way customers buy has changed rapidly in the last 12 months. A change was on the cards anyway, started by the more widespread use of the internet. The current pandemic then hastened it to a level that has caused some businesses to struggle. With the first steps of many customer purchases now beginning with an online search, newer factors including an online presence and customer reviews have become more significant. It is a change for which not everyone has been prepared.
Evolving in time to make the most of the changes in pandemic buying habits and the gradual changes that were happening anyway due to changing customer attitudes will be a big challenge for businesses in 2021.
This news might not be welcome if you are already struggling. However, as the measures needed to make up for lost time are pretty straightforward, it isn’t necessarily all doom and gloom.
Each of these steps might seem quite drastic and expensive, and depending on where you are now, they might be. But, for most companies, this could involve a slight upgrade to what they already do or placing greater focus on an area of the business they thought wasn’t that important.
Create More Of An Online Presence
As most of your potential customers are now searching online for what they want, it would make good sense to have an online presence. If your business, in whatever form (more on that in a minute), can be found while the customer is looking online, you can influence the buying decision in your favor.
The obvious first step here is to create a more significant social media presence. You may already have active accounts on all of the major platforms, and it is those upon which you might do well to concentrate more effort. If you feel this might take you or a staff member away from your core activities, engaging a social media marketing agency (or individual) could be a good move.
They could achieve better results in a shorter time and free up your time or that of a team member. Social media is not the only way to engage customers online. Rather than the short and sweet message of a social media post, exposing them to longer, more involved pieces can boost your authority.
These longer pieces can be linked to social media or found more directly via a Google search. Being found directly is more of a long-term strategy, but you can start SEO campaigns right now, which should begin bearing fruit in the next 6 to 12 months.
Ensure Your Website Offers A Great Customer Experience
Some of those pieces will make up your website’s content, and that may also require an audit and possibly an upgrade. First of all, this is not always a process you should be attempting yourself. While you may have created your current website yourself to save money when you first started, you should probably leave this next job to the experts, as some of your efforts could be part of the problem.
Once you get a web designer involved, you need them to look at your site loading speeds and overall UX audit. These are two areas in which self-built sites, or ones gradually added to over months or years, are typically poor.
If you think about your own experiences when looking for products or services and the number of times you clicked away because a site took too long to load, you’ll see the need for these changes. Also, when you consider the number of times you have been frustrated by not finding information on other sites, you’ll understand how vital a UX overhaul of your site might be.
On the other hand, if you are a bricks-and-mortar business and your website was little more than an online brochure, then there might be much more work needed. If you need to convert your site to one where your customers can buy online as easily as they would in store, there are two possible solutions. Which one will be the most appropriate to you will depend on your industry.
If your business makes higher-priced but infrequent sales, then a plug-in added to your current website (after the loading speed and UX work has been done) will probably do the job. However, the pandemic might have made you think that doing everything online is cheaper and easier. In that case, a more extensive upgrade or a switch to a solution on the Shopify platform might be in order.
Place Greater Focus On Reviews & Feedback
All of this will be for nothing if a lot of negative feedback then puts off the visitor to your website. Customers, especially millennials and those in generation Z, tend to be significantly influenced by previous customers’ feedback and reviews.
If they believe that their buying experience might involve having to chase you up or return faulty or incorrect goods, then they are likely to look elsewhere. If, however, they can see that while you may have had teething troubles but you have responded to previous feedback and found solutions to your problems, then they will have a much more positive view.
The problem here, though, is that those same customers will contact you via various channels, including social media, and expect answers quickly. You can manage this deluge of feedback by searching for the best feedback tools to collect and collate all of this information and give you an actionable plan on which areas (if any) you need to improve.
This combination of factors can significantly influence how busy your company will be over the next 12 months. However, by presenting yourself effectively on social media with a strong brand identity, you can influence your potential customers at the start of their purchasing experience. You can then reinforce that with longer-form content to display your knowledge and then present them with a seamless buying experience to complete the deal.