The events of last year pushed entire consumer segments to shop online across purchasing categories. It’s evident that eCommerce will proliferate even after the pandemic, preferred for its convenience and availability.
But online retailers shouldn’t get their hopes up for easy business growth just yet. As 2020 reinforced the role of e-commerce, it also uprooted some entrenched consumer habits and fostered new behaviors instead. Against this backdrop, the path to truly sustainable sales and customer loyalty growth for an online business lies through the adjustment to these emerging consumer trends.
Table of Content
- 1. Omnichannel experience or go home
- 2. Mobile as a go-to shopping channel
- 3. Safety always on
- 4. Convenience and value for money as loyalty drivers
- 5. Delivery progress visibility
Below, we will look into the five most significant shifts in consumer sentiment and put forward ecommerce solutions to help retailers deliver on these expectations.
Omnichannel experience or go home
Having tried out and mastered new digital channels over the last year, consumers today are used to switching between them when it suits them and expects businesses to keep up. As the 2021 Customer Expectations Report by Gladly found out, 46% of the surveyed consumers consider having one seamless conversation across all channels as a sign of service excellence, which, beyond product quality, is a major reason why they fall in love with brands. In this context, if anything, retail brands need to prioritize omnichannel transformation in 2021 to stay relevant with their customers.
Contrary to the common misconception, building an omnichannel customer experience does not require large technology investments. CRM, a key system in online retail, can serve as a central hub for all customer data sources and provide service agents, sales reps, and marketing teams with a 360-degree customer view. To step up your omnichannel personalization efforts, you can implement an automated solution to swiftly analyze big volumes of data and get more in-depth insights into customer needs and expectations.
Mobile as a go-to shopping channel
2020 had us glued to our smartphones for work and leisure, and this increase in mobile screen time greatly affected the way people purchase online. As per the 2020 Reimagining Commerce report by Episerver, over 43% of the respondents across generations reach out for their mobile phones when shopping online, and among younger Millennials and Gen Zs, the share reaches 58% and 49% respectively. This makes mobile commerce a viable sales and brand loyalty growth channel worth exploring in earnest in 2021.
Fast, intuitive, highly personalized, and user-friendly retail mobile apps are exactly what consumers have grown to appreciate over the years, but the problem is that every retail brand has one already. To make yours stand out from the crowd, your application needs to be all this and also offer some new exciting and useful features. It can be AR, allowing users to virtually try on clothes and make-up; a service chatbot, instantly providing customers with information or recommendations; or a geolocation feature, enabling location-relevant promotions — the possibilities of modern retail tech are endless.
But if building an app is not an option for you, social selling is another online commerce trend made hot by the pandemic. Today, many social media platforms offer brands the opportunity to set up an online store and sell goods through posts and stories. Due to its ample social proof and community-like interactions, social commerce appeals to customers across the board.
Safety always on
Over a year of permanent anxiety about the virus has ingrained in most customers an almost instinctual lasting awareness of cleanliness and hygiene. These apprehensions have catalyzed an en-masse shift to e-commerce as a lower-risk option, but they have also visibly affected consumers’ safety demands when it comes to those few in-person interactions that are still necessary when purchasing online.
With payments being a major area of concern, physical methods like cash, cards, and even wearables have fallen out of consumers’ favor across generations, while digital channels saw an increase in usage. Furthermore, the appreciation for more innovative and frictionless technologies, dubbed “invisible payments,” such as voice-activated or biometric payments, is growing due to their safety and convenience.
All this makes the diversification of payment methods beyond tried-and-true bank transfers a must for retailers in 2021. While gimmickier methods can wait, business owners are highly recommended to prioritize QR and NFC payments and mobile wallets, which have become mainstream methods in less than a year.
Convenience and value for money as loyalty drivers
Last year established brand loyalties took a hit. A McKinsey survey states that 36% of customers have tried out new brands, and 33% have purchased from a different retailer or website. Surprisingly, the majority intend to carry on and try out new ways to shop down the line.
Throughout 2020, customers were likely to change their allegiances for the sake of convenience and value for money and keep doing it this year, considering the current social distancing guidelines and economic unrest. Thus, in 2021, when consumer spending is expected to rebound, retailers centering their loyalty marketing on these merits will not be left on the sidelines.
To make your service more convenient, begin with taking an honest look at your online store. Are all products easy to find and categorize intuitively? Do customers always see correct product availability statuses and have sufficient delivery and payment options? Is your website optimized for mobile, has a smooth one-page checkout, and offers self-service? Any improvement aimed at saving customers their time and effort will not fail to have a positive impact on brand loyalty.
To offer your customers better value for their money, double down on less demanding reward strategies built on engagement and purchase history, as this is what most customers would feel comfortable with. Shipping costs are another value differentiator, so make sure to offer dynamic delivery pricing if you can’t offer free shipping for now.
Delivery progress visibility
Same-to-next-day delivery has become a standard customer requirement in 2021. But ramping up their logistics infrastructure, brands need to bear in mind another, less obvious but no less important, consideration — in addition to delivery being fast, consumers also want it to be transparent.
There naturally was a demand for delivery progress insights before the pandemic, but it wasn’t particularly pressing. But with more than a year of social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines behind us, online purchases became one of the few sources of excitement for many people. This is how a real-time and highly granular view of the order status and location swiftly came to be strongly associated with a great e-commerce experience filled with anticipation.
Accurate delivery tracking can give your brand a great competitive edge, but to realize this feature, you need to have sufficient supply chain tracking capabilities in the first place. While retailers tend to have long-distance shipment under sufficient control, last-mile and local deliveries traditionally remain a blind spot, much to the frustration of customers and employees in case of a disruption. The modern software market offers a wide choice of last-mile logistics solutions, powered by either conventional GPS or more innovative but accurate IoT technology, and adopting the one that fits your budget and needs will allow you to keep customers in the loop regarding their delivery location all the way through.