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The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend toward ecommerce and away from brick-and-mortar retail. It changes things, but many of those changes are positive if you examine them more closely.

The virtual economy has had to step up out of necessity, as large swaths of the population step back from in-person commerce. This shift requires retailers to focus more effort on the online customer experience. Though online customer experience management is nothing new, the sudden overwhelming emphasis on CX best practices in an online economy is. Here’s how brands can reimagine CX management in a virtual economy to delight customers and boost reputation.

A Consistent, Compelling Online Experience

Consistent brand experience is a comfort in the best of times. In a time of global uncertainty, it is even more important. Providing a consistent online customer experience across device, channel and time is mandatory now. When consumers use a mobile ordering app or browse brand sites on their laptop, they want to feel “at home” through consistency of experience, and they appreciate brands that answer this need.

Woman sitting on the floor looking at her tablet.

A consistent online brand experience offers comfort in unpredictable times.

Consistency doesn’t mean “boring,” however. People want rich content, especially images and videos. If they can’t touch products in person, they want the next best thing. Shoppable images and videos are becoming more popular as people (and brands) look to remove friction from the buying process. Top-quality content is the order of the day.

(Learn more about CX trends and how to improve your CX strategies today by downloading the Top Trends for Online Reputation and CX Management Report. )

top trends 2020 cta - Reimagining Customer Experience in a Virtual Economy

Authenticity in a Changing World of Commerce

Just as they crave consistent experience and compelling content, consumers desire authenticity in brand messaging, too. For many brands, user-generated content fits the bill and it can take many different forms. UGC is as authentic as it gets, offering consumers real-world experiences to which they can relate.

Woman taking photos of clothing for a shop.

People find authenticity in UGC. If your brand has considered increasing UGC, now is an opportune time to do it.

Google reviews are a powerful form of UGC. If you only choose to use one form of UGC, Google reviews are probably the best choice, as long as you continually monitor reviews and respond to them promptly. The number of reviews your retail business has and how well you respond to them are major determinants of your online reputation. When consumers see that your brand stays on top of reviews and engages, they know you prioritize CX.

Other forms of UGC include user-submitted photos, demos and videos. People like it because it shows real people using real products and gives them a greater sense of how products can fit into their own lives.

Data, Analytics and Customer Journey Still Critical

Giving people the online customer experience they want requires diving deep into the customer journey, identifying pain points and understanding friction in the buying process. You must pay attention to the quantitative data as well as qualitative aspects of CX. Hard numbers help you understand trends and identify strengths and weaknesses that may be more difficult to extract from unstructured data. Understanding the numbers and qualitative information is the key to keeping a finger on the pulse of customer sentiment.

Person looking at charts and graphs on a document.

Hard numbers matter, but subjective customer information provides actionable insights as well.

Reputation tools that incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence can help your brand turn unstructured data into actionable insights. CX best practices depend on having a comprehensive view of the customer journey, plus the data that ties it to your bottom line.

The retail economy has shifted much of its weight online, practically overnight. CX management is every bit as important as it ever was, and how you go about managing it may require different techniques in the coming weeks and months. Rising to the challenge will demand more from your team, but you stand to gain valuable insights that help you strengthen your brand both short- and long-term if you do.

Download our 5-Step Guide to Improving Your Online Reputation to learn more today.

5 step guide - Reimagining Customer Experience in a Virtual Economy

*Please note that Google is managing demand and capacity during this dynamic situation by temporarily pausing some features. The current availability of the Managed GMB Communication features will be addressed during your conversation with our team.