An Optimized Online Shopping Experience Ensures Customer Loyalty
Attention retailers! The holiday shopping season is about to kick into full swing, and this is your friendly reminder that it all starts on the 28th of November this year (better known as Black Friday). Black Friday used to stand alone as the single biggest shopping day of the year. Before the widespread introduction of personal computers, the Internet, and mobile devices, Black Friday commenced with large retailers sending physical catalogs to shoppers in the mail, letting them know what deals they could expect that day. Coupons were added to these physical catalogues, which could be cut out for discounts.
How times have changed! The introduction of cross-channel convenience has forever altered the way consumers search for and purchase products. Hence, retailers need to consider not just desktop, but mobile and in-store integration if they want to enhance the customer experience and reinforce brand loyalty.
What once existed only in print has now gone digital. Print catalogs that were once mailed are now emailed, and cut out coupons have changed to codes that can be typed into an app or a special section of a website. Black Friday will never go away, but thanks to the evolution of people’s buying and shopping habits, it has given birth to another major shopping event three days after, known as Cyber Monday.
The question is: Are you prepared to answer the e-commerce needs of your customers? To help you answer this query, comScore has released a new study that aims to deliver insights into consumers’ shopping preferences. The study also attempts to gauge consumers’ current levels of satisfaction with online and omnichannel shopping. The “2014 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper” study analyzed data from 5,800 American online shoppers, with all respondents having made at least two online purchases in a typical three month period.
Consider first what customers today look for in their online shopping experience. While overall customer satisfaction with online shopping remains high, many customers feel that there is still room for improvement. While one of the biggest advantages to online shopping is never having to leave the comfort of one’s home (or office), as seen in Figure 1, customers now expect to see the expected delivery dates of the products they’ve ordered. Ease of check out is also a big thing for them, and so are the shipping options. This would correlate to having free shipping as an option, especially if their items have reached a certain value.
But here’s an interesting thing to think about: Despite more advances in mobile in the last few years, customers are more likely to make online purchases on their desktop and laptop. While many customers are comfortable researching on mobile, customers are more likely to complete their purchase either in store or via a personal computer rather than a mobile device.
Surprisingly, the reason why many shoppers prefer to purchase on desktop is because they prioritize clear images of products and detailed product information. As seen in Figure 2, more shoppers said that their biggest problem with shopping on mobile was either not getting a clear picture of the product (43%) or because product information was not easily viewed (34%). Concerns with credit card information passing through a mobile connection were the least of their worries (30%).
While security should remain a top priority for any website (more on this later), imagine how much potential business could be lost just because your store’s website hasn’t been optimized for mobile users. It may not seem like such a big deal on paper, but remember that online shopping has always been about convenience. If a website is inconvenient for shoppers, it’s not worth their time and they will find alternatives, even though you might be offering what they want.
The presence of a physical store, however, should not be discounted. By integrating a website or app into the customers’ in-store experience, the overall shopping experience is enhanced, and customers are likely to become repeat buyers. In today’s generation, the Millennials are considered to be the most tech-savvy, and as seen above in Figure 3, they are looking for every opportunity to make use of their devices, even during shopping. Whether it’s digital coupons, QR codes, or in-store kiosks for their smartphones, letting them integrate their devices into their shopping experience appeals to Millennials.
Earlier, it was noted that when it came to what people value most when shopping mobile, security and privacy (i.e. giving credit card information over a mobile connection) were ranked the lowest. Despite security issues over the past year, such as the Heartbleed bug, Figure 4 shows that more consumers have gained trust in the online shopping experience (18%) than have lost trust (13%) in the past year.
Trusting a store with personal information is always a touchy subject for customers, and it’s understandable that many do not feel comfortable disclosing their credit card information or home addresses when purchasing online. However, more sites are now reinforcing security by adding extra protection, as well as fraud insurance, should any issues with purchasing arise.
The busiest time of the year is never going to get easier for retailers, but it’s also the best opportunity for you to earn new, loyal customers. The retail game has changed significantly over the last few years thanks to the Internet, and customers have developed new shopping habits that retailers have to absorb and adapt to very quickly.
Desktops still rule the roost for online shopping, but that does not mean mobile devices and in-store integration should be overlooked. Responsive web design, enhanced shopping experiences, and expected delivery dates are just some of the factors that need to be strengthened to ensure continued patronage.
The holidays always mean someone out there is looking for that one perfect gift to give. If you can supply your prospective customers’ demands, chances are, you’ll have loyal customers for the rest of the year.
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