A User Experience (UX) Professional’s View on Why This Is the Opportune Time to Transcend the Buyer-Seller Relationship.
The economic fallout of COVID-19 has been grim and global: stock markets are erratic, GDP predictions are bleak, and universal industries like auto and travel are forecasting unprecedented revenue decline (10% and 34%, respectively). Virtually all operations, from large-scale manufacturing plants to independent bakeries, are feeling it. Many have had to close their doors for a period they hope is temporary.
An Opportune Time To Transcend The Buyer-seller Relationship
But as the saying goes, other doors have opened. Forbes reports a 70% increase in internet use since stay at home protocols have been in place. Online interactions are skyrocketing as consumers and business owners alike interface with the world from their living rooms. For every empty street, there’s increased online traffic; there has perhaps never been a more concentrated audience for digital marketing.
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Smart companies are beginning to notice. In a recent survey, 52% of retail marketers say they’ll spend more in social advertising this year than they did in 2019. They’re hoping the impression they make now will serve them when the pace of the world picks back up. And without foot traffic, networking events or in-person appointments, they’re looking to digital connection as their best (and only) option.
Unfortunately, a concentrated audience and a concentrated media spend isn’t enough to ensure a successful connection. Now more than ever, campaigns that push products and instill urgency to buy seem insensitive and out of touch. These are different times, and consumers are looking for something else.
Again, the open doors! The current chaos offers business owners new ways to connect with their communities to create lasting engagement. This is an opportune time to transcend the buyer-seller relationship, to prioritize the needs of consumers over the sale of a product or service. It’s something companies love to say, but don’t often get to prove. And those that can prove it will create connections that last much longer than the quarantine.
Need Awareness from a Distance
During this time of social distancing, the extent to which you can successfully connect with your clients or customers will be the extent to which you can identify, understand, and speak to their specific needs. Staying home has caused undeniable and unpredictable changes in consumer behavior. Some people panic-buy the essentials, while others safeguard their finances. Some have turned to online shopping, fantasizing about travel and spa appointments when restrictions are lifted, and some have never been more motivated to make the canned-beans work for dinner. The only guarantee is change, and we’re in the beginning.
Develop strategies to get acquainted with the shifts. Understand what your community is feeling, what they’re doing, and why. Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs make it easy to tap in to your audience and be attuned to specific topics or key words like COVID-19. Use social media as a method of input as well as a method of output. Pay attention to the posts that are getting the most engagement, and listen as people share their quarantine experiences. Now is a great time to motivate your employees to do the same on social media for a multiplied effect.
As consumer attitudes change rapidly, it’s important to use real-time data to understand your community as individuals and avoid misunderstanding the patterns of grouped behavior. What are your touch points? What opportunities, direct or indirect, have you created for feedback? Attentive input strategies lead to informed interactions, and consumers can feel the difference.
Buyer-Seller Relationship: Ways to Connect
Even with a firm grasp on what your consumers are asking for, you need to be agile in order to deliver. In early May, after weeks of social distance, it seems to be the season of giving. Audible, an audiobook service, has made children’s stories free in an effort to lend parents a helping hand. Journals and newspapers have removed the paywall for online articles to give everyone as much access to information as possible. Larger companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Google have made significant financial contributions to the situation we’re facing.
But giving doesn’t have to be so grand. Anything that reflects an anticipated need, a level of consideration that goes beyond a sale, has a lasting impact. If you’re a restaurant owner with patrons who love your chef, can he/she circulate a video connecting with their clientele? Does he/she have tips for the perfect grilled cheese? If you’re in the wellness sector, can you offer tailored advice that might be especially relevant? Do you have the availability for some free phone consultations?
Times of crisis have lasting impacts on consumers. People will remember this experience, and they’ll remember you, too, if you were there with them.
Buyer-Seller Relationship And A Streamlined Experience
With careful attention to your community and a willingness to give, you’ll develop a unique strategy to make meaningful connections. But whatever you decide, you’ll need to have a streamlined experience for your customer. We know that 90% of people Google a business before engaging with them financially, and that’s under normal conditions. Right now, the result of a search, the tone of an email or the appearance of a blog is the only opportunity you have to make an impression.
With heavy online traffic, optimized SEO is like having an enticing storefront. Creating an FAQ page is a great way to increase visibility, and making sure it’s up to date with relevant COVID-19 information is a clear indication that you’re responsive and on top of your operations. And while businesses that need to draw customers to a physical location seem to be disadvantaged, it’s a great time to build citations and improve your ranking in local search results. People are looking, and it’s important that they find you. Learn more about how you can optimize your local search.
Lastly, it’s a great time to invest in user experience design. Think of it like sweeping the barbershop or cleaning the display windows. Is your website memorable? Are your emails eye-catching or easily deleted? Is anyone reading your blog? Online maintenance is always a good idea, and if quarantine has left you with any extra time on your hands, this is an important place to focus.
Owning a business in such a turbulent time can feel isolating. Believe it or not, consumers understand what you’re facing. They’re up against it too; as heads of households, members of the work force, or as business owners themselves. Just like people want to feel supported, they understand the need to support. The companies that resonates with them will be the ones they choose when we make it back to normal. And, as hopeful as it feels to write, we will.
About the Author
Edward Coram James is a UX design professional and the CEO and Co-Founder of Go Up Ltd, an international marketing and design agency dedicated to helping its clients navigate the complexities of the digital world and maximize their online potential.