The COVID-19 pandemic has been driving some long-term changes in how US consumers choose to buy and interact with brands, and they are not happy with the level of personalization and reassurance delivered online by most companies, according to a study of 1,000 US consumers.
The research, commissioned by AI-powered personalization platform Kameleoon and experimentation agency Widerfunnel, found that while time spent online has skyrocketed by 37%, consumers won’t go back to offline channels – nearly a third (29%) said they’ll be using digital channels more post-crisis. Just 14% said they’d switch back to offline shopping.
Entertainment and Media Lead The Way
Unsurprisingly, the most popular current activities are watching and listening to streaming entertainment and reading the media. 56% are devoting more time to entertainment, with 14% admitting to having doubled how long they were spending on the activity. Nearly half (47%) are reading more news online.
How brands behave now will have a major impact on future revenues. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers said the experience currently delivered would change who they bought from, and how much they spent in the future. Those that do provide a personalized experience now will benefit long-term – 42% said they’d spend less (or switch completely) from brands that hadn’t delivered during the crisis.
Yet many brands are not meeting their needs – 69% of respondents said that not all companies were making the effort to customize the online experience. That’s despite the fact that 75% expect online personalization as standard and 84% want to receive personalized emails from brands.
“The current crisis is accelerating the importance of digital to all of our lives, changing people’s habits and spending for good,” said Jean-Rene Boidron, CEO, Kameleoon. “The stark fact is that those brands that aren’t delivering a personalized, tailored and reassuring online experience now will suffer down the line, missing out on the increasing digital spend from a growing customer base.”
Consumers identified the top benefits of digital as saving money (ranked first by 30% of respondents), ahead of having greater choice (19%). They are willing to exchange these benefits for sharing their data, as 38% listed “being tracked by brands” as the least important factor when embracing digital.
“Companies who experiment more now can respond to their customers’ changing needs and optimize the best customer experiences,” said Chris Goward, CEO, Widerfunnel. “This is the time for digital brands to double-down on experimentation to ensure your customer experiences are optimized to create satisfaction and long-term loyalty.”
The research was part of a global study carried out in April 2020 that evaluated the impact of COVID-19 on the digital behavior of 5,128 consumers (split equally between the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy). While each country had a different experience of pandemic-related ‘lockdown’, one third of global consumers said they were doing more online as a result, with 24% saying it would lead them to use digital more in the future.
Key differences between countries included:
- 24% of French consumers said they didn’t see any brands making an effort to personalize the experience, against 11% in the US
- 52% of US consumers wanted websites to adapt automatically to meet their needs, against 22% of Germans
- 43% of Italians are doing more online, compared to a study average of 32%
- Just 9% of Italians said they’d switch back to just using offline channels – in contrast to 19% of Germans