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What COVID-19 Means for Retailers and Their Commerce Strategies

In the last 4 weeks, the way we live has changed dramatically: entire countries and cities across the globe have asked their citizens to stay home to protect themselves and their communities from the first widespread global pandemic since 1918.

Restrictions around what businesses are open, when and how long we can venture out of our homes forced a shift in consumer behaviour. In the month of February, as consumers prepared for time spent home, 8.8% more people shopped online resulting in a 52% increase in sales. Retailer leaders need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and lean into ‘a new normal’ in a bid to protect their employees, communities and customers.

Retailers are more reliant than ever on their digital commerce strategies. Amazon has already announced that it will be hiring an additional 100,000 employees across its global infrastructure to support the surge in demand. Meanwhile, competition laws are being relaxed across the globe to allow retailers share data, resources and inventory to ensure consumers have access to the products they desperately need.

How are consumers coping?

The news surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour — and the global population is trying to make sense of this changing situation and increased anxiety. We are all being forced to make decisions about everything, from cancelling vacations to ensuring we have the food and products our families need to survive at home. There are several psychological reasons why consumers will struggle to make decisions right now – and that includes knowing which products to buy.


Why offering guidance & assistance needs to be your #1 priority

Prior to Covid-19, our research showed that 40% of consumers would be willing to spend more than 30 minutes searching for the right product online, however this is not sustainable when consumers will be relying on digital channels to make all of their purchases. Furthermore, 84% of consumers are demanding more assistance and guidance when searching for products online.

Both occasional and new online shoppers are relying on brands and retailers to support their purchase decisions for all their needs for the first time. That’s why it is absolutely essential for every retailer and brand to make the process of searching and finding products online conversational and feel more human in this new world of social distancing and self-isolation. In doing so, you ensure consumers will be better able to find the products they need quickly and easily, 24/7, in a language they understand and can engage with, and that recognizes every individual customers’ needs and circumstances.

Why acting today may save tomorrow

As more consumers are forced to shop online to stay safe, they will inevitably habituate searching and buying products online, even in product categories that they may not have previously considered such as grocery, home appliances and consumer electronics (bread maker sales are up by 652%!). Retailers must shift their commerce priorities, not only to act as an emergency buffer to what is happening, but to ultimately provide long-term value to consumers, for when the world eventually gets back to normal.

Without sounding too much like a pessimist (I prefer realist), how quickly retailers meet these challenges may be the deciding factor on whether they make it through the tough times ahead. At Zoovu, our team have put together a short report, backed by the latest industry research, to help you navigate these times and offer the guidance and assistance that consumers desperately need, right now.

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