How Shopper Expectations Changed in 2016

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Customers expect a frictionless experience from start to finish, and it can be costly if retailers miss the mark. Although businesses have done a good job meeting expectations over the years, it’s a game of cat and mouse as improvements to the online experience only perpetuate shopper expectations further.


The online experience is evolving and retailers are adapting to growing customer expectations. Let’s dive into how shoppers’ expectations have changed over the past year.


1. Further improvements to fulfillment


Shoppers aren’t interested in waiting for products to arrive – they want them as fast as possible. While retailers have improved delivery speed, shoppers continue to expect more. Last year, shoppers thought receiving a product within 4 days was fast, but this year shoppers have cut that number in half.


Although a lot of retailers offer express shipping, shoppers still find delivery takes too long and more expect to use to click-and-collect as an alternative. This holiday season, 39% of shoppers are expected to buy online and pick up in-store, up from 32% a year ago. Instead of waiting multiple days for delivery, more shoppers are taking fulfillment into their own hands.


2. More responses to social media inquiries


Customer service is important for every retailer because inadequate assistance leads to lower customer retention. Online shoppers can’t interact with brands in-person so they need to reach out through other means such as social media.


Compared to last year, more customers use social media to interact with businesses and 43% more customers expect responses to their inquiries. The pressure from more inquiries has affected businesses average response times and they have slipped in 2016 from 10 hours to 11 hours. To combat the growth in customer inquiries, retailers have invested in live chat to effectively engage with shoppers.


Chatting with shoppers through live chat lets ecommerce stores offer real-time customer service to create a faster, more interactive conversation with customers. By using both employees and AI for customer service, retailers can increase both their response times and response rates – which leads to happier customers and more loyalty.


3. More available payment methods


Shoppers want the ability to pay the way they want – credit, debit, instant financing, bitcoins, etc., and a lack of payment methods online still contributes to cart abandonment.


Recently, we have seen a massive increase in FinTech companies from 1,000 in 2005 to over 8,000 in 2016, while the amount of funding for FinTech has also grown tremendously. Companies respond to market changes, and the growth of FinTech over the past years shows just how much customers want a variety of payment methods.


While FinTech companies are growing to meet customer demands for payment variety, online retailers are also adapting. Compared to last year, both top and bottom performing retailers have increased their number of accepted payments. A recent study also found retailers that offer four or more payment methods see 12% more conversions than retailers that only offer one.


4. Additional third party credibility


Most retailers claim to have the best products or offer the best service to entice more shoppers, however, not many people listen. Instead, shoppers use peer reviews and testimonials to gain third party insights into businesses. Written reviews, testimonials, and videos are the online versions of word of mouth marketing.


Online, shoppers read reviews because they aren’t able to physically interact with products. Today, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and compared to last year 17% more people read reviews on a regular basis. Shoppers will expect more online reviews as more use them to gain unbiased insights into products or services.


5. More ways to shop


Today, more retailers use multiple channels to sell products, and more shoppers interact through different mediums. Regardless of what type of shoppers you attract, an omnichannel strategy is the best way to reach all of your customers.


Shoppers expect to be able to shop where and when they see fit – mobile, desktop, tablet, or in-store. A recent survey found that shoppers buy 51% of their products online – up from 48% last year – and according to Google 85% of online shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish on another. Without an omnichannel strategy, retailers are more likely to miss out on those multi-channel shoppers.


6. Better mobile experience


This year, more people used smartphones to shop as improvements to the mobile experience made mobile a more reliable shopping alternative. Over the past several years, we have seen mobile commerce post consistent double digit growth, and after mobile commerce broke sales records on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s evident that mobile commerce is on the rise.


However, the more customers shop on their phones, the more they expect an efficient mobile experience and this year the stats showed just that:


  • 66% are disappointed with retailers that offer a poor mobile experience
  • 55% say a frustrating experience cause them to think less of a brand
  • 52% say a bad experience makes them less likely to return


The retailers that went the extra mile are seeing first-hand the potential of the emerging mobile market. Today, Starbucks’ order-ahead mobile app now accounts for more than 20% of their US transactions and is one of the reasons Starbucks had 17% growth last year – their biggest since ’07. In addition, CVS saw their mobile app downloads increase by 150% this past year – another indication of the mobile movement.


Mobile commerce and the mobile experience continue to grow and adapt, and retailers need to work hard to stay up to date with their customers’ expectations and their competition.


Customer expectations will continue to rise


As the years pass by and the online experience changes, shoppers will continue to expect a lot from retailers. To prepare for the future, retailers need to create an optimal shopping experience. Although it requires a tremendous amount of hard work to exceed customer expectations, the results are well worth the trouble. By giving your customers what they want you’ll be positioning yourself for future success.


Enjoyed the post? Check out How Mobile Advancements Have Changed M-Commerce and the Customer Experience | How the Shopping Experience Has Changed Over the Past Decade | How Payment Options Can Increase Sales

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