COVID-19 is still very much an evolving situation across the globe, with many uncertainties and “what-if” questions that have no answers. The only certainty is that consumer behaviors, attitudes and patterns are undergoing unprecedented change, triggered by anxiety, concern, dismay and doubt caused by both the pandemic itself and the onslaught of information, misinformation and irrelevant information fueled by the digital ecosystem.

So while governments across the globe are working on economic stimuli to rebuild their economies, it’s imperative for businesses to provide an “experience stimulus” for the new world that emerges – that is, a coordinated effort to tweak the experiences they offer to fit well in the post-COVID-19 era.

In addition to impacting consumer spend, the behavioral changes of consumers will also reduce the efficacy of millions of dollars previously spent on behavioral research that will need to be updated in light of the pandemic. It’s up to user experience professionals to address this change by providing an experience that’s relevant to our current times, thus encouraging engagement with the digital solutions we’ve built.

This experience stimulus, which should evolve over time, requires initiatives, ideas, tools, methods and incentives that reflect the behavioral changes we see today. For example, in recent research by eMarketer, 60% of consumers indicate they’ll eat out less due to COVID-19. This would mean that experience stimuli like coupons and discounts would be less effective than in the past, and that consumers would look for more reassuring means to gain back confidence, like waiving delivery fees. 

Changing Times Call for a Changed Brand Experience

Here are the top three experience stimuli that businesses can use to help customers cope with the changing times:

  • Stimulus 1: Incentivize Personal Well-being
    The pandemic has made everyone realize the importance of personal well-being. Governments and businesses will likely promote personal well-being in the years to come by prioritizing health in key decision making. This will create abundant opportunities for wellness-related services and tools to become a part of every brand, irrespective of the business.

    For example, movie theaters could offer healthier snacking options, seating options that support social distancing, cleanliness scores, etc. The new net promoter score of a business or a service will have to factor in “contribution to personal well-being” as an important KPI.

  • Stimulus 2: Provide Reassurance
    COVID-19 is greatly impacting customer personas and customer journeys. Micro-moments matter more than ever because they yield opportunities to reassure customers at key points of the purchase-decision journey and engage with them at a deeper level.

    It’s essential to understand you’re no longer dealing with the same customer and acknowledge this new reality to customers. You can build their confidence and help them feel assured by creating easily consumable smart content that rebuilds customer trust and the credibility of your brand.

  • Stimulus 3: Glocalize Experiences
    With the increased use of virtual collaboration tools and work-from-home options, experiences that were built at a global scale for different environments need to be tweaked for home consumption. With “home as the new office,” consumers will be more comfortable using products that offer a homey feel.

    Businesses should adopt a “glocalization” strategy to localize their global products and services and build experiences that accommodate a sense of “home” and domesticity.

The Way Forward

While delivering an experience stimulus is an important step forward to helping consumers cope and increasing their digital engagement, it’s also crucial to stay ahead of customer needs, behaviors and emotional states. There is no “one size fits all” approach, and it’s the responsibility of companies to devise an informed strategy that involves the following steps:

  • Learn how your customers are responding to this change.
  • Assess how your products and services could change to reflect your customers’ new behaviors.
  • Pilot your solution upgrades based on your learnings.
  • Measure the impact that these changes deliver to your business.
  • Improve your strategy over time. 

Brands across the world have already started to pilot these types of experience stimuli. Many popular take-out delivery apps have started to accommodate grocery orders, with assurance about their safety policy and an emphasis on contactless operations. Fine-dining restaurants are reinventing not just their business models but also their menus. Pizzerias have started to offer pizza kits to patrons to home-assemble and bake their own pizza, thereby creating a family activity. Virtual storefronts have started bringing High Street to consumer homes to mimic physical shopping experiences virtually.

Every business will need to prepare for colossal human behavioral change triggered by the pandemic. By providing an “experience stimulus,” they can encourage more people to use the digital solutions they’ve built.

Visit our COVID-19 resources page for additional insights and updates.

Sunil Ganesh

Sunil Ganesh

Sunil is an Experience Strategist and a Human-Centered Design evangelist with Cognizant Interactive. He leads a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, designers and... Read more