It is no secret that the UK retail industry is struggling. Just last month, the British Retail Consortium warned that the latest COVID-19 lockdown will have “a significant economic impact on the viability of thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country”. To help brands understand the eCommerce trends at play, we asked 1,005 consumers in the UK how the pandemic is changing the way they shop.
The findings show that 59% of British shoppers are now spending more online and less in brick and mortar stores. As a result, business success depends on retailers placing greater emphasis on their eCommerce offering.
In this article, we will look at the online shopper preferences that can help brands convert their online traffic into sales.
One of the first steps to becoming a successful retailer is knowing what your customers want to buy. To find out what products are currently driving eCommerce sales, we asked respondents what they have been using eCommerce to shop for since the pandemic began. The top 5 responses are as follows:
However, in the world of online retail, it is not as simple as knowing what products to stock. You also need to understand how customers prefer to interact with eCommerce platforms.
When asked what devices they use when shopping online, the responses suggest it is critical merchants have multi-channel functionality. This shows a diverse range of preferences across both desktop and mobile.
Fulfilment options are another important factor when it comes to attracting, converting and retaining customers.
63% stated using online delivery one to two times a week before COVID-19. The pandemic appears to be a significant factor. 58% state that avoiding contact with crowds in-store is one of the main reasons for doing so. But receiving items at home and convenience also ranks high (55%).
Almost a quarter of people (24%) did not use online delivery at all before COVID-19, dropping to 19% today.
Respondents were asked a similar set of questions about their use of in-store and pick-up point delivery since the start of the pandemic. While the majority do not use it at all (48%), 42% do so around one to two times a week. More frequent users were in the minority. 8% use these services three to five times a week, and 3% in excess of five times per week.
The most popular reason for using in-store or pick-up point delivery was to avoid crowds in-store (45%). Respondents also stated to receive items at the shopper’s time and convenience (45%) and to reduce the time, stress and friction in-store (41%).
Other motivations included saving on delivery fees (38%) and the ability to check for missing, incorrect or damaged items (19%).
COVID-19 has been a factor in motivating some people to use in-store or pick-up point delivery. However, the data suggests most will continue to do so after the pandemic is over. When asked about the likelihood of this occurring, 20% responded “highly likely” and 42% “likely.”
Beyond general preferences relating to device and fulfilment options, there is a range of issues that are highly likely to turn consumers off a brand. Effective inventory management should be a priority for businesses. Respondents rank “out of stock products” as their top pain point (68%).
Of course, some issues are outside of the merchant’s control. Over six in 10 shoppers (61%) report that the inability to touch, feel or test products is a major issue for them when using eCommerce services. Implementing effective returns and refunds processes, however, should go some way to addressing this.
The results suggest that the accuracy and volume of the product information on-site are especially important. Over half of the respondents complained about the quality of products not being as described. Another 47% had encountered what they felt was misleading product photography and descriptions.
The one thing most shoppers want to see is a greater focus on the basics. For example webpage loading speeds, real-time stock checking or a smoother checkout experience. 60% said this would have a positive effect, 36% neutral and only 4% negative.
A significant number of consumers also want to see online brands employ innovation to better replicate in-store experiences. 23% stated that the introduction of functionality like Augmented Reality (AR) enabled virtual changing rooms would improve the eCommerce experience.
In a previous GetApp study of 1,000 UK consumers, of the 85% of consumers yet to use AR to buy online, 53% were interested in trying it. Similarly, another GetApp study focused on Virtual Reality (VR) revealed that while 87% had yet to use the technology to shop, 49% were keen to try.
54% of people identify delayed or slow delivery as a particular challenge relating to eCommerce. However, the research found some circumstances in which respondents were prepared to wait. Almost half (45%) confirmed they would be happy to wait longer for their orders if it was guaranteed products were both sourced and delivered sustainably.
In the short-term, online merchants should refocus their attention on improving the core features and functionality that users expect as standard. But as the eCommerce space becomes increasingly crowded, investment in innovation may be an effective strategy for differentiating them from the competition.