Consumer expectations are forever in flux—particularly since the pandemic set in motion a monumental shift in buying behavior. E-commerce sales increased by 43% in the first year alone, jumping from $571.2 billion in 2019 to over $815 billion in 2020. Retailers that once relied on traditional brick-and-mortar locations suddenly had to adapt their service strategies to stay aligned with an evolving customer experience.
Since then, it’s become clear this isn’t some fleeting fad, but rather, an enduring alteration. As a result, e-commerce businesses today must continually stay ahead of increasing shopper demands in order to remain competitive and top-of-mind. The challenge that remains for many e-tailers is how.
A study done by Medallia found that the likelihood for a shopper to recommend an e-commerce store plummets when issues arise during a website visit. What’s more, 25% of visitors will click over to a competitor if their needs aren’t fulfilled while on a brand’s site. So what’s the secret to keeping up with fluctuating customer needs and preferences? Here are six key insights and solutions to help you manage these shifts effectively to help you deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Understanding Changing Consumer Behavior
Shopper behavior is influenced by a myriad of factors, and understanding them is crucial for responding efficiently. Some key contributors include:
- Technological advances are changing the way consumers discover, research, and purchase products.
- Economic conditions like inflation and employment rates are leading to more budget-conscious spending.
- Social media plays a significant role in shaping shopper preferences and purchasing decisions.
- Social trends, such as sustainability and ethical practices, are gaining significance amongst consumers.
- Personalized experiences attract more shoppers, with 80% of customers more likely to buy from companies that offer them.
- Global events like changes in work patterns and health and safety concerns can shift priorities and sway buying decisions.
- Consumers are increasingly conscious about the safety of their personal information when shopping online.
Over time, each of these factors will inevitably change, and new variables will emerge as the e-commerce landscape continues to evolve. As a result, online retailers must remain proactive in monitoring their target market and tailoring strategies to meet their customers’ increasing demands.
Adapting to Evolving Consumer Demands
The following are the most common expectations online shoppers currently have–and ways you can effectively keep up with them.
Preference: Simplicity and Convenience
Nowhere in life has anyone ever said, “I’d like this to be as complicated and drawn out as possible.” E-commerce is no different. In fact, 82% of customers say convenience is extremely or very important to them. With more consumers turning to their laptops and mobile devices for their next purchase, it’s safe to say providing a convenient and frictionless shopping experience is non-negotiable.
Search Engine Visibility
Less than 1% of searchers click on the second page of Google results, so getting your brand in a top position is pivotal to attracting more shoppers to your site. Optimize your website to rank higher in search engine result pages by including relevant keywords in content and meta descriptions and creating high-quality backlinks.
Enhanced Product Content and Navigation
According to McKinsey & Company, three-quarters of consumers want retailers to make their online navigation easier. With just a few simple adjustments, you’ll not only be able to appease these shoppers, but increase the chances of getting them past the checkout page.
- Ensure your menu structure is organized with clear and concise category names.
- Integrate a prominent search bar across the entire site.
- Provide advanced filtering options to streamline product searches
- Feature sales, promotions, and other special offers on your homepage, above the fold.
- Include high-quality images, videos, and concise yet detailed product descriptions on your product pages.
- Implement a responsive website design for popular devices, including the last few generations of mobile phones (we’ll have more on that later).
- Allow users to add items to their cart without leaving the current page.
- Improve your website speed to reduce your bounce rate–which also helps improve your search engine visibility.
You can have the best e-commerce site ever, but if your checkout process is a mess, it can leave a bad enough impression that visitors will never return. Your best bet? Offer a guest checkout option that allows shoppers to complete their purchases without being forced to create an account or fill out endless fields of information.
Follow this up with a wide range of payment methods to accommodate different customer preferences, including credit, debit, digital wallets, and buy-now-pay-later options. Not only will this go a long way toward meeting customer expectations, but optimizing your checkout can boost your conversions by nearly 36%.
Fast Shipping and Easy Returns
Many shoppers are attracted to e-commerce because of the ability to access endless products with a few clicks of the mouse (or taps of the finger). But if the shipping times take longer than anticipated, it could mean the end of that buyer relationship. The same can be said about returns. A study by Invesp found that 92% of consumers will buy again if the product return process is easy. In this instance, your wisest move is listening to the majority by providing speedy and reliable shipping options, and investing in a hassle-free return process that offers quick refunds. All of this information should be highlighted on your website–including PDPs and the checkout page–in simple, easy-to-understand terms.
Loyalty Programs and Subscription Services
While you might not relate these two solutions to meeting consumer demands, the truth is that both offer convenience while also helping foster long-term relationships. To start, loyalty programs reward customers for their continued support through exclusive rewards, discounts, and other incentives.
If you want your e-tail store to stand out, you might want to consider implementing a loyalty program that appeals to the masses. This makes it more compelling for shoppers to choose your brand over others. Don’t believe us? A study from Newswire found that 3 out of every 4 shoppers would switch brands for a better loyalty program.
Another great option is subscription services. This specific type of commerce is already projected to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025, and a large portion of that is due to its ease of use. To make your subscription service successful, start by choosing popular products or services your customers continually want, and then reducing the cost for those items by a select percentage as an incentive for their ongoing renewal. You can offer weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or even annual options that are pre-paid to ensure consistent incoming revenue, along with flexible scheduling and order options, such as the ability to pause services while on vacation.
AI-Powered Customer Support
Consumers want to feel like you’re always there to help them, no matter what stage of the shopping journey they’re at. Sometimes, however, their urge to buy comes at times when your customer support staff isn’t available (anyone else guilty of a 2am spending spree?). This is where responsive support like AI-driven chatbots can make all the difference.
These machine-learning programs aren’t strangers to shoppers–over 80% of people have interacted with them already–so you can take comfort in knowing they’re already providing the necessary assistance so many consumers demand. Of course, you’ll want to balance these virtual robots with human agents who can get to the bottom of more in-depth concerns, and a thorough FAQ section for more generic questions.
Preference: Personalized Experiences
Did you know personalization can drive 60% of consumers to become repeat buyers? It’s no wonder why. Tailored shopping experiences can simplify the purchasing journey by empowering customers to make well-informed buying choices, resulting in heightened satisfaction and loyalty. The secret to delivering an exceptional personalized experience? Utilizing real-time digital body language to align the products, content, and interactions you provide with each shopper’s unique preferences and expectations.
First-party data is instrumental in enabling e-commerce brands to deliver personalized shopping experiences by providing valuable insights into individual customer preferences, behaviors, and purchase histories. By leveraging information directly gathered from your customers, such as website visits, product searches, and transaction history, you’ll be able to optimize their overall shopping journey through tailored messaging, recommendations, and other personalized content.
Personalized Product Recommendations
At this point in the retail game, online shoppers expect retailers to remember their preferences and offer recommendations that are tailored to them. And 56% of these consumers are likely to come back if you provide them. Use the data you’ve collected on browsing and purchase history to help you determine which products and services are most likely to appeal to each shopper.
Even better, machine-learning backed technology like Granify can do the work for you, leaving you time to tailor other strategies to fulfill consumer demands. These technologies can even help you generate curated recommendations for anonymous shoppers, increasing your chances for higher sales.
Custom Email Campaigns
Email marketing campaigns are a great way to keep in touch with your customers and encourage repeat purchases–especially when infused with a dash of personalization. For optimal results, divide your campaigns into distinct consumer segments and customize them with offers, recommendations, and content tailored to their changing preferences.
Get it right, and you could see a mighty big return – marketers report a whopping 760% revenue increase from segmented and triggered email marketing campaigns.
Tailored Offers and Promotions
Here’s an exciting 2-for-1 personalization stat: Over 50% of consumers enjoy receiving targeted discounts and promotions by email (Source: Dynamic Yield). This gives you ample opportunity to create attractive offers and tie them into your email campaigns. You can also include personalized promotions anywhere along the buyer journey (even during checkout) to incentivize the completion of an order.
Preference: Seamless Buyer Journey
The days of consumers taking a one-stop approach to their shopping are behind us. Shoppers now often end up taking a non-linear route down their path to purchase, stopping at various touchpoints to explore, research, and (hopefully) buy. Because of this, it’s imperative that e-tailers deliver a frictionless digital shopping experience across a variety of devices and channels.
The integration of shopping features into social channels is growing substantially, with 41% of consumers having discovered new products through social media in the last three months, and another 27% preferring these platforms over any other retail channel (Source: HubSpot).
Stay connected with your audience by utilizing social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and even Pinterest to highlight your products and promotions. Finally, make sure to respond to any inquiries and issues posted on your social pages swiftly and efficiently–while also giving some much-appreciated shout-outs to those who share positive content about your brand.
From consistent content to intuitive navigation, customers want a smooth online shopping experience throughout the entire duration of their journey. Nearly all US shoppers–98% to be exact–switch between devices on the same day. To meet these high expectations, take a cross-channel approach by curating a seamless experience across all of your channels, including website, social media, mobile apps, and in-store.
Begin by leveraging data from all available sources to gain insights into customer behavior, preferences, and purchase patterns, which can help you deliver a more cohesive and satisfying e-commerce experience. Just make sure that every platform provides your audience with necessary details such as prices, product descriptions, images, availability, and other relevant information. You’ll also want to update your channels regularly to ensure your customers access the same content across your different platforms.
Everyone and their dog has a mobile device these days, and three out of four of them are using their phones to shop online because it saves them time (Source: Dynamic Yield). Still, many online retailers struggle to prioritize mobile optimization, causing a list of issues that are causing shoppers to choose the competition for their next purchase. For example, the average mobile landing page still takes seven seconds to load. Take a moment and count that down in your head.
Feels like a long time to be waiting for something that’s supposed to be convenient, right? To ensure your website and app are fully optimized, prioritize these three key elements:
- Get those page load times as lightning-fast as possible (this article has tons of great suggestions).
- Include a responsive design with an easy-to-use mobile interface and user-friendly navigation.
- Simplify the checkout process and offer a range of mobile payment options such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Paypal, and other dedicated mobile payment gateways.
Preference: Socially-Conscious Shopping
The world is facing a great deal of environmental and ethical challenges right now–from climate change and deforestation, to social injustice and human rights violations. With 78% of shoppers agreeing that sustainability is important, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the repercussions of their purchases. As a result, it’s imperative that retailers take notice and adjust their e-commerce practices accordingly.
Sustainability and Ethical Initiatives
Adopting practices that align with the mindsets of your customers can be a powerful way for them to feel seen and heard. Today’s shoppers value the environment and expect brands to take tangible steps to reduce waste and promote sustainability. They also care deeply about social issues, particularly those pertaining to gender equality, racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and fair labor practices.
In light of this, consumers are more likely to support brands that align with their values and champion eco-friendly and socially responsible endeavors.
Online retailers can adapt by promoting sustainable and ethical practices, such as eco-friendly packaging, responsible sourcing, carbon offset programs, philanthropic partnerships, and diversity and inclusion efforts. Even if you can’t change everything, showing that you care about these issues will go a long way in gaining the trust and loyalty of your customers.
Displaying Your Efforts
Businesses can gain a lot from implementing socially responsible practices. But if your shoppers aren’t aware of your efforts, they may not support your brand. That’s why it's important to be transparent about your initiatives and educate customers about the positive impact of their purchases.
Highlight your commitment to sustainable and ethical practices on your website, through emails and e-newsletters, and even on your packaging, which can resonate with conscious consumers.
Preference: Trusted Data Protection
While third-party cookies are on the decline, there's still a growing number of online customers seeking peace of mind about the responsible handling of their personal information. In the United States, 74% of internet users are more concerned with their online privacy than ever before. As digital shopping continues to flourish, reassuring customers that their information is safeguarded will be pivotal for cultivating trust and retaining a loyal customer base.
Robust Cybersecurity Measures
To safeguard sensitive customer information against potential threats, e-commerce businesses should invest in vigorous security protocols. Some recommended strategies include:
- Lock-tight Website Systems: Ensure that your website uses secure, encrypted connections, like HTTPS, SSL, and TLS to shield sensitive data from being intercepted.
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Employ multi-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of verification.
- Secure Account Management: Enforce strong password policies and encourage customers to create complex passwords.
- Reliable Payment Portals: Choose reputable payment gateways to process transactions securely.
- Advanced Intrusion Detection and Prevention: Deploy a sturdy firewall and intrusion detection system to monitor and filter network traffic, and thwart potential threats.
- Security Audits, Assessments, and Updates: Perform recurring security audits and assessments to identify and address potential weaknesses and update and patch your software systems to protect against known vulnerabilities.
- Cybersecurity Training: Conduct regular cybersecurity training to help employees recognize and avoid phishing attacks and social engineering tactics.
- Incident Response Plan: Implement a thorough incident response plan and test it periodically to ensure a swift and effective response to any security breaches.
Trust Seals and Badges
Security badges tell shoppers your site employs encryption technologies and secure protocols to protect their data during transactions. This reassures shoppers that their personal and financial information is being handled with care. The more positive the perception of your brand, the greater the loyalty and repeat business.
When selecting trust seals and security badges, it's important to choose reputable providers that your customers recognize. Here are some reputable seals and certificates we suggest you display on your website:
- SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificate seals for encryption
- PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance badge for payment processing
- McAfee or Norton Secure seals for antivirus protection
- TRUSTe Certified Privacy seal for user privacy regulations
- Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation for ethical business practices
- ISO (International Organization for Standardization) badges for information security management
- SOC2 compliance certification for service organizations (that's what Granify has!)
Any badges and seals you select should be prominently displayed on your website and mobile app, including your checkout page, to increase customer credibility and confidence when shoppers are completing their orders.
Transparent Data Practices
Finally, if you really want to showcase your efforts, you can provide educational content about online security and the measures you’re taking through blog or social posts, infographics, or videos.
Preference: Social Proof
Have you ever found yourself interested in a product but lost interest (or looked elsewhere) because there were no online reviews to verify whether
or not it was worth it? You’re not alone. An astounding 92% of consumers are hesitant to buy when no customer testimonials are available. Fail to have this type (or any other type) of social proof on your website, and you could be missing out on substantial sales.
Verified User Reviews and Ratings
Many shoppers rely on user-generated reviews and ratings for products and brands–with the average consumer reading 4-9 reviews before making the decision to purchase. Guide them to your checkout page by offering reviews on each of your product pages, usually near the product images and above the fold.
Another option is to place reviews near the main product information, which makes them easily accessible for shoppers. And if you really want to make it effortless for page visitors, feature the average rating near the product name or “Add to Cart” button for a quick snapshot of the overall level of customer satisfaction.
Tip: Need more user-generated reviews? Send your customers a tailored email a few days after their order has been delivered with a request for a review, along with a limited-time offer on their next order just for leaving their feedback.
Love them or hate them, influencers are making their mark in the e-commerce world, with nearly 50% of digital consumers turning to them for advice before making a purchase. If you’ve never collaborated with an influencer before, here are some easy tips to get started:
- Partner with an influencer whose aesthetic and followers reflect your own brand–if they have expertise and credibility in the products and services you provide, even better.
- Look for influencers who are authentic in their own niche, because inauthenticity never sells.
- Having lots of followers doesn;t always equate to high engagement, so always review an influencer's metrics, including likes, comments, and shares.
- Choose influencers who are active on platforms that align with your target audience.
- Clearly communicate your expectations, campaign goals, and collaboration terms, and establish a mutual understanding of deliverables, timelines, compensation, and compliance with ethical guidelines.
Digital Triumph Awaits
As e-commerce continues its rapid evolution, it is crucial for online retailers to adapt and embrace these digital transformations. Consumers will continue to seek convenience, choice, and personalization, and e-tailers that can deliver on these expectations will come out on top.
Looking ahead, the future of e-commerce is an ocean of exciting possibilities. By embracing these changes, you’ll be able to meet the ever-changing demands of online shoppers, resulting in a better customer experience, greater satisfaction, and deeper brand loyalty. Ultimately, your success rests in staying one step ahead of your shoppers, and with these tools and strategies, you can achieve precisely that.
Decode, Deliver, Delight
Granify uses predictive analytics and machine learning to provide real-time insights into consumer behavior to deliver personalized experiences that are as unique as each shopper that visits your site. Reach out to learn more about how our innovative capabilities can help you proactively respond to shifting consumer behavior for long-term success, no matter how high the expectations.
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