With £2.8bn spent on online shopping during Christmas in UK alone it’s not hard to see that in 2010 e-commerce has become equally important to brands as brick and mortar stores. As e-commerce gains in popularity, the shoppers’ expectations rise along. Consumers look for a rich online experience and have high standards about customer service and product experience, while at the same time the financial crisis “trained” them to compare prices and go after price for value purchases. A Forrester research study indicated that 88% of consumers have abandoned an online shopping basket, suggesting that even if retailers manage to stand out and lure the consumer to their online selling points, they still need to place extra effort to close the sale. So what are the deal breakers for online shopping?
Poor Product Experience: Many consumers visit online stores for product research but make the actual purchase in-store as they prefer having a hands-on experience with the product. In order to turn their e-shop into an effective selling point etailers must provide a rich online shopping experience, with high quality product images, that enable the shopper to examine product details and see it from different angles.
Etailers have also been experimenting with video, for instance Zappos has added video shopping descriptions on the products’ pages, and augmented reality, to create a more personal experience with the product. As the technology around AR evolves consumers will expect to be able to simulate real life product testing. Interactive videos, or gaming environments like Kinect’s seem ideal ways to engage with shoppers, while passing product information. Poor quality images and limited product information are without question deal-breakers.
No Social Media Integration: Social media has slowly turned the shopping experience from brand centric to customer centric. As traditional media lose momentum, our social feeds are steadily becoming the new Vogue. Shoppers turn to their online friends and favorite bloggers to discover cool trends and receive product reviews. Brands are aware of the growing influence of online social networks in purchasing behavior, in fact over half of online retailers who responded to a recent survey, had either implemented social sign-on or planned to add it in the near future.
The challenge lies in overcoming this deal breaker without leaving customers feeling like they are being stalked. Even if the majority of people are open to sharing more personal information with brands, privacy is still a very important issue and exaggerated use of targeted ads could result in a backlash. To steer clear from issues like this, etailers should integrate social media, allowing customers to opt-in and out from sharing personal information.
Delivery Issues: According to the Forrest research mentioned above, 44% of consumers have abandoned a shopping basket for cost of delivery. Offering easy access to detailed information on shipping costs and delivery times may be key in completing a transaction. Shipping cost calculation on the ‘view cart’ page and free shipping offers in Groupon style, for loyal customers or big sized orders could encourage a sale. Most consumers also expect to be able to track their orders, some retailers provide tracking tools on their own site, others provide the shopper with a code to track the buy through the courier company’s site and others have partnered with services like Shutl in order to provide fast and easy to track delivery.
Another by default deal breaker can be geographical restrictions as many online retailers have not expanded their e-commerce initiatives globally yet. Apart from reaching new customers from around the globe and especially emerging markets like China and Brazil, international shipping options will also help brands retain their relationship with existing customers that their lifestyle dictates constant moving.
Lack Of Flexibility: Consumers have the option to access a product and make a buy on different platforms but expect to get same quality service on all. As many shoppers do their research online but do the actual shopping off line, retailers could offer them the option to save their shopping cart on their ecommerce site and complete the transaction on mobile while in-store or the click and collect service, where shoppers buy online and pick-up in store, like Walmart and Marks and Spencer.
Sales Fever: The recession has made consumers really aware of where they spend their money and price comparison across the web has become part of the buying process. Mass discount sites like Groupon and exclusive sales sites such as Gilt have been in the spotlight in 2010, but more personalized discounts and limited-time sales that leverage the social media integration we mentioned above seem to provide the incentive for the consumer to shop directly through brands’ sites.
Poor Customer Service: Retailers should make it easy for customers to get in touch not only online but also via telephone, always providing them with the time frame in which they’ll get back to them with a solution to the problem. It is also important to keep a smooth flow in the interaction with the customer while moving to different communication channels, as well as provide confirmation emails when needed to minimize the need for help and assistance while making the purchase.
What are the deal breakers for your online buys?