Reality bytes: firms need to up their game to retain online ...

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Reality bytes: firms need to up their game to retain online consumers

Digital commerce plateau means firms have to really work to earn customer loyalty, or they'll get left behind

Nick Durrant


While there has been a natural uptick in how often people shop online, consumers’ digital habits have started to stabilise. Digital commerce will reach critical mass in 2019. This is according to Episerver’s “Reimagining Commerce” report, an in-depth look at the trends, tactics and technologies guiding brands and retailers in the age of experience-driven commerce.
In a survey of more than 4,500 global online shoppers, 26% of online consumers shop online at least weekly. This is just a small increase from 2018’s report, which found that 23% of online consumers shop online at this frequency. The report says the plateau effect in digital commerce leaves companies with a clear mandate to improve or get left behind.
The quality and diversity of digital commerce experiences play an even greater role in the struggle to stand out and earn customer loyalty. To understand just how valuable innovative online shopping experiences are, consider today’s commerce environment. Leaders like Amazon have perfected seamless transactions, leaving fewer opportunities for differentiation via investments in this area. At the same time, traditional retailers are using technology to improve the customer experience and deliver new perks through sophisticated loyalty programmes, bridging the gap between online and in-store.
The average shopper’s path to purchase is more complex than ever, filled with a wide variety of capabilities and attractions popularised by digital native brands. Vying for consumers’ attention and wallet share will only grow more difficult as additional players enter the fray, further congesting an already crowded digital shopping ecosystem. To get ahead, brands and retailers must implement dynamic, integrated content marketing and customer experience strategies that forge personal, emotional connections with shoppers beyond transactions.
Retailers need to look at the principles to achieve standout, experience-driven commerce that converts consumers into customers and buyers into brand advocates. According to the survey, final purchases require guidance because only 20% of online consumers say all of their online purchases are planned. Although seamless transactional experiences are the standard, online shoppers say the top three capabilities, or features, brands and retailers should support include free shipping, shipping tracking and information about returns.
Although 88% of online shoppers say it is the same or higher priority for brands and retailers to offer personalised experiences online in 2019 compared with 2018, 93% say it is the same or higher priority for companies to respect their anonymity online. It is also evident that digital commerce overwhelms consumers: nearly half of online shoppers have failed to complete a purchase online because there were too many options to choose from.
Ten percent of online shoppers view an item five or more times before making an online purchase, adding to feelings of always-on commerce. The survey also says ineffective content has major consequences. Incorrect or incomplete content on a brand’s website or mobile app has stopped 98% of online shoppers from completing a purchase.
Social media has evolved into an established shopping channel, particularly for younger shoppers. Influencers are more important than ever. About 52% of online shoppers who use social media have clicked on an influencer’s post, according to the report, and a third of those shoppers (31%) have made a direct purchase from the post. It also states that 21% of online shoppers 37 and younger turn to social media for inspiration online when they do not have a product in mind for purchase, compared with just 5% of online shoppers 38 and older.
According to the report, marketplaces are online shoppers’ top destinations. They flock there to start their online purchase journeys, whether they have a product in mind for purchase (46%) or not (39%).
Voice is gradually becoming part of online shopping habits, with more consumers turning to voice for online shopping. The survey says voice-assisted shopping is most effective for repeat purchases. Voice technology has also grown in popularity, with 17% of online shoppers using voice devices to make purchases a number of times a month or more frequently, and 22% using the technology for research purposes in the same time frame.
However, the report shows there is a preference for voice research over voice purchase. Brands and retailers should consider using voice to attract frequent shoppers for repeat purchases, while using traditional channels to build relationships with new customers or less frequent shoppers.In conclusion, 43% of consumers cited a lack of security features as the number-one reason they won’t make more purchases through voice-enabled devices. Difficulty searching for and comparing products was also cited as a barrier to increased voice purchases.• Durrant is CEO of Bluegrass Digital.– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)

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