By Sarah Pierce, Sr. Vice President
The online shopping industry is experiencing significant growth; in the U.S. alone, retail e-commerce sales have been rising year on year, and by 2023, sales are set to pass the $735 billion mark.
Online sales are increasing, which presents lots of opportunities for retailers to access previously untouched markets. Yet with any growth, there are bound to be challenges. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that there is more friction in the online shopping experience compared to the traditional in-store retail experience.
WisePlum, In partnership with Google Canada, Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and RCC’s Marketing Advisory Council we conducted a study in the Fall of 2018 which surveyed 5,007 Canadian consumers to gather insights on their shopping preferences, expectations and needs. We found that 67% of shoppers experienced a problem in their last online transaction versus 41% of shoppers in-store. What’s more, 5.8 problems were experienced during respondents’ last transaction online compared to 2.2 in-store.
This by no means is the death of online shopping, but there is certainly room for improvement. So how can businesses improve the online shopping experience? Listed in order of importance, are the top 3 improvements shoppers want from their next online purchase.
1. More product details and better pictures
In our 2018 report, 36% of online shoppers claimed that their top improvement recommendation for online businesses are more details about the product, and better pictures. Customers want ease in their journey; businesses have to provide the specifics of their products in a clear and easy-to-find manner. After all, your product pages are arguably the most important pages on your website as they convert browsers into purchasers. The product descriptions should be both informative and helpful in order for consumers to feel informed and empowered to make the best decision possible.
Pictures are essential to selling products online and are the main eye-catcher for customers. High-quality, custom product images is well worth the investment. These pictures have to make up for the fact that the consumers can’t physically touch and feel the product. Providing photos that showcase details, various product angles and even video all reap major benefits to converting visitors into customers. Thankfully there are lots of tips and tricks available online to take good product photos, even if you’re on a budget.
2. Confirmation the item is in stock before the customers order
It’s not uncommon for online retailers to display items as being in stock when in reality the item is not available. Not only does this frustrate the customer who has spent time on the website deciding which product to purchase, but it almost certainly guarantees bad reviews. Confirmation the item is in-stock before ordering online is the 2nd highest improvement recommendation shoppers want from their next online purchase according to our research.
Some consumers have even reported that online retailers had items listed as “in stock” and then once the delivery period ended, they called the retailer only to find out that the item would take double the time to arrive due to being out of stock. Furthermore, the retailers claim that the item was never advertised as being available. This is deceptive and poor business practice. Retailers should avoid subtle disclaimers or those which use fine print and ensure that the message is clear regarding the availability of the item. And, these messages should be displayed in a timely manner. If they are presented at the checkout page, consumers are more likely to abandon their shopping carts.
3. Better website navigation which makes it easier to find items
The 3rd improvement shoppers want from their next online purchase is better website navigation. Having an excellent product isn’t enough to guarantee conversions anymore. If your website is not optimized for the user experience, consumers will simply leave. For example, if a website takes more than three seconds to load, 40% of consumers are likely to abandon it.
But loading speed is only one aspect of the user experience. Successful online retailers are now adapting minimalist website designs which keep things simple for users. These interfaces focus on reducing the amount of time a customer takes to get from discovery to purchase, thus increasing sales. Minimalist designs will incorporate very easy-to-follow menus that clearly display items with pictures, and make the checkout process fast and simple. The logic is clear: if consumers have a clear direction through the purchasing process, they will spend more on your site than on other websites that have confusing layouts.
While we can’t eliminate all of the friction in any customer experience, it helps to have the insights as to what is most important to today’s consumers. As you strategize about how to continue to grow your online business, consider how well you deliver on these three important aspects of your customer journey. Stay tuned for our next blog where we discuss the number one improvement shoppers want from their retailer - regardless of channel.