25 EXAMPLES OF COVID-INSPIRED CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TRENDS IN ACTION
‘There’s no denying the impact of COVID-19 on all areas of everyday life. Retailers and other companies are adjusting their approaches to capitalize on a new way of consumer life—focusing on health and safety, staying home and finding creative ways to shop.’ BARE shares an article by Blake Morgan for Forbes with 25 trends inspired by COVID-19 that show the long-term impacts of the pandemic.
‘1 . TREND: VIRTUAL SCHOOLING
Example: Bed Bath & Beyond Creates Dedicated Shop For Virtual College Learning
A large number of college students aren’t going back to the dorms in person this year, but Bed Bath & Beyond isn’t going to let that stop it from reaching out to a lucrative demographic. The store created a section on its website dedicated to everything needed for virtual college learning, as well as expert tips to make the most of a unique situation for parents and students.
2 . TREND: VIRTUAL CONNECTIONS
Example: Ralph Lauren Creates Shopable Bitmojis
Customers with the most stylish Bitmojis now have a chance to wear the clothes in real life. Ralph Lauren teamed up with Snapchat to create virtual versions of real outfits for Snapchat avatars, called Bitmoji. Users can virtually browse 12 Ralph Lauren outfits and even purchase the clothing within the app. With more customers using e-commerce, the partnership puts Ralph Lauren in front of more digitally savvy customers and lets them “try on” the clothes before making a purchase.
3 . TREND: WORKING FROM HOME
Example: Brewery Transforms To Co-Working Space
With most people working from home, a brewery that was on the verge of going under because of COVID-19 found a new way to get customers: become a co-working space. Guests started coming to the Optimism Brewing’s outdoor space earlier than normal to work, so the bar created the option for customers to reserve a desk and enjoy a free beer as they work outside. It’s a win-win: workers get a break from their homes and the brewery has customers to serve.
4 . TREND: BRAND PARTNERSHIPS
Example: Lowe’s Partners With Designers For New York Fashion Week
The pandemic resurgence of home improvement has expanded to a new area: high fashion. Lowe’s is partnering with designers like Jason Wu and Christian Siriano to include products in their fashion shows at New York Fashion Week. Lowe’s will even livestream the fashion shows on its Twitter account. The unique collaboration shows the DIY projects have truly made their mark in all areas of retail.
5 . TREND: POP-UP SHOPS
Example: Fragrance Brand Introduces Mobile Pop-Up Shop
Limitations on in-person shopping have been especially difficult for beauty companies that rely on having customers touch and interact with products. Fragrance brand D. S. & Durga had to close its physical stores, but it unveiled a mobile pop-up shop called Fumetruck. Modeled after an ice cream truck, the shop travels to different locations around New York with exclusive products that customers can experience outside and while being socially distanced.
6 . TREND: AR AND VR
Example: Spatial Creates Holographic Avatars For Virtual Interaction
Just because people are working from home doesn’t mean they can’t still interact in person. That’s the idea behind Spatial, an AR and VR-powered platform that turns photos into holographic avatars that can collaborate in a virtual workspace. No matter where the humans are in the world, the virtual avatars can meet to work together, just like how they would in real life.
7 . TREND: ORIGINAL CONTENT
Example: Spotify Pivots To Capitalize On Podcast Listening
Even music giant Spotify hit some bumps during COVID-19 because the majority of its users listen to free music with ads. But with ad spending down, so was Spotify’s revenue. Instead, the company pivoted to original content in the form of podcasts. It invested in exclusive podcasts from big names like Michelle Obama and Joe Rogan and saw more than 150,000 podcasts uploaded in a single month. The amount of podcasts users listened to more than doubled in one quarter.
8 . TREND: DIGITAL CONNECTIONS
Example: Netflix Party Lets Users Watch Movies With Friends—Digitally
Even if people can’t be together in person, they still want to interact with their friends. Companies are finding creative ways to make it happen digitally. Netflix Party is a free Chrome extension that syncs people’s screens so they can watch Netflix remotely with friends and family and chat about the show. It’s the next best thing to actually being in the same room to watch a movie together.
9 . TREND: VIRTUAL COMPANIONS
Example: AR Company Creates Virtual Human Companions
COVID-19-related self-isolation can be difficult for people, especially those who live alone or are away from family and friends. AR company Realic created the world’s first AI-based human partner, which uses VR and AR to bring a virtual partner to “life” before the user’s eyes. Users can then interact with their companion with a smartphone or VR headset. The program even allows users to scan photos of family members or celebrities to create a virtual companion with the same likeness.
10 . TREND: DRIVE-THRU ORDERING
Example: Taco Bell Unveils New Drive-Thru Design
More customers ordering through drive-thrus due to closed dining rooms has created ripple effects in dining, including long lines and slower service. Taco Bell is updating its drive-thrus to include a dedicated lane to picking up mobile orders. Users can place their orders in advance for faster service, which also speeds up the other lanes. New technology will also help employees make food quickly and tell customers the easiest way to pick up their food.
11 . TREND: VIDEO
Example: Tinder Expands To Offer Virtual Dates
With social distancing squashing in-person meetups, dating apps have taken a hit. But Tinder and other apps are now expanding to offer video connections for virtual dates. Tinder is currently testing its video capabilities, which it will eventually expand to all global users. Users would previously meet up with a new connection over coffee or drinks, and video abilities allow users to get to know each other and go on virtual dates while staying appropriately distanced.
12 . TREND: AT-HOME WORKOUTS
Example: Peloton Adds New Products And Lowers Price Points
With many gyms still closed, Peloton bikes and their at-home subscription workouts have become much more ubiquitous in living rooms around the world. But many consumers were put off by the high price point. At-home workouts definitely aren’t going away, and Peloton recently unveiled new products, including a cheaper treadmill and a more expensive bike, while also lowering the price of its original exercise bike. The move makes at-home workouts accessible to more consumers.
13 . TREND: GHOST KITCHENS
Example: Virtual Kitchen Raises $20 Million For Ghost Kitchens
As many restaurant dining rooms remain closed or face limits on their capacity, more restaurants are turning to ghost kitchens. Instead of having a physical storefront or dining room, ghost kitchens allow multiple restaurants to work out of the same kitchen and partner with delivery companies to bring their food straight to customers. The trend was already taking off, but COVID-19 took it to the next level. Ghost kitchen tech company Virtual Kitchen recently brought in $20 million in funding as many of its customers announced plans to convert their traditional restaurant locations to virtual ghost kitchens.
14 . TREND: CASH-LESS TRANSACTIONS
Example: Chick-fil-A Moves Towards Cash-Free Restaurants
Amid concerns of passing germs through high-touch areas like cash registers and card readers, a number of Chick-fil-A locations across the country are becoming cash-free. Instead of taking traditional payments, the restaurant encourages customers to order and pay through its app instead. The switch not only allows customers and employees to remain distanced, but it also helps provide faster service.
15 . TREND: DELIVERY
Example: Car Dealerships Work Towards Online Sales And Delivery
The days of purchasing a car at the dealership may be over. A number of large dealership chains around the country, including Asbury Automotive Group and Lithia Motors, are moving the entire car-buying process online with virtual tours and digital financing. The switch removes contact between customers and car salesmen and as an added perk, makes the entire process more convenient.
16 . TREND: ROBOTICS
Example: UPS Starts Drone Delivery Of Prescriptions
Robotic delivery has been in development for years, but it has seen a resurgence in recent months as a way to quickly deliver needed goods without customers leaving their homes. UPS recently partnered with CVS to deliver prescriptions via drone to the largest retirement community in the country. The technology allows elderly customers to get the medicine they need safely. CVS and UPS have plans to eventually expand the program to other areas.
17 . TREND: COMFORTABLE CLOTHING
Example: Ugg Debuts Clothing Line
Ugg, known for its cozy boots, is expanding to take advantage of a new clothing trend: comfort. With more people staying at home, comfortable clothes are all the rage. Ugg’s new ready-to-wear line is the first from the brand and features cozy materials that can be worn both for lounging at home and for going out.
18 . TREND: SMALLER STORES
Example: Macy’s Plans To Create Smaller Stores Out Of Malls
The COVID-19 trend of social distance and faster shopping trips have accelerated Macy’s plans to create smaller stores that are away from malls. The department store has long been an anchor of malls, but new smaller stores puts Macy’s where customers are and allows them to get in and out quickly for a dedicated Macy’s shopping experience.
19 . TREND: AT-HOME COOKING
Example: Whole Foods Offers Virtual Home Ec Classes
More time spent at home means more time in the kitchen, and Whole Foods is making sure customers know what they are doing. Whole Foods is transitioning its cooking classes online with Home Ec 365, an online series that covers cooking skills, baking substitutions, food usage and more. The classes are free and offer a new way for customers to connect with Whole Foods while learning valuable skills.
20 . TREND: FOOD DELIVERY
Example: DoorDash Expands To Convenience Items
Those quick trips to the store for just a few items are out of the picture for many customers, but food delivery company DoorDash is stepping in with its new service, DashMart. Customers can order from more than 2,000 convenience items, ranging from condiments to toothpaste, and have them delivered quickly to their homes. DashMart delivers faster than most grocery stores and is designed for smaller purchases of items customers forgot at the store or use frequently.
21 . TREND: CURBSIDE PICKUP
Example: Non-Grocery Retailers Expand Curbside Options
Curbside pickup used to just be for grocery stores, but COVID-19 has forced stores to expand to BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) to bring items straight to customers’ cars. Dick’s Sporting Goods was one of the first non-grocery stores to build out curbside pickup and now offers thousands of items to customers to pick up within one hour without leaving their cars.
22 . TREND: DTC GROWTH
Example: DTC Brands See Strong COVID Growth
With customers less willing to go to physical stores, direct-to-consumer brands have seen tremendous growth in the past months. One strong example is Chewy, which offers a wide variety of pet products shipped straight to customers’ doors. Lockdowns led to more pets being purchased, which also drove demand for Chewy’s products and increased its active customers 33% from 2019.
23 . TREND: PURPOSE AND SOCIAL GOOD
Example: Startup Pivots To Focus On Social Good
The pandemic has changed customer expectations and increased their desire to support companies that have a strong purpose and do good in the community. Denver startup Handoff pivoted its business during quarantine to be more purposeful. The company uses a chatbot to recommend and deliver wine and beer, but after bars and breweries were forced to shut down, Handoff removed all non-local beers so that customers’ only option is to support local breweries.
24 . TREND: INCREASED MOBILE USAGE
Example: Microsoft Unveils Two-Screen Smartphone
Without live events and in-person socializing, people are spending much more time on their devices. Microsoft tapped into the trend with its new two-screen phone, the Surface Duo. The phone allows users to multi-task with two apps at once, like watching YouTube while sending email or chatting with friends while playing a game.
25 . TREND: VIRTUAL TRAVEL
Example: Travel Agencies Expand Virtual Tours
With most travel plans cancelled for the foreseeable future, travel agencies are finding creative solutions. Agencies need to make money and consumers still want to see the world, even if they are at home. Tour company Walks launched Tours From Home that take users on virtual tours of popular global attractions with expert guides. As a bonus, the virtual tours come with a voucher for future in-person trips.’
Read the original article in full here.
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Disclaimer of endorsement: Any reference obtained from this article to a specific business, product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by BARE International of the business, product, process, or service, or its producer or provider.
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