In the past year and a half, many of us have got used to doing everything – including shopping – from home.
Now it seems that full reopenings in the US are closer than ever, as the CDC now says fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or social distancing unless there is a federal, state, local , Workplace or tribal mandate it requires.
But with cities, offices, shops, and restaurants fully open again, many of us are starting to think about what life will be like after the global pandemic ends.
As an individual, a post-pandemic world could be pretty exciting to think about. But as a marketer, entrepreneur, or manager, you might be wondering, “Will shopping go back to normal after it reopens?”
To help US brands navigate and plan reopenings, we used Lucid to ask 300+ North American consumers, “What best describes how to shop when stores close after COVID closes.” -19 be fully reopened? “
The results may or may not surprise you.
Just over a third, or 35%, of respondents say they “shop almost entirely online”. Meanwhile, 21% expect they will do a balanced mix of online and in-store shopping, while 18% mainly shop online but go to stores when it suits them.
Once you’ve built a strong brick-and-mortar brand, don’t panic. This is initially just a general consumer survey with a small number of participants. Aside from respondents planning a mix of online and physical stores, 21% of respondents plan to buy mostly or entirely in physical stores after economies are fully reopened. If we had asked about certain products or interviewed people in another country, the results might have been different.
While this is just a data point to think about, it is worth mentioning as it shows that there is likely to be a high level of interest in online shopping – even after every physical store is at full capacity again.
So how can you deal with the changing future shopping behavior? Whether you run or work an online or physical business, here are some tactics you should employ.
How to reach buyers after reopening
1. Start or expand your website.
Even if you can’t start a robust online store just yet, a simple website can enable potential customers to discover you online, learn more about your business, and find your contact information.
Once you have a simple website that explains what your brand is doing, how to reach you, and where you are, you can further optimize it for the audiences by adding:
- Price pages that explain the price range for each of your services or higher priced products.
- Images or videos of your team offering a service, of your business, of new products that people can find there, or of customers who agree to be featured on your website.
- A few blog posts that provide more information about your brand, topics related to your brand, or tips about your industry. For example, if you sell construction products, your blogs can give people tips on simple repairs that they can do at home without hiring a professional.
- A landing page or contact form that people can use to contact you for more information, to create a product demo, or to arrange a service.
For more information on what audiences are looking for when they visit a company’s website, check out this data-rich blog post.
2. Consider adding online shopping or ordering options.
Are you not a tech-savvy web expert who can quickly create your own online shop? That’s fine. Still, if you want to explore selling products online, there are tools that can help you.
During COVID-19, many online shopping platforms emerged to help brands sell products or services online. While many restaurants started using delivery or pickup apps, small stores and boutiques have been able to build stores using tools like Shopify, Facebook stores, and Instagram stores.
But while an online store may be a great idea, it has its challenges. For example, you want to make sure that your shipping and delivery strategy is prepared for online orders so that you don’t sell out if a product or service is very popular. You’ll also have to spend some time putting together product photos, descriptions, and the basic design of your store.
If you’re not ready for an online store or service just yet and want to review the idea further, read on for more tips that don’t require a full ecommerce experience. When you’re ready to start your first online store, check out our ultimate guide to ecommerce.
3. Make use of online marketing.
Even if you don’t have an online store, you should still consider using social media, review sites, and email marketing to promote your business online.
If you’re new to the world of web marketing, setting up a free Google My Business profile is a good place to start. This will bring up your business name, address, details, website, and reviews when people search for products or services that you sell in your area.
From there, you can also consider visiting review sites like Yelp while encouraging happy customers to give you reviews there.
If you’ve already followed the steps above, your next move is likely to be social media and email marketing. You can use these channels to inform customers about sales or new offers, send them helpful content about your brand or share happy customer stories. This way, even if you don’t have an online store, people can get their brand on the web.
4. Immerse your audience in virtual experiences.
In the early days of the shutdown, we saw a handful of physical brands find ways to deliver virtual experiences or product offerings to their audiences and customers.
For example, Planet Fitness offered gym members videos of personal trainers, hair salons showed clients while they had their hair cut via video calls, and petting zoo guests could pay animals to attend their conference calls.
There are many creative ways to deliver virtual experiences to your audience. And while you can’t always bill them, they could certainly increase your awareness online and help more potential customers learn more about your brand and business.
5. Prepare your physical store for new shopping habits.
Although we would like to imagine the world completely “back to normal” overnight, this will still take time. People are likely to continue to remain cautious even if they are vaccinated and their state relaxes regulations.
For example, vaccinated Americans will soon be able to remove masks in and out of facilities, customers will likely still want to see companies make efforts to protect them. In 2020, a 2020 McKinsey report suggests just that, as many consumers said they were more likely to buy from companies that care about their customers.
With data like McKinsey, you should still take some precautions by keeping your physical location clean and following the most up-to-date CDC guidelines – which can be found here.
Aside from preparing your business for health conscious customers, you should also look into strategies to make it more convenient for customers.
As we saw in our consumer survey above, 18% – or nearly a fifth of our survey pool – said “I will mainly shop online, but shop in stores when it’s more convenient”. This means that with products or services that are not easily available online or that are often sold out, you will attract customers who would otherwise have bought online.
The above data can be useful in deciding which services, products or sales to market after the full reopening. If shoppers can buy something in-store that they couldn’t get online – like a product, a personal test, or some other interesting experience – you should let your audience know.
Immerse yourself in the digital transformation
Since the global pandemic has accelerated many digital transformations already underway, it is important to pursue at least some digital strategies when running or marketing a brand – even if it is a brick and mortar brand.
Fortunately, with so many companies adopting digital tactics, there are many free or affordable tools that can help you get started with marketing online.
Tools aside, HubSpot also offers a handful of free downloadable templates and resources for a marketer or entrepreneur at any level, like the ones listed below.