GutCheck’s recent eCommerce study shed light on consumers’ online shopping expectations and behaviors during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. But knowing what consumers want is only half the battle.
As online shopping becomes more and more popular out of necessity, few companies will be able to maintain the status quo. Even in the best of times, it takes a flexible approach to improve the customer experience and drive growth. In a pandemic, it’s even more important to be agile by understanding the limits of traditional in-store shopping and meeting consumers where they’re moving: online. Brands and retailers must adapt their eCommerce strategy to succeed.
Let’s look at a few practical ways you can optimize your eCommerce strategy during this time.
Make the shopping experience easy and clear
With online shopping now a key part of many consumers’ daily lives, the process of searching and shopping for products has to be as easy and pain-free as possible.
We’ve seen from our research that consumers use both smartphones and computers to shop, sometimes concurrently, so websites and apps have to work seamlessly no matter which device is being used. Consumers like to use smartphones for saving personal information in apps and being able to track products after purchase, which adds to the convenience factor. But they also use websites when it’s better to search for and view products on a bigger screen, or when the user interface of an app is difficult on a smartphone.
Consumers can quickly experience frustration while shopping online. If there are surprises, delays, or glitches in the checkout/payment, shipping, or returns process, or if the product quality isn’t up to expectations, consumers won’t hesitate to shop somewhere else. Bottom line: the moment something confusing or unexpected happens, consumers don’t have a problem walking away—especially younger generations.
Payment methods are important too. Popular options like PayPal, debit cards, and credit cards are a must-have for everyone, but younger consumers also expect less-ubiquitous payment processors like Apple Pay and Google Wallet.
To optimize the shopping experience:
- Make sure the UI and UX of your website and apps are well-designed.
- Ensure tracking features are smartphone-friendly.
- Clearly communicate all information about shipping, fees, and returns.
- Avoid confusion at checkout to keep customers from walking away.
- Offer a variety of payment methods so you don’t alienate any shopper segments.
Adapt to consumers’ new spending expectations
The pandemic has created new benchmarks around what consumers are willing to pay for and what they aren’t—especially when it comes to shipping and delivery.
In addition to the convenience factor of online shopping, being able to easily find low prices is, not surprisingly, a major reason consumers turn to online shopping. As economic worries mount for various segments of the population, the desire to find good deals and spend less, whether through freebies, promotional codes, coupons/discounts, or by doing extensive product and price comparisons, will likely only increase.
Spending expectations also show differences between genders. Female shoppers look for coupons and discounts as well as free delivery, and are more willing to walk away from a purchase if they don’t like the available shipping options. Male shoppers tend to be more flexible and creative in their approach to getting free product delivery, and are less likely to walk away from a purchase.
To optimize for new spending expectations:
- Price your shipping and delivery options as competitively as possible.
- Help consumers qualify for free delivery if you don’t offer it outright. This can be accomplished by setting a minimum order price to qualify.
- Offer discounts and promotions to attract female online shoppers.
Stay in it for the long haul: eCommerce now and later
The reality of COVID-19 is that it’s likely to permanently alter some consumer shopping behaviors. The shift from in-store to online shopping was already occurring before the pandemic, but now it’s out in full force. And retailers are adapting their strategies to that reality. For instance, one major clothing retailer plans to close more than 1,000 stores around the world to refocus efforts and investment on digital operations. And on a macro level, up to 25,000 retail stores across the U.S. may close in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
The increasing shift to eCommerce puts a greater importance on buttoning up your strategy not only today but also down the road. Being ready to respond and adapt will help you stay relevant to your customers and help them weather the changes in their own lives.
Contact GutCheck to gain more insights from our full eCommerce research report and learn more about GutCheck’s industry-leading market research solutions.