Covid-19 and the physical encounter with your customers

Category: Customer Journey, Covid-19, strategy

COVID-19 and the physical encounter with your customers

COVID19 has changed almost everything we know about the consumer. After the period of confinement, the strategy at the point of sale is key to face the return to the new normality because the street has become the place of the permanent threat of contagion. 


This generates attitudes and behaviours that affect shopping, turning physical contact with brands into a broken experience. The new attitudes will be marked by a sense of lack of control over the risk of contagion that coexists with an increasingly intense desire to regain normal life. 


How is the Customer Journey reconfigured when the consumer makes the physical purchase at this point in time? 


The lack of efficient online channels (in terms of time, distribution locations or user experience) has forced some consumers to go to the physical point of sale. However, the risk of contagion turns the visit into a moment of lack of enjoyment.


The obligatory exposure to risk generates defensive responses from consumers, who plan their purchases in an exhaustive way in order to reduce risks under more preventive strategies characterised by:


  • Hyper-planning: exhaustive prior preparation of the shopping list and the shopping process (times, aisles, hygiene, etc.).
  • Acceleration: faster shopping, with less checking of the shelf in search of the product.
  • Decision tree review: preference is less important than category availability. Willingness to change if it facilitates quick decision.
  • Concentration: larger purchases of lower frequency.
  • Preference for large store: associated with greater sanitation and safety.
  • Preference for nearby store with sufficient diversity: less exposure time on the street.


The decision tree has changed dramatically: 

  • The average ticket has increased significantly.
  • Purchasing criteria are relaxed: the product is more important than the brand or the price.
  • People try to keep the same purchase.
  • Speed and functionality. The shelf is revised more quickly.
  • Larger formats are included.
  • Single doses to ensure hygiene and safety. Especially for products that have to be taken abroad. 
  • Increase in the purchase of treats: incorporation of products to reinforce indulgence. 


The new customer journey


In planning, it is important to communicate good practices and reassure your customer: point of sale sanitised to the maximum, in aisles, staff, products... Online shopping will be increasingly relevant for your customer in home shopping, so have a presence from your digital channels at the time of planning.


At the checkout it becomes relevant to offer information on the current occupancy of the establishment and a time system that allows the consumer to be aware of the wait in the store: queue for the entrance, for each of the sections, etc.

At the physical point of sale, good practices in the establishment are those that give signs and evidence of hygiene and sanitation in the establishment: with sanitary products available, signposting of the social distance, clear messages to reduce risks. 


Finally, on the way home the consumer needs help. Doubts about the correct measures are constant. There is an opportunity for brands to educate and contribute to relaxation by providing information on packaging about proper hygiene and partnerships between shops and cleaning brands, which provide single doses of disinfectant products free of charge. 


What are the main learnings for brand-customer meeting points?


  • Reinforce the sense of safety, cleanliness and hygiene in your offer and spaces: provide samplings of sanitising products (both retailers and manufacturers), and do not encourage the use of smartphones in the shop (except to pay): right now, they have a minimal role outside the home.
  • Adapt to the change in the customer decision tree: visibility and availability of product on the shelf is critical. If they don't see their usual choice, they have opened their range and are choosing by proximity (creating an opportunity for second brands). This is a good time to visually reinforce your packaging. In addition, choice criteria may vary in a context of uncertainty (formats, ranges, sizes).
  • If you can, avoid forcing shoppers to make long visits: It helps to plan the purchase at all points of the process, from planning to checkout. Click&Collect becomes relevant to ensure a quick, effective visit with fewer touch points, try to communicate this and, if you can't, try to ensure quick and easy online delivery. Finally, take advantage of the convenience shopping boom to increase cross-shopping, e.g. by triggering the recall of other pending purchases ("Are you sure you're not missing anything else today?").

For more information, download the full report.