It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed online shopping behaviors. A survey of about 3,700 consumers in nine emerging and developed economies now validates this. The study, entitled “COVID-19 and E-commerce”, examined how the pandemic has changed the way consumers use e-commerce and digital solutions in Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Switzerland, and Turkey.
Following the start of the pandemic, more than half of the survey’s respondents now shop online more frequently and rely more heavily on the internet for news, health-related information, and digital entertainment. According to the study, the consumers in emerging economies have made the most significant shift to online shopping.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. The changes we make now will have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.
According to Kituyi, the acceleration of online shopping globally underscores the urgency of ensuring that all countries can seize the opportunities offered by digitization as the world moves from pandemic response to recovery.
Online purchases rise, consumer spending falls
The survey shows that online purchases have increased from 6 to 10 percentage points across most product categories. However, average online monthly spending per shopper has dropped. In both emerging and developed economies, consumers have postponed significant expenditures, with those in emerging economies focusing more on essential products.
Tourism and travel sectors have suffered the most substantial decline, with average spending per online shopper dropping by a whopping 75%.
Fall of average online spending per month since COVID-19, per product category
Shopping online increases the importance of online reviews
Customer reviews play an essential role for both producers and consumers. According to a study conducted by Dimensional Research, a giant 90% of consumers state that online reviews had an impact on their purchase decisions. It goes without saying that this is an incredibly high percentage, which is especially significant if we consider that more consumers are shopping online, now more than ever before, due to the pandemic. In the jungle that is the eCommerce world, reviews must be positive to convince said users to buy a product.
Customer reviews have always been important for businesses, yet now due to the pandemic, it is crucial that they are taken seriously. Research by Bain highlights how companies that invest in customer experience grow their revenue 4-8% faster than their peers, deliver 6-14x better customer value, and have 55% greater client retention.
This isn’t a theoretical board room exercise: improving revenue directly translates to developing a better customer experience, which requires close listening to the customers themselves. In short, listening to the customer pays for itself.
When done right, it delivers:
- Better customer experience (CX)
- Better products and services
- Improved decision making
- Improved operational process
- Growth of top-line revenue
Listening means understanding what customers are saying, both to you and to other customers. Due to this dramatic increase in online shopping, the number of online reviews that are relevant for both the producer and consumer is higher than ever before. Consumers base a part of their purchasing decisions on other consumers, and producers, if willing to, now have access to an unprecedented amount of data that can be used to grow the company.
How to take advantage of online reviews
We spent a good 500 words talking about the importance of customer feedback when making business decisions. Finding insights from online reviews can however take a lot of time and resources, without necessarily leading to actionable insights. This is why companies like Wonderflow came up with solutions to analyze vast amounts of feedback, referring to it as Voice of the Customer (VOC).
Voice of the Customer (VOC) is the in-depth process of collecting data about users’ expectations, preferences, and aversions. It can be collected through various methods such as surveys, ratings, customer reviews, and more; with different ways to collect and analyze said customer feedback that includes the likes of outsourcing, insourcing, and SaaS solutions. All these are viable options, but each one comes with its pros and cons.
When looking at a vast amount of feedback from different channels in the COVID-19 era, outsourcing is the most viable option, yet the con is that cost can ramp up quickly. We are talking about giving a project and analysis to a third party to create and operate, which can make the process of analyzing and obtaining actionable insights from the data more effective and efficient. This is especially true now that there are such vast amounts of customer reviews. Luckily this is where automated AI data collection analysis provides a way for this data to be implemented in a cost-efficient manner.
Technology is advancing quickly, with options like natural language processing (NLP) engines that, through an AI-based technique, can automatically interpret text and speech, reaching the same (or even higher) accuracy than trained experts would. As it’s a machine-based solution, it means it’s faster, more consistent, and in the long run more accurate than its human counterparts, which makes NLP perfect for analyzing feedback data. At the same time, it eliminates the disadvantages gained by collecting and analyzing customer feedback manually. NLP technology allows you to perform multiple types of research, including frequency of words, word grouping, and sentiment analysis. These all fall under the category of text analysis, which allows for the detection of the most recurrent and important data in customer feedback.
Wonderflow is an example of a third party that simplified this process. It offers the simplest solution to analyze any type of written feedback from hundreds of private and public channels, including online reviews or contact center records. Their AI automatically unveils predictive insights in an easy-to-use dashboard called the Wonderboard. Through this tool, business users are empowered to take the most impactful actions to grow their business in these difficult times by understanding what consumers think about their products and services and what improvements will drive the best results. Take a look at the Wonderboard.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives in many aspects and caused shifts that are most probably permanent. One of the largest shifts can be found with the ongoing digital transformation, as it provided the urgent push to digitize everything. Whether it’s online classes, working from home, or the economy, everything is shifting towards digital-based solutions. If we focus on shopping behaviors, closing stores for an indefinite amount of time has led to people relying on the internet to access products and services. Furthermore, online reviews have played an increasingly important role for businesses since the internet became an essential aspect of our lives. Still, now alongside the global pandemic, there is more information than ever before. The Covid-19 revolution has changed these shopping behaviors, and refusing to conform or utilize the aspects that come with it would doom a business towards failure.