BY ANTONY MUTUNGA
The festive season is finally here with us after the year was mostly plagued by the disruptive Covid-19 pandemic. As we ushered in 2020, many would have not imagined the economic disruptions that have seen an economic slowdown worldwide. Many businesses were forced to close down and many people around the world were left unemployed.
As we come to the end of year, which is mostly a time of consumer spending, things are expected to be a bit different for many.
The long queues of shoppers and heavy traffic is not an expected sight this year as most people will refrain from spending as much as they prepare for the challenging times in the coming year. However, despite the fact, businesses have been forced to come up with new ways to reach out to the consumers and attract them not only in the period of Christmas but during the start of the year as well.
The pandemic has proven to be the main determinant for most shoppers this season thus, the reason why being Covid-19 conscious has been on the back of every business. The target has been to ensure they appeal to the pandemic priorities of the consumers. With social distancing being the norm in the year, online activity has been through the roof. As a result, businesses have looked to the internet to reach out to a larger audience and lure them to their products.
For instance, a number of businesses have invested in webrooms for their products. Webrooming, the act of exploring and reviewing an item online before making the decision of purchasing it at the store, has become quite popular in the recent years. This has resulted in many businesses presenting their products in webrooms providing all the necessary information. Basically, a webroom is an online showroom. As a result, this enhances the safety of the customer; they spend less time at the store as they have already made a decision on their purchase. This frees up room at the store that in turn increases revenue.
This, in addition to offering an omnichannel customer experience, has assisted a number of businesses to reach new levels and stay ahead of their competitors this period. As more activity takes place online, now more than ever, consumers want a unified experience across all platforms. Therefore, to have increased revenue, businesses have to ensure, for example, that any information the consumer asked for or presented in any other media or platform is easily accessible at any one point to create a smooth and streamlined experience. In investing in this during the pandemic, businesses are able to score loyal customers and increase their client base.
Still a threat, the pandemic is still seeing a number of people decide to stay indoors for longer or avoid crowded places as much as possible. This has seen traffic in brick and mortar shops dwindle, thus the need to rely on webrooms. However, this demographic may not be so excited about webrooming as it leads to one visiting the physical shop.
Therefore, for those who would want to make both their decision and purchase online, there is a need for more information on some products other than pictures and feature documents. This has resulted in the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to bring about the virtual try before you buy experience. When it comes to AR, businesses use the technology to assist customers to have a safe and near-realistic experience of their products. For instance, in the beauty industry, companies can, instead of relying on physical testing, use AR, and advocate for digital tests. Sephora, French multinational retailer of personal care and beauty products, is an example of a company using the digital tests to help its customers pick out their different shades.
Businesses that integrate VR through virtual rooms are able to offer tours of their stores or establishments in terms of hotels and restaurants. Convinced the traffic will not be same, many businesses have looked to this technology to emulate the experience virtually for the consumers. This is especially crucial in the hospitality industry that has been affected greatly by the pandemic. To boost up revenue, businesses from the industry had to create virtual experiences to attract more clientele.
Those that have integrated digital payments and contactless delivery are also in a better position as consumers look for ways to adhere to social distancing. With most people looking to avoid handling physical cash, online payments and mobile money have become the preferred choice.
However, helping many businesses to increase sales during the festive season amid the pandemic, no other technology has made a bigger impact around the world than that of social media platforms. The likes of Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have become leaders when it comes to the number of users, thus their major role in reaching a larger audience. Businesses have moved to promote their brands and products on social media. In fact, many SMEs have resorted to increasing their budgets towards online marketing this festive season so as to increase their reach and revenue. Facebook, for instance, allows businesses to boost their advertisement posts while on the other hand, through Instagram, businesses can use custom and trending hashtags to reach the growing user base.