How COVID-19 Has Influenced Your Brand's Buying Persona
“We are living in unprecedented times” is the sentence you’ve likely heard several hundred times since the outbreak of the pandemic. The repercussions of COVID-19 have influenced both our personal and professional lives, and we are continuing to witness changes in our collective and individual behavior, as well as changes in our environment and climate on a global scale. Nonetheless, as we remain “separately together,” many of us have begun to dream about and plan how our life and job will get back to normal one day.
This “new normal” has changed the way we act and the things we believe, including what we will do in the future to support our local economies and the brands we care about.
With these changes on the horizon, what are the implications for business? Can we predict changes in the decision-making process and the buying cycle? How do we, as marketers, adjust to these changes? I think, as always, we need to first revisit the buying persona.
Meeting the New Normal
Marketing and sales teams around the world agree that the buyer personas created last year might not be entirely accurate anymore.
In light of recent economic losses, people are more concerned with meeting their basic needs than they are with buying luxury items unnecessary for their survival. With each day that passes, they are more worried about our local economies and the communities they live in. Adding to that, people are noticing the patterns of generic marketing tactics and condemning it.
With that in mind, brands must modify buyer personas according to the current situation, and develop messaging tactics that uniquely resonate with our customers, or else risk fading into the blur of generic marketing.
Determining Buyer Personas Post COVID-19
Devising a new buyer persona framework to guide marketing is not an easy feat. But brands can start by asking four questions, keeping in mind the psychological profile of your customers.
- What are our objectives? Did those objectives change? Do they have to change? Did our values and priorities change? In a crisis, we see things we normally wouldn’t see. And today, with a deep economic crisis threatening businesses' existence, businesses have to question — and possibly redefine — their priorities.
- What are our audiences’ new needs? How will our offerings tie into those? In changing times, brands have to understand who their ideal customer is and, more importantly, who their actual customer is. That customer is probably the same as before in terms of their demographics, but their behaviors, beliefs, and needs have likely changed. The crisis might have discontinued your audience as you knew it, and created another in its place.
- What are our customers’ digital tendencies right now? Are our customers buying online more right now? Was their business (if you are a B2B) forced to digitally transform, and are they still struggling with the implications of that? How can we help? Since 62% of consumers are now more inclined to purchase goods and services from companies that are doing good, it would be wise to demonstrate with actions, not words, your devotion to your community and humanity in general.
- What is your ‘Why?’ Simon Sinek’s famous statement “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” has never been truer. As Mark Shaeffer says, we must first meet basic human needs. Businesses must look not at how to advertise, but at how to help. Your customers will not only appreciate sincerity and humanity, but some may even demand it, which also leads us back to the first question regarding your business’ values.
Adapting Your E-Commerce to the New Normal
Upon determining the change in your consumers’ behavior, it is important to take the necessary steps to adapt to what is now the new normal.
First, it becomes obvious that there has been a shift in the demographics of consumers who are shopping online. During the past few months, there has become a greater need for digital services, ranging from online shopping to education. Subsequently, digital services are being sought after by older generations, who have traditionally been pegged as in-person buyers. That, combined with the fact that the pandemic has strengthened online shopping for those who were already shopping online, means that a new e-commerce strategy cannot be overlooked.
How Can E-Commerce Businesses Adapt to These Changes?
With your audience’s demographics shifting, you need to take a hard look at your website and the user experience. You don’t want your new audience members to arrive and then immediately leave without converting because your website is not user-friendly.
The first thing to do is to revise your UX/UI and the content strategy of your website or app with your new audience(s) in mind. This might mean adjusting your UX/UI solutions to match the expectations of older generations.
In addition, the appearance of your website homepage is no longer the most important thing to consider. Rather, you need to personalize your website (and your app if you have one) to meet the needs of visitors.
For example, let’s say you are a grocery store that delivers groceries to its customers. Your website/app should not look the same for first-time visitors/non-subscribers as it does for returning customers. A great call to action (CTA) and easily located ‘shop’ button, among other things, should greet the first-time visitors. Whereas your returning customers don’t need the carefully honed CTA. Instead, greet them with “welcome back” or “last time you ordered” prompt.
Due to the higher number of people using online services, this is a good time to consider the use of chatbots. AI-powered assistants can help you answer your customers’ most common questions without weighing down your staff. This is especially important since customers are less willing to be in the unknown in situations like these; they want their basic questions answered quickly.
It might be beneficial to introduce live AI-driven product recommendations as a way to shorten the customer’s conversion path. Think in terms of “suggested for you” recommendations, abandoned cart recommendations, and buying pattern recommendations. Other methods to consider could be most viewed, best-selling, trending, or recently viewed.
Before You Go
The outbreak of COVID-19 has taught us to rethink our choices and buying patterns. Because of health concerns and economic crises, consumers are less inclined to purchase things that don’t satisfy their basic needs or support their local communities. As we slowly transition into the new normal, sincerity, humanity, convenience, and practicality all play an important role in how to approach your customers. The psychological profile of consumers has changed significantly, and brands all over the world must pay more attention to the current — and changing — needs of their customers.
An economist by education, Natasa Djukanovic is the CMO of Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain “.ME.” Natasa is an activist, startup mentor and one of the key people that impacted the development of the digital and startup community of Montenegro. She is the co-founder of Digitalizuj.Me, an NGO that examines the transformative power of technology through various projects and lectures, and Spark.me, one of the biggest tech/business conferences in Southeast Europe.