The retail industry has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Worldwide retail sales are down 5.7%, or $23 trillion, from 2019. Consumers aren’t shopping at physical stores as often. They’re doing most of their purchasing online.

Retail sales

Consumers are also seeking greater assurance in the products they’re buying. They want more accurate and up-to-date information. They want to be safe and trust the brand they’re purchasing from. More time is also being spent on mobile devices and there is greater motivation to use technology-assisted solutions.

What can retailers do to adapt and overcome these industry changes? Meet customers where they already are with conversational marketing. This is the strategy of using chatbots on platforms like Facebook Messenger or Google AdLingo to create personalized and helpful interactions at scale. You can provide them with the latest information, tailored product suggestions, and sell more by understanding your customer’s buying intent.

This is how retailers can use conversational marketing to provide tailored experiences, connect with shoppers, and overcome COVID-19 business challenges.

How retail consumer behaviour has changed with COVID-19

COVID-19 has rapidly changed the retail landscape. Retailer consumers are avoiding browsing in stores. They are shopping more online. Millions of people are doing everything from their homes and that includes purchasing from their favourite brands. 

They’re motivated to find personalized shopping experiences. Experiences that are safe, convenient, and tailored to their needs. In fact, there has been a 160% increase in e-commerce purchases by previously infrequent online shoppers.

Retailers must be able to accommodate for this new influx of online shoppers. But they can’t stop there. The experiences must be personalized. Fun. Engaging. Not the simple one to many conversations that customers are used to receiving.

Consumers are also determined to get the latest information about products, shipping, and delivery. People are demanding the highest safety standards when buying online. They are more willing to use technology-assisted tools like chatbots to assist these better shopping experiences.

How retailers have been impacted by COVID-19

Businesses are no longer able to see their customers in person. They can’t greet them. They can’t communicate trust and assurance as easily. This is resulting in a decrease in revenue, conversions, and growth. As a matter of fact, 41% of CEO’s forecast that COVID-19 will have a large negative impact on revenue in the next six months.

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Additionally, retailers can’t rely on the traditional channels that were once used to reach customers such as physical stores, pop-up shops, and events. Research by Nielsen found that consumers are avoiding these places, which means brands must meet customers on new channels in a non-intrusive way. A large shift to omnichannel e-commerce is happening and brands must be able to educate customers on making safe purchases online.

Brands have to quickly adapt their messaging to provide the latest information as well. Supply issues and stockpiling are creating out-of-stock products and lost sales. Retailers must help customers choose products based on priority without having to spend time in a physical store.

How conversational marketing can solve COVID-19 retail challenges

How can retailers educate customers and assist them with purchasing online to continue driving revenue during uncertain times? 

Conversational marketing. This is marketing that speaks with customers, not at them. It’s achieved through the use of intelligent chatbots that act as personal shopping assistants. It feels like a friend speaking to a friend. 

Conversational chatbots can be used on Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Google’s Display Network, and other channels where customers will engage with your brand more. They already spend most of their time on these websites and apps. They spend even more time there now because of COVID-19. 

Facebook Messenger is used by over 1.3 billion people worldwide. It’s a convenient way to get in touch with customers, answer questions, and assist with unique shopping needs. 

Happy Socks knew that consumers are loyal to brands that understand their specific wants and needs. They leveraged that knowledge to drive traffic and increase holiday sales while improving ROI with a Facebook Messenger chatbot built with Spectrm. 

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The guided selling bot helped customers find the perfect gift for a loved one during Valentine’s Day. Customers were able to easily navigate 300 different sock styles to find the perfect pair. Happy Socks was able to engage customers at scale and nurture personal connections. The chatbot helped the brand increase revenue by 20% and achieve a 3.3x return on ad spend.

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Spectrm chatbots also integrate with Google AdLingo. This is a new channel that connects your chatbot to a display ad and leverages Google’s extensive display network to reach 90% of internet users on the sites and apps they already visit frequently. You engage with customers via chat in a meaningful and interactive way while guiding them to take action.

Purple, the direct to consumer mattress brand, wanted to find a more efficient way to prospect customers and compete in a highly competitive market. It built a custom mattress finder on Google AdLingo using Spectrm’s conversational marketing platform. It helped customers find mattresses based on their sleep style and personal preferences.

Purple was able to reach their target audience across desktop, mobile web, and mobile apps using Google DV360. In a single ad, prospects were educated about Purple and guided to the best purchase decision. It generated Purple 4x return on ad spend and 80% of revenue from ads closed within seven days.

Final thoughts on COVID-19 and the retail industry

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the retail industry. Consumers aren’t going out as much. They are shopping from the comforts of their home and through online channels. They want to buy products that are safe while getting the most up to date information. Consumers are also more open to using technology-driven solutions like guided shopping assistants.

Retailers have to educate customers and give them a seamless shopping experience. Physical stores, popup shops, and events are no longer viable. They have to use new channels and be active where customers are. Brands must also give customers the products they need based on their individual preferences. 

The solution? Conversational marketing chatbots. These AI-driven chatbots integrate with Facebook Messenger, Google AdLingo, Instagram, and other channels. They empower brands to reach more customers in a personalized way at scale. You can use it to overcome the issues that COVID-19 has brought upon the retail industry.

Use Spectrm’s conversational marketing platform to directly engage customers and give them up-to-date information through Google AdLingo. Or, use a Facebook Messenger chatbot to offer guided shopping experiences.

Want to learn how to further accelerate customer acquisition with conversational marketing and apply what you learned in this article? Watch our on-demand webinar to learn how you can scale personalized experiences and drive business with conversational lead generation.

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