Consumers want reliability, safety and value for their COVID-19 retail experience

COVID-19‘s world-wide impact on customer expectations and priorities was immediate and widespread across all sectors and demographics with consumer expectations going ‘back to basics’ as they shored up what was important to their lives.

While the leading brands list in 2018 and 2019 was dominated by airlines and financial services, our research conducted at the height of Australia’s lockdown saw consumers shift towards safety, security, transparency and reliable delivery.

During the peak of national COVID restrictions, Australian consumers naturally interacted less with certain sectors, such as insurance companies or airlines and instead shifted to the new ‘COVID shutdown essentials’ such as the home office and gym equipment. And we can see their expectations also changed when defining excellent customer experiences, with their focus shifting to reliability, safety-first, and value. Looking at our findings through a COVID-19 lens, companies which were able to maintain a high level of customer cadence, the rhythm with how customers and organisations transact and interact, ranked highest.

Leveraging Australia’s soft spot for alcohol alongside a quick response to the COVID-19 crisis, First Choice Liquor is Australia’s CX leader for 2020. According to the report, respondents noted that First Choice Liquor got the basics right with customers highlighting product range, availability, value for money and an enjoyable purchase experience led by friendly, cheerful and helpful staff. IKEA benefited from the trend of Australians using their time in lockdown to set up home offices, gyms or generally upgrade their immediate environment. Customers found the transition to IKEA’s website seamless and easy to navigate. As digital shopping became the avenue for Australians to interact with brands, survey respondents noted that Afterpay enabled the transition to eCommerce as seamless as possible.

But price is still important as part of the value equation with quality becoming a secondary consideration as financial strain affected households.

So what makes for a great customer experience. Our report points to three key challenges.

Firstly, maintaining continuity of experience in times of crisis. Customers seek stability in an unstable world and want continuity throughout their interaction. This is more than just a seamless digital transaction. They want a personalised experience across channels. IKEA and Rebel are top performers in Australia.

Secondly, at a time when Australian’s have been faced with natural disasters and health crises, building certainty in a state of flux is vital for consumers experiencing a loss of control that is affecting customer confidence. Customers are seeking reassurance from the brands they interact with, relying on transparency to build and re-build confidence and maintain their trust. NSW Health performed well with people reflecting positively on the timely and transparent COVID-19 updates, which served to ease concerns and set expectations about what is to come. Many noted staff going above and beyond to support citizens and patients with information and resources to navigate this challenging time.

Finally, as Australians begin to emerge from lockdown, consumers are hesitant to resume their previous lifestyle and spending habits, redefining the ‘new normal’. With concerns emerging about the sustainability of the economy and the longevity of COVID-19 suppression, consumers are focused on essential goods and services. For Australians, brands that are front of mind as CX leaders are those which have supported customers to adapt to COVID-19, whether that means new ways of working (IKEA), facilitating new routines (Rebel) or providing financial certainty and security (Afterpay, Paypal).

Organisations to put the customer at the heart of what they do and leverage their ability to adapt and be resilient, embrace technology and trust their teams to put their customers’ needs first and foremost. This will benefit them long after the pandemic is over.

Australia’s top 10 for customer experience.

1. First Choice Liquor
2. IKEA
3. Afterpay
4. Boost Juice
5. Rebel
6. PayPal
7. Red Energy
8. Dan Murphy’s
9. ING
10. Best&Less

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