The pandemic has without a doubt caused noticeable changes in consumer behavior. During the height of the lockdowns, consumers faced closed stores, reduced hours, and social-distancing requirements. As a result, they started to prioritize essential needs, bought fewer impulse items, and turned to e-commerce to transact.
Research conducted by Google in the retail, travel, and finance industries revealed that:
“…the pandemic has reinforced what brands and retailers should continue to focus on: enabling people to shop when they want, how they want, and where they want, all the while providing a pleasant and frictionless experience.”
What specific pandemic-era changes will endure?
In this article, you’ll learn how research points to the continuing need for omnichannel teams and budgets, addressing customer pain points, and why local searches and website clicks have grown since pre-COVID, as well as research-backed recommendations for local marketers.
Grow Your Omnichannel Teams and Budgets
Over the last year and a half, customers have come to expect multiple online and offline shopping options. With the continuing evolution of technology, this expectation will likely only grow, even after public health guidelines lighten. How can brands meet these expectations?
Google’s research shows that “search is crucial across all regions and categories. Online reviews are important. And more people are actually buying online. But, the rise in e-commerce doesn’t mean that offline touchpoints have been made obsolete.”
For example, when customers are shopping for packaged goods, they often get inspiration from social media and videos, then use online search to find details and features. However, they often go in-store to compare prices, see and feel the products and ultimately make a purchase.
In Google’s retail findings, it’s predicted that online search and apps, in-store browsing, customer and expert reviews, contactless payment, and curbside pickup will very likely stick after the pandemic is over. Additionally, in our own research study which will publish next month, 42% of consumers indicated they will use curbside pickup and 55% will use home delivery even after the pandemic ends.
Image courtesy of Think With Google
Address Customer Pain Points
In retail, consumers experience challenges with product availability and delivery. In the travel industry, the highest pain point is the availability of flights or hotel rooms when booking online, with technical issues and customer support coming next.
In personal finance, more people experienced problems offline than online when using personal banking or credit cards, with customer service being the primary obstacle. Overall, according to Google, over 25% of consumers across the markets and industries they researched reported pain points like availability, payment issues, and customer support.
What can brands do to reduce pain points?
In the retail sector, brands should address product availability issues with better supply chain strategies and up-to-date, accurate information on listings across the local search ecosystem.
In travel, companies can enhance visibility for specific hotel features and services by using a specialty pages strategy. You can learn more about how Four Seasons used this tactic to increase phone calls by 84% and drive 30% more spa bookings here.
And for finance brands, it’s important to have a strategy for monitoring and removing older Google My Business (GMB) Posts, which can resurface in Search long after a promotion or offer may have expired. While information accuracy and truth in advertising are essential for all sectors, it’s a regulatory requirement for banking and related industries.
Local Searches and Website Clicks Have Grown Since Pre-COVID
Data from June 2021 shows that GMB metrics rose the most for the hospitality industry, with growth of 18-24% month-over-month and a total search volume increase from H1 2019 to H1 2021 at 181%.
- Your web presence is a vital part of your omnichannel strategy, and optimizing your GMB listing should be at the top of the list.
- Make sure each of your locations is assigned the most relevant Primary Category and you optimize all available features. Health and safety attributes have been added during the pandemic, and there are also vertical-specific attributes (for retail, financial services, restaurants, etc.).
- Continue to use high-quality photos, videos, and Google Posts to make each location appear at its best in search and offer location-relevant information. New GMB features will continue to roll out, so update your business listings whenever necessary to help your locations stand out in those competitive MapPack results.
- As an enterprise brand, it’s important to avoid using the brand website homepage URL in your local GMB profiles. Instead, direct searchers to the most relevant local page or online ordering platform. Don’t make your customers take extra steps.
- Take advantage of linking options specific to your business type. Retailers can add a link that allows customers to Place an Order, for example. Restaurants might create a link for reservations, and healthcare clinics could link to appointment booking. Learn more about local links here.
Predicting the Future Local Customer Journey
Customers will continue to want omnichannel options, reduced pain points, and still rely on search and website research. Enhance your local pages to continue to support the local customer journey with relevant CTAs and informational banners that display your services.
Need more help or want more advice on how you can improve your customer’s journey? Get in touch with your Account Director with any questions.