As we move out of lockdowns brands are looking at how they adapt and thrive in a radically different world. While consumer behavior varies globally, all brands can learn lessons by analyzing the experiences of different countries, and applying these learnings to their own strategy.
We therefore caught up with Michael Witzenleiter, Kameleoon’s DACH Managing Director to hear about the German perspective on the crisis and its impact on digital moving forward.
1 What is the current feeling of German brands and consumers?
We’ve conducted extensive research with both customers and consumers to better understand the situation on the ground and how it impacted their behavior and business.
The brand view
Looking at it from the brand perspective nearly half (49%) of companies said they were materially impacted by the crisis. However, 84% were optimistic about their future prospects. This was more surprising – brands that we work with have been determined to make the best out of the situation and have actively changed to cope. In the early days of the crisis some pushed notifications about their preparations on their website or even used instore staff to deliver goods to online customers. There is really a lot of creativity and experimentation in the market which may lead to new business models and opportunities as it is likely that at least some of these new ideas will last.
The consumer view
We also surveyed 1,000 German consumers as part of the global research that Kameleoon carried out. This showed that while the shift online due to COVID-19 was not as strong as in other countries, due to a less restrictive lockdown, consumers were still spending 24% more time online. 16% of Germans plan to use online channels more frequently moving forward. While this is significantly below the rates in other countries, it still shows that there are new opportunities for brands to increase their customer base.
2 Consumer behavior is changing – how should brands react?
My personal view is that now is the time to grasp new opportunities by better understanding your current audiences. At the moment, we see that online traffic is currently shifting and reshaping a lot - we have brands losing traffic (e.g. in the travel industry) while others are winning new visitors (online shopping overall, especially grocery).
The major success factor to me is analyzing your target audiences on a daily basis. My hypothesis, backed up by our consumer research, is that your visitors are currently changing completely - no brand should think website visitors will behave exactly the same as before. People bought food online for the first time or had their very first video conference. Of course, this requires a completely new approach to onboarding these visitors to your website.
And even for existing traffic, things are changing. People are questioning their behavior. Shall I still buy things at Amazon or support smaller, more local shops? Are deliveries safe? It is very helpful to ask, and especially to test your current traffic as much as possible. Go back to first principles and make sure your website delivers reassurance and clearly helps them achieve their goals.
3 What was key to success during lockdowns?
Early in the crisis we held a panel discussion with our partners at KonversionsKraft, looking at the changes that the pandemic was driving. From the behavioral psychological point of view, a crisis of any kind always creates a feeling of loss of control. This is followed by the urge to act in order to bring the situation back under control and be prepared - the illusion of control.
Understanding behavioral psychology
For example, we could see that people were looking to take back control and structure their daily lives as much as possible within the confines of lockdown. This led to hoarding toilet paper but also to actively looking for safety criteria in online shopping such as contactless delivery, an open communication about delivery times and other measures.
Building trust between brands and visitors
Digitally, that meant using your website to provide messages that increased trust in order to drive engagement and conversions. For example, we saw many brands using pop-ins to deliver content that reassured consumers around things such as delivery times and product quality rather than simply offering discounts or vouchers.
Brands that were able to understand those needs and create the right experience, based on open communication and strong corporate responsibility saw greater engagement, sales and revenues.
4 What qualities will brands need to thrive moving forward?
Moving forward consumers still expect honesty and trust and I think the main qualities that brands need to focus on are curiosity and creativity. They need to be able to be proactive and be permanently adapting to change. As market conditions are changing radically, why not challenge your current beliefs?
The importance of experimentation
The crisis has made experimentation and A/B testing essential if you are to understand and adjust to the changing beliefs and behavior of your customers. Experimentation is the fastest and easiest way to generate insights to drive your business forward, based on real data, rather than guesswork.
This openness and willingness to experiment, combined with an understanding of the core values of the brand itself, can help companies to be flexible, adaptable and successful in the future.
5 What can brands do internally to drive digital success?
My personal belief is that during a crisis, unsolved problems and overdue tasks will come back to haunt you. Strong brands use the new opportunities of the crisis (less internal politics, more focused work, a problem-orientated mindset) to generate good ideas and find clever ways to handle their challenges. Weak brands will fall behind and will face a growing mountain of problems.
Breaking down rigid structures
I’ve talked in the past about the importance of creating a culture of experimentation. The pressure on businesses caused by the pandemic should accelerate the internal adoption of this type of culture. Even in rigid structures it is possible to react quickly given the circumstances - large companies do not necessarily have to be slow. The crisis is an opportunity for large companies to break rigid structures and rethink in order to live more agile strategies. Now is the time for agile data-driven optimization.
Building a culture of experimentation
Brands need a focus on data and a willingness to trust the consumer instead of their own gut feelings, backed up by open communication and a no-blame culture. The disruption of the crisis might help to brands who were unsure about changing culture to identify and cultivate this mindset, replacing their previous, more hierarchical models.
Successfully creating a future digital strategy is the focus of Kameleoon’s next Conversion Safari event on June 18 2020. Livestreamed from the Hotel Liberty in Offenburg, speakers from Kameleoon, KonversionsKraft and AT Internet will outline how best practice in experimentation, personalization and web analytics will equip brands for changing times. Learn more here.