COVID.UXHow might businesses continue to engage with their consumers in the COVID-19 world?

Since last week, our entire office has been working from home. And so are probably you. As I write this, corona virus has affected 196 countries and continues to spread exponentially. Businesses are frantically trying to ensure that their operations continue to run in some shape or form and how could they minimize the losses. Amidst this rush, not only do we have to worry about people stocking up groceries or fighting over toilet paper, we also have to deal with user experience across many platforms. When I say user experience, I mean every move a person takes while home quarantined physically or digitally (a.k.a UX) needs to be such that it helps ease their life. And businesses/UX designers have a role to play.

So, what can businesses do?

Before we answer that question, let’s take a step back and revisit what is UX design. defines user experience design as “the process […] to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users”. Operative words here being meaningful and relevant.

The context in which the user engages with an app determines meaningful and relevant. For instance, a payment app reminding me to set a strong password is meaningful because of security implications; e-commerce offering a pop-up 3-click checkout is relevant because who does not like a smooth check-out process (read more on that here); and a restaurant listing app showing me a curated list for anniversary celebration is fantastic in the month of October (you guessed it right).

However, the context has completely changed. We live in a totally different world where working from home is the norm, no one complains of traffic, clubbing has gone virtual, air pollution levels are dropping, commute times are zero, some people are bored because of lack of work while others (essential workers) are struggling to find time in their busy schedule, few are trying crazy hobbies (bird songs, potty art, new Ludo rules, cooking with bare essentials, Bhujia art etc), setting up virtual board games. And thus, what was meaningful and relevant a few days ago, no longer is.

And businesses need to move with the changing context. A good way to start is to revisit the app flow and reimagine the user journey through your app. And what that means for the UX choices you have made.

How do UX choices differ in the COVID-19 world?

UX helps us improve the way users consume content and make decisions on apps. It also goes a long way in building trust and comfort with the product and service. Captured below are some functions that UX design achieves, and how might we still achieve these functions in the COVID:

Helping make the right choice

While star ratings and delivery times are important, now users want to know if there is a risk of getting infected if they use the product or service.

For example, Swiggy & Zomato are doing great at citing example of WHO guidelines, focussing on safety first. They have mentioned how they plan to ensure safety at restaurants while preparing food and setting up for contactless delivery. Example – Temperature check of staff every day, temperature check of delivery executives before hand over of food, Kitchen hygiene checks. May be its time to shift focus from showing how Instagram-able the food or restaurant décor is to how the staff and the chefs follow WHO guidelines. Amazon has started to delivery in few selected cities and it is highlighting that safety is its first priority.

Some organizations have shown that they are nimble and yet, there are many players in the market who need to catch up. Now is the time to be absolutely transparent with your customers. Let them know what your plan is and how will you execute it. It builds trust and loyalty.

Managing expectations

As we discussed, COVID has disrupted business operations for many. Most businesses are shut, leaving users high and dry. There are a few digital ones that are booming. However, the ability of the business to meet the user’s expectation of quality/speed of service has substantially deteriorated in both the scenarios.

For example, Psych (an online game) manages the traffic of loaded servers by informing the users about the slow speed and app unresponsiveness upfront. Or Netflix says that they are reducing the bandwidth to accommodate other users.

It is even more important for flight booking websites is to tell users that they will experience long lead times and may be even giving an option of a call back, and how far has someone progressed in the wait queue. It helps set out clear expectations in these distressing times.

Showing that your business is helping do their bit

Reinforcing the messaging on precautions and safety. Recommending healthier lifestyle options to boost immunity. Creating awareness on what helps build better immunity and how to look after your health.

For example, banks are encouraging consumers to go digital for all the banking needs and minimize bank visits to prevent the spread of virus every single day. They are adhering to keeping ATMs safe. However, reminding ATM users to wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitiser after use of ATM services along with the account debit messages sent out at the time of withdrawal will give that extra sense of personal touch. Nykaa is offering immunity boosters (Vit C & Energy drinks) to keep energy levels high. They are selflessly reminding users to drink 2-3 litres of water every day to flush out toxins and sharing recipes of DIY green smoothies/ herbal teas.

It’s time to forget individualism and work collectively for community benefits. Reminding each other to take care and stay indoors is what we are definitely doing over phone calls to our closed ones. This message needs to be spread across to as many communities as possible to break the chain.

Express check-outs, same but different

Everyone loves express check-outs. But expectations from express check-outs have changed dramatically. It is not just about how seamless is the check-out experience but also how soon can the goods be delivered.

For example, D-mart, Big basket and many other online supermarkets are catering to user’s daily grocery needs tirelessly during these times. It’s not easy specially when they have to curate what every single person needs and get them delivered. To ease this, we could have essential combos like Ration combo, Dairy combo, Toiletries combo etc. This could help in pre prep and bundling of combos resulting is more efficiency and faster deliveries to people who are in urgent need.

Engaging users on how they can make better use of their time

Suggesting users on what can they do in free time that can help them prepare for future.

Staying at home have inspired a lot of people to start doing home workout. Cure. Fit left none of their active members to complaint about missing the fitness session. I heard some of them talking about taking live home sessions were as much fun as taking an in-class session. Now that is the kind of experience that will go a long way. Giving a fun and interesting challenges to engage users that is definitely benefiting them in a long run.

Similarly, BharatMatimony or can remind their users to continue looking for their partners while maintaining the social distance. They can remind the users to make use of this time in getting to know each other better, socializing and taking their time to choose the life partner.

Why should you care?

With the turn of the decade, we had always expected things to change. This wasn’t one of them. But, going by all the expert opinion, this change is here to stay at least for the next 12-18 months. In this new context, user’s expectation of their experience with a product or a service will drastically differ. And those businesses who show that they understand this changing expectation and are ready to serve the consumer, will emerge victorious from this battle.

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