We dive into the new normal. How have things changed since COVID-19 and what does that mean for your business? That’s right. We’re going to talk about consumer behavior since COVID-19, what we know right now and its implications for the future.
If you’re looking for more information about getting started with digital marketing, please go to my digital marketing recommendations for small businesses.
About Host Jen McFarland
Jen McFarland, MPA, has over 25 years of training, teaching, and executive experience. She led large-scale public sector projects affecting over 50,000 businesses, handling millions of dollars.
Today, Jen consults with business owners on leadership, strategic project planning, and digital marketing. She’s a frequent guest speaker and trainer.
If growing your business feels like rocket science, let’s fix that with these free business resources.
Transcript: Consumer Behavior Since COVID-19
Hello and welcome to Women Conquer Business. I’m your host, Jen McFarland. On this week’s show, we dive into the new normal. How have things changed since COVID-19 and what does that mean for your business? That’s right. We’re going to talk about consumer behavior since COVID-19, what we know right now, all that and more here on Women Conquer Business.
Hi, my name is Jen McFarland. I’m the founder of Women Conquer Business. I have over 25 years of training, teaching and executive experience in leadership, strategic project planning and digital marketing. Each week on the Women Conquer Business Podcast, we teach you how to help you and your business thrive. Are you ready? Let’s go forth and conquer.
Welcome back to the show. So one of the things that you’re probably aware of is Google is tracking everything that we’re doing online. One of the things that you might not be as aware of is that the consumer behavior can be super helpful for your business. In fact, I want you to be aware of this website that I use a lot called thinkwithgoogle.com. So what Google is doing is they’re constantly polling people and then they’re also tracking anything that you’re doing online, especially if it’s on google.com.
So if that’s your search engine, they are looking at the actions that you’re taking online and tracking and showing the patterns of what that shows in terms of consumer behavior. So since COVID-19 with all of the lockdowns and social distancing, it has changed consumer behavior greatly. And now that things are opening up, Google is starting to question how many of the things that are with us forever and how many things will be evolving over time, maybe to the way things have always been.
So I want to just give you some of the information about what Google has learned so far since COVID-19 and what are the implications that these trends have in business today and then business in the future? Especially considering that as of right now, cases are continuing to rise. We haven’t actually maybe finished our first peak of COVID-19 in the United States. So what we’re learning so far is that my experience, and I think a lot of your experiences are really the experiences of everyone.
So one and two or 50% of US consumers report that they’re buying the majority of their items online. So if you’ve been sitting on your couch buying things, well, 50% of people are also doing exactly it is that you’re doing. Other people are also buying most of their items online. And I think that this means that more people are buying things online and more people are buying more things online if that makes sense.
So it’s not just an increase in online shopping. It means a broader range of products are being bought online. They’ve also found that 76% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites or apps allow them to make purchases quickly. So if you have one of these, which many of us do, you’re more likely to go shopping on your smartphone and you’re more likely to get frustrated if the buying process is difficult.
One of the things that I’ve talked to clients and when I speak about digital marketing around the state, one of the things that I’ve really talked to people about is how important it is to take the really good aspects of your customer experience and translate that into the online space. So with all of the people shopping online and all of the people shopping on their phones online, now it’s gone into even more specific.
You can no longer ignore having a mobile website, which is something I’ve been teaching for a long time. But now not only do you need to have a mobile-friendly website, you need to allow people to buy from you as quickly and easily as possible using their smartphone. And these are things that I think are likely to stick with us over the long haul. So if you are digitally pivoting your business right now, meaning you’re seeing the need to have your products online.
Bear in mind, the mobile user, because three quarters of smartphone users are expecting that their interaction with your brand online will allow them to buy things quickly and easily. And remember your website isn’t a treasure hunt. You need to make it as easy as possible to guide people through the buying experience. And I think that now that people have, for quite some time had more time on their hands, their customer expectations are also rising substantially. Because we maybe have more time, but we also don’t want to spend a lot of time spinning our wheels and waiting for things to happen.
It’s kind of this weird tension in there. We’re still very impatient, even though we have more time on our hands. One of the other things that we have learned or that Google has learned is that over 50% of US shoppers, they want to hear how brands and companies are responding to the crisis. And by crisis, we are talking about COVID-19.
So over half of people who are shopping, over half of all consumers want to know what you’re doing about COVID-19. They want to know how you’re going to make their life safer. They want to feel protected. They want to know if you’re active in the community and helping others stay safe and stay healthy. They want to know how their community is benefiting by the work that you’re doing. They want to know how you are responding to this crisis in many different ways as possible.
And 71% of Americans want to hear how your brand is specifically taking action against COVID-19. So again, it’s about how are you keeping them safe? How are you working in the community to help the community, maybe help other businesses or help the people in your community? How are you taking action to protect people from COVID-19? This is a really big need and I think it’s also a time for your brand to talk about how your business has been impacted by COVID-19 and also how you’re responding to that, and how you’re listening and how you’re helping.
So this is a time where talking about everything that’s going on is really important. Talking about what you’re doing to help others, but also talking about how this has been impactful for your brand. It doesn’t have to de-position you, it can actually really help you help others. And it will help people say, “No, I want to be affiliated with that brand because I know that they are doing everything that they can in the community to keep me safe and to help other businesses and to help other people.”
It means that you are responding to and not being tone deaf to the fact that times are very difficult. There are a lot of people who are out of work. There are a lot of businesses also that are really hurting right now. One of the things that we really know is that people are really focusing in on local. So even though people are buying more things online, that doesn’t mean that they’re buying more things from people far away. It may just mean that they’re buying more things online in their local communities or ordering things online that they go pick up or that is being locally delivered.
So don’t make the mistake of thinking, “Well, people are just going to buy from big companies far away.” No, they just want to hear more about what you’re doing and how you’re responding to the crisis and how you’re taking action against COVID-19, which is to say, “How are you helping people feel safe in their community?”
So one of the other things that we really know about COVID-19 and how it’s kind of impacting consumer behavior, meaning how people buy things is that 80% of Americans are likely to support a brand that has helped communities impacted by COVID-19. So, as I said before they not only want to hear how you’re taking action, they want to know how you’re helping the community, and how you are responding to everything that’s going on with COVID-19 and how you’re helping the community and the people around you.
And again, I think this has a lot to do with the fact that people are focusing much more of their attention on local and regional brands. They want to know what’s going on in their own community, and they’re more likely to support other people in their community especially if they know that they are part of the fabric of whatever community that you are living in.
For example, I’m in Portland, Oregon. I have to say that I am by and large, much more tuned into how companies inside my community are responding to COVID-19 and honestly, to other things that are going on culturally in our society as well. And I’m not alone. They say that 65% of people believe brands should commit to making society better.
Now in the scope of COVID-19. I mean, I think we’ve even seen that there are people that have disagreeing opinions about what it means to make society better. So if you own a business, the next steps based on COVID-19 in terms of consumer behavior are that small local businesses must be searchable online. We know already that just year over year, we’ve seen a 500% increase in people searching for businesses near me, so that would be like local produce near me. And what that does is it like brings the search in closer to your home.
So within five or 10 miles of you. So for a small local business, you need to be searchable. You need to have a website. You need to have a Google My Business profile, which helps businesses and consumers find you when they do these near me searches. It also means that if you are not online, if you don’t have like an eCommerce product that you’re offering to people. If people can’t buy from you online, as of right now, that’s no longer optional.
A few months ago, I would have said, “You don’t have to offer products online.” Right now, it’s really looking like buying online is no longer optional. And in fact, part of the research that Google is doing right now is looking at how many of these different consumer behaviors are long-lasting. Finding that there are certain things that people have grown accustomed to. And I think part of it is there are certain products that people are getting used to buying online.
So moving products online is no longer optional, even if that means local pickup or if it means local delivery, even if it means that it’s not just buying it and shipping it to somebody. Giving people that option is a really good idea for your business if you’re a small local business.
The third thing is now is not the time to stop communicating with people, whether it’s your email marketing or your social media, or my recommendation would be both. You need to continue to communicate with your customers about what it is that you’re doing in your local community to make society better, to keep people safe, to keep people knowing what you are actively doing to help fight against COVID-19.
What we are seeing is that we may not even be through the first wave of COVID-19. We don’t have what’s called herd immunity. So we need to do everything that we can to protect our businesses in the long haul. We also need to understand that how we’re kind of all relating to products and services in our own lives is a reflection of really what our customers are doing as well.
So many people displaced from work or if you are working, so many people are working from home and that’s kind of changing how we relate to each other in terms of what Google is saying. It’s changing our relationships to time and space, self and others, work and leisure, and consumption and expenditure. And I really encourage you. I’ll put this link in the show notes. I really encourage you to go to thinkwithgoogle.com and look at what they’re calling the signals of a mindset shift.
So what Google is really seeing in the patterns of consumer behavior is that we may be going through a huge overhaul for how consumers interact with our brands. It really is about kind of looking at what is going on and looking at your brand through this lens of people being home a lot more and people having more free time on their hands.
We know that people are increasing the use of things like YouTube, because they may need to buy something. We already know that people, when they research something are more likely to look at not only what your brand has to offer, but also at YouTube to see like how they do it. So what we also are seeing though is that now since COVID-19, people are going to YouTube even more to learn how to do it, and they have in this weird way more time to research a brand. But then when they make that decision, they want it to be as easy as possible to buy from you.
So what we don’t know is Is whether or not everything that’s going on is a long-term thing. But we do know that people are streaming more and they’re probably sitting on their phone buying things while they’re streaming things online. There’s been a dramatic shift in that. We also know that there’s been a 100% increase in searches for boredom since last year. So one of the things that you can do is, Really connect with people on that. If you go through bouts of boredom, is there something your brand can do about that?
And so, what we’re really seeing right now is this situational consumer behavior, but we have to pay attention to the trends because it might be shifting how people engage with our brand. And Google thinks that some of these things really are here to stay. So again, get your products online, even if it is not perfect, at least find a very quick and easy way for you to on your side, get money. And for consumers connect with the products that you sell. So it shouldn’t be difficult.
And then really pay attention to some of these trends, pay attention to how you’re feeling and what it is that you want. And then find ways to connect with your customers on the same level like meet people really where they’re at. And then lastly, communicate about how COVID-19 and this crisis is really affecting your brand and what you’re doing about it. Because people really feel like we’re all in this together and they want to know what you’re doing, even if it’s just something really small, they want to know that you’re helping us all manage this and get through it as quickly and safely as possible.
Thank you for listening to the Women Conquer Business Podcast. If you’re wondering what’s next, here are a few suggestions. If you love the show, be sure to subscribe. If you want to follow me on social media, you can find Women Conquer Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
And finally, if the episode today brought something up for you and you need to talk, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Women Conquer Business Podcast is written and produced by Jen McFarland at Foster Growth, LLC in beautiful Southeast Portland, Oregon. Thanks again for listening.
Hi! I’m Jen! I have over 25 years of training, teaching, and executive experience in leadership, strategic project planning, and digital marketing. Today, I am the founder of Women Conquer Business, a boutique consulting firm dedicated to helping women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community build sustainable businesses. I’m a frequent guest speaker and trainer. Get access to my free business growth accelerator and hang out with me on my weekly women in business podcast, Women Conquer Business.