By Anastasia Lloyd-Wallis
Chief Operating Officer and Head of Consumer Insights, Retail Doctor Group

The last 12 months have been more of a continuation of what we’ve seen over the last one and a half years. COVID obviously had a significant impact on everybody’s lives in a whole lot of different ways.

But one of the progressive things COVID did is to accelerate advancements expected over the next 5-to-10 years and propel them into the space of just 2 years. This didn’t just happen in the technology space, but also in retail and every other industry out there.

As mobiles and other devices moved into 5G, technology speeds increased, too. And along with all of this acceleration, usage went up, but it wasn’t just average, everyday usage. Now, people were working from home.

Data usage

What was once a niche activity has become part of our everyday lives. People are connecting to Zoom, Skype, and Teams every single day to conduct business, but also to reach out to people they hold dear.

Working from home brings an added pressure from what was normally done within a commercial setting into your residential setting.

These changes are well-expressed in consumer behaviours. Every part of a consumer’s life is now managed through the internet, effectively. Internet shopping has increased, streaming has increased, online hobbies have increased, and the level of creativity with which it’s all done has had to increase to match the human desires now being expressed.

In discovering what really made them happy – an ironic twist to the pandemic – they want to sit at home and talk to people over the internet because it’s easier. There’s no commute, no dress-up, no intrusion.

The reality of the forced acceleration brought on by COVID is that people actually chose to be less social in person, but more present in a digital environment.

The progress of digital and online and constant availability via technology was never anticipated… not by retail, corner stores, businesses, or schools. Before COVID, none of these places needed to worry about having a website.

Consumer expectancy

But, from a consumer perspective, people expect access and speed, and to have the service they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

Definitely something we’ve seen change during COVID and the last 12-24 months is that consumers want what they want, immediately. And they expect their brands and retailers to deliver it… immediately.

For retailers, the challenge moving forward is how to keep this immediacy. How can retailers keep on the forefront of giving customers what they want, immediately?

Time as a form of currency

Part of the challenge with that sense of immediacy is as a direct result of the emergence of some technologies, keeping people more tech-connected, more linked to an environment where instant needs and instant gratification are the norm.

Whereas, when you come back into certain industries or certain environments, there’s an expectation that the old way of thinking, of waiting on hold for an hour or more for an essential service provider like energy or Telco, is still going to cut it.

Companies have pivoted. Granted, it’s not all of them, but now you can go to live chat or use a self-service app/option. Customers no longer want to be on hold for that long. Yet there are those companies that have made this the only available option for some industries.

Instead, those businesses and service providers should be taking the long-term view that understaffing call centres and being happy to let a customer wait on hold for that long is not a sustainable solution anymore. There is another viable solution.

From a commercial sense, from a corporate point of view, this means an early investment of a limited amount of money into a technological upgrade for this service, which will basically pay for itself within a short period of time, allowing businesses to recoup the benefits.

But, it isn’t necessarily providing the consumer with what they want. If you’re not getting through to someone to answer your query, you’re then having to go to a self-serve option, do the research yourself, check the internet, use the apps, go on live chat, talk to a bot or send a message via a contact form.

These are all delaying actions, stripping away that need for immediacy and causing frustration by the wait and rigmarole. The whole process of finding an immediate answer becomes just too slow when you have to find a workaround yourself.

Conditioning consumers

The problem arose due to not having the right people, the right tech, and the right solutions in place. With consumers almost conditioned to want that immediacy, live chats and immediate responses are part of the expectations consumers have.

Fast and efficient service is a function of success now. And in some instances, you can actually start off by providing that very personalised and detailed service to set expectations early.

It’s a well-known fact that younger generations are more happy to be tech connected and don’t necessarily feel the need to call. However RDG insights division research has show that this pre-disposition to prefer digital or physical interactions is a result of a consumers personality, Limbic Insights™ neuroscientific personality profiling shows us that certain personalities are driven by oxytocin, and are more in need of a physical interaction – regardless of age.

It is no longer enough to group your customers behaviours by their demographics, understanding their emotional drivers are key to creating a frictionless journey for each consumer.

If you’re looking to understand “Why” your customers interact with you and how to use this to drive foot traffic, increase conversions and improve frequency of visitation reach out to me for a complimentary discussion

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