COVID-19 has expedited changes to buyer behavior that we thought would happen years into the future. Massive increases in online shopping, curbside pickup, and delivery throughout 2020 shined a spotlight on the need for improved customer communication at every step in the buyer’s journey.
Buyer expectations have risen sharply in the past year. Now that consumers are used to the convenience of the no-contact shopping experience, they will expect that level of ease with every purchase moving forward—even when in-person interactions become the norm again. These changes to consumer behavior and expectations are here to stay.
Read on for our predictions for buyer behavior for the coming year and beyond. The future of consumer behavior will be motivated by customer experience, connectivity, open communication, and nearly instant access to products, services, and information.
Customer Experience is Paramount
Customer experience is now just as important to consumers as product quality. Even before the pandemic, 84% of consumers said the customer experience a company provides is just as important to them as the products or services they sell.
But the changes 2020 brought have elevated the customer experience even more. As we move into the future, buyers will be looking for more in their shopping experience than just the exchange of their money for quality products or services. Companies that don’t update their customer experience to reflect predictions for buyer behavior and expectations are bound to be left in the dust by those that do.
By 2025, millennials will define the retail experience. As they overtake baby boomers as the largest generation, their preferences will eclipse those of the older generations to change the face of the buying experience. In general, millennials value the experience over the product. They are looking for one-of-a-kind, interactive consumer experiences: They want an immersive customer journey supported by the latest technology.
Real-Time Communication Options
In 2020, many of consumer’s interactions with a company are already handled without the help of another human. Real-time communication powered by AI, such as chatbots and messaging applications, have become simple ways for brands to deliver a better customer experience. Companies should not see these solutions as a complete replacement for a human element, but as the fastest way for customers to connect to the correct person, as well as the ability to answer simple questions that don’t require a human touch (business hours, locations, product availability, etc).
Currently, more than 50% of customer queries are managed by AI-based chatbots. Today’s chatbots are smart: with the ability to understand complex requests and personalize their responses accordingly, they are poised to be a significant part of successful customer relationship management going forward.
Brands that combine AI with tools that offer product reviews and evaluations will inevitably see more purchases. Companies that focus on real-time commerce experiences like dynamic websites and e-commerce will see the best engagement rates. And brands that refine the delivery of those experiences by letting customers know where their delivery is in real-time and making product returns effortless will create the highest customer satisfaction.
Sustainability: No Longer Optional
Consumers are becoming increasingly environmentally-conscious, and are basing their purchasing decisions in part on how eco-friendly a product and its manufacturer are. Even a few years ago, research showed that two-thirds of consumers avoided brands or products due to environmental concerns. Those numbers will undoubtedly increase as consumers become more and more conscious of how their purchasing choices affect the world around them.
To be successful with this new consumer mindset, retailers will need to focus increasingly on what is being called the “triple bottom line”: adding environmental and social results to the traditional bottom line of financial profits. In the future, environmental credentials will no longer be a nice-to-have; they’ll be a crucial part of running a successful consumer-focused business.
Personalized Promotions & Custom Content
Traditional sales events and promotions will soon be passé. Future buyers will be looking for personalized, digital promotions communicated in real-time via their mobile devices—both online and in-store. Store sales events of the future will be immediate and highly personal: think receiving sales alerts as you walk into the store for items you have purchased often or browsed online.
Millennials love content—both consuming it and creating their own. Providing customized content across a variety of platforms will be essential to drawing the millennial consumer in, creating an experience that will ensure their loyalty. Regularly engaging with them across social media platforms will grab their attention and result in sales. E-commerce within social media platforms is growing: For example, Instagram’s shoppable images and “shop now” buttons make it easy for users to snap up the items they see their favorite influencers using. And those buyers are likely to share their purchases with their own followers, creating a whole new purchasing stream.
Instant Gratification via Omnichannel Commerce
The biggest profits in the future of retail will go to companies that focus on omnichannel commerce—creating an immersive customer experience across their brand by unifying sales and marketing, with the customer at the core of their strategy. Customers who are able to easily engage with a company from channel to channel have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who engage with only one. As the physical, digital, and e-commerce retail options converge, retailers must focus on delivering a fully-integrated shopping experience.
In the future, consumers will engage with a brand simultaneously across multiple connected devices and on various platforms. Instant gratification for the consumer is the end goal, as our increasingly digital world continues to shorten our attention spans and prime us for near-immediate delivery of purchases.
Convenience Fueled by Technology
For the future consumer, the easier and more effortless the experience, the better. Millennial consumers expect the latest technology to be applied to every part of their buying journey—from the time they start researching products through to purchase, shipping, and delivery.
In the future of retail, brands will increasingly utilize cognitive computing technologies that mimic the way humans think. Using machine learning and natural language processing, companies will be able to analyze huge amounts of data to better understand consumer behavior.
This will enable them to quickly sift through prospective customers’ data such as online behaviors, social posts, and in-store activity to know exactly where they are in the buying journey so they can serve them relevant content that will move them further along the buying process. In a recent study, 68% of retail executives said they are likely to invest in machine learning and cognitive computing in the near future.
For a successful future, retail brands will need to make purchasing, shipping, and delivery of products as simple and convenient as possible. Without those efforts, they will be left behind in the race to engage an increasingly tech-savvy consumer population.
How Glympse Can Help You Keep Up With Future Predictions for Buyer Behavior
Today’s consumer is looking for more than a great product—they expect fast, easy service and continuous communication from purchase to delivery. Glympse helps you stay on top of predictions for buyer behavior by offering the latest in location sharing solutions for delivery and curbside pickup.