What Will The Customer Journey Look Like Beyond 2021?

Both brands and vendors alike will find a drastically altered eCommerce landscape as the world begins to emerge from the pandemic. But it has less to do with the growing shift towards a digital economy as much as consumer needs.

Customers understand their own loyalty better than brands can ever hope to. They understand their own priorities. Their own values. And their own needs. That understanding is what historically has differentiated traditional marketing from its digital counterpart. Customers demand to be spoken with, not to. As early as 2018, it was predicted that digital ad spending would surpass traditional advertising within the span of a year. But if that prediction didn’t necessarily come true, the coronavirus helped accelerate digital ad revenues—to the tune of $139.8 Billion in the US during 2020.

The question of how consumers are making their purchases is becoming increasingly more fundamental than what they’re purchasing. And it’s a lesson both brick and mortar as well as digital can learn from. But if the eCommerce landscape will be changed dramatically, what will the digital customer journey look like after the pandemic?

The Shift Towards Omnichannel Accessibility

A 2020 survey from Nielsen found that financially and physically constrained consumers represented 72 percent of omnichannel shoppers globally. More importantly, their shopping habits appear to have changed permanently as a result. The coronavirus forced formerly infrequent online shoppers to adapt to a necessary change in both habit and necessity, with some 30 percent of first-time digital shoppers now indicating they were making multiple purchases a week.

A 2020 poll from Ipsos indicates that 92 percent of consumers anticipate pandemic shopping habits will continue even after brick and mortar establishments reopen. Yet the rate at which consumers are adopting new delivery technologies demands constant reassessment. Consumer spending on mobile apps may have reached a record $64.9 Billion in the US during the first half of 2021, but actual installations only saw a 1.7 percent growth. While omnichannel shopping may have seemed like an ideal= ten years ago, it’s become a firmly entrenched part of the consumer experience in 2021. With an estimated 73 percent of shoppers using multiple online channels during the course of their journey, brands can no longer afford to overlook omnichannel strategies in their digital presence. And as newer devices continue to be adopted at a rapid pace, brands need to adapt to 24/7 accessibility through multiple delivery options.

Touchpoints: Need, Not Whim

The variety and flexibility of delivery options has a parallel in the customer journey itself. More often than not, marketers assume that consumer touchpoints are a universal application as opposed to an adaptable model compartmentalizing an ideal audience. Touchpoints may provide a useful map, but a map is never a territory; especially in the constantly evolving spectrum of customer experience.

Despite an estimated 18 percent of American shoppers increasing impulse buys during the pandemic, customer journeys are becoming more defined by need-based touchpoints as discretionary purchases decline. But touchpoints aren’t necessarily aligned with a preconceived marketing strategy. More frequently, they’re aligned with customer needs—needs which can vary considerably across both demographic and category. Yet certain touchpoints will remain specific to certain customer segments. Context will always inform content, not vice versa. Brands which can address both the context of a shopper’s needs as well as providing a relevant solution which can bridge the gap will find themselves more likely to maintain customer loyalty, no matter how crowded their own consumer segment.

The Customer is Their Own Navigator

What held true for digital marketing prior to the pandemic will still hold true after it. It’s defined by its users, not its sellers.

The digital landscape is a purely democratic one, where testimonials and social proof ultimately determine the success of any brand. In a democratic landscape, neither legacy nor name count nearly as much as personal engagement. And during the pandemic, necessity forced customers to engage with brands at a significantly higher rate. What that means for brands is that customer performance and how touchpoints and needs are met aren’t just more critical than measuring KPIs—they’re defining those very KPIs themselves.

Personalization is one of the strongest advantages a small or medium-sized business can have. While larger brands may have the resources to launch immersive marketing campaigns, smaller brands can afford to focus on the customer, not internal metrics informed by spending. A customer-driven journey will dictate its own content and context. Personalization is merely one solution to make the most out of that journey.


Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your eCommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines.

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