eStar senior project manager Patrick Gaskin shares why the 'Delta consumer' is redefining customer experience.
Last year I wrote about the COVID consumer and how the ebb and flow of what, in hindsight, was a predictable cycle of lockdowns and subsequent easing of restrictions was impacting consumers.
Since then, a lot has changed. So how has it changed consumer behaviour and eCommerce?
Firstly, what has changed?
There are two significant changes in 2021 compared to 2020.
The first is the development and subsequent rollout of vaccines and the second is the emergence of the Delta variant.
The former has been a slow and painfully drawn-out affair in both Australia and New Zealand.
And the second has completely changed the game and made the future harder to predict than ever before.
When vaccines first became available at the start of 2021, there appeared a viable path to herd immunity and an elimination strategy.
The hardest hit countries moved aggressively with their vaccine rollouts and the early results seemed promising.
But the emergence of the Delta variant in India and its rapid spread elsewhere quickly eroded that optimism.
Delta turned out to be twice as contagious.
More likely to put infected people in hospital and worryingly, compared to previous variants, and was more likely to infect and make children unwell.
Moreover, the containment strategies that were effective against Alpha could not contain Delta.
Even countries with the highest vaccine rates in the world have been unable to contain the virus.
Whilst things were uncertain in 2020, there were signs that proper management of the spread of the virus could see us through.
Both Australia and New Zealand navigated 2021 far better than most parts of the world.
The government poured massive amounts of stimulus into the economy and the economic oblivion predicted never eventuated and eCommerce moved forward by five years in a single bound.
But with Delta our slow vaccine rollout has left both countries exposed.
Lockdowns have been longer, and their end much harder to predict.
COVID, especially in Australia, is now the real deal.
And critically, the stamina that the community summoned to deal with the uncertainty and relentlessness of it before has significantly waned and been replaced with frustration and despair.
As businesses try to navigate these extraordinary times the COVID consumer continues to change too.
Consumer confidence has pulled back significantly and there is greater uncertainty about the future.
Even countries with much higher vaccine rates have seen a similar dip.
A recent survey in the US reported a 25% increase, since July, in the number of consumers admitting they are "very or somewhat worried" about coronavirus, the highest one-month jump recorded since March 2020.
This has resulted in a softening in spending and growth.
The supply chain has been more seriously impacted this time around.
Retailers need to continue to be proactive, show empathy and overcommunicate or risk having consumers gravitate back to known brand names because there is a perception that they have a more established, and reliable supply chain.
Delta Consumers are seeking value and holding out for promotions. Retailers that become reliant on discounting to achieve growth risk falling into a vicious cycle and eroding margin.
According to a recent study from McKinsey, retailers must keep the entire customer journey in mind.
The Delta consumer is demanding high customer satisfaction levels, and this is based on the holistic interaction of a company’s performance.
It is this expectation around the online experience that remains high.
People are tired and frustrated and their tolerance for poor end-to-end experiences is extremely low.
Coupled with serious delays for shipping e.g. AusPost and other logistics companies due to the sheer volume of demand.
The Delta consumer will continue to reward great businesses that can meet and exceed customer expectations.
But those that are not creating amazing online experiences will see sales soften and market share lost until some hope and optimism returns.
This amazing customer experience could be addressed by alternative delivery options and flexibility in providing these options.
It is this combination of evolved online retail experiences and delivery options that will enable retailers to acquire and hold on to customers.
When considering where retail is going, delivery options have equal importance and is now more than ever part of the Delta consumer’s retail experience and expectations.