Bizrate Insights· Author
The COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the way people carry out normal life and more specifically the way that they shop.
By the end of the first quarter of 2020, the ecommerce market experienced 10 years’ worth of growth, according to data from McKinsey & Company. This trajectory continued throughout the course of 2020, causing companies to reassess how they interact with their customers.
Industry analysts forecast continued growth in 2021, but with more brands shifting operations onto online platforms, ecommerce retailers will face fierce competition. Below are five ecommerce trend predictions for 2021 and recommendations for helping retailers engage with their customers.
1. Customer Experience Tops Brand Loyalty
“One in three consumers (32%) say they will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience,” according to a report from Price Waterhouse Cooper. Since shoppers are prioritizing customer experience over loyalty, it’s crucial for your company to provide an ideal end-to-end shopping experience.
Below are three steps you can take to optimize the customer experience:
Personalize the customer experience.
A report from Forrester found that “77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience.” Personalization shows that you understand the unique wants and needs of each customer.
Examples of personalization include implementing unique website navigation based on browsing history, greeting customers by their first name in email communications, targeted product recommendations, and reminding customers of previous interactions with your brand.
Develop a system for obtaining customer feedback in real-time.
Proactively ask your customers about their shopping experience to gain insights into their buying process, identify areas where you are succeeding, and where you need to improve. Bizrate Insights has several survey solutions that automatically reach out to your customers on your behalf. The two-part Online Buyer Survey is triggered immediately following a purchase and a second survey is sent via email after their items have been delivered.
The questions cover site usability, order tracking, customer support, and more so you can learn about their entire online shopping experience. Since this information registers in your VitalSigns dashboard in real time, your team has the opportunity to respond to a disgruntled customer and turn their experience around, preventing them from leaving you for a competitor.
For those who left your site without making a purchase, the Site Abandonment survey can help determine why. This is another opportunity to turn around a poor experience. For example, if a customer fills out the survey and leaves a comment such as, “I needed 2-day delivery and didn’t want to pay for it” your team can reach out via email to share a coupon, offer free shipping, or use other incentives to try and save the sale.
Take action on the results you receive from your customers.
Verbatim feedback from your customers is invaluable information when planning your strategy or allocating resources. If your customers are complaining that checkout takes too long, or shipping costs are too high, your company should explore options for remedying these issues. Having data to back up a costly proposal (e.g. free shipping) to leadership can help demonstrate the potential ROI of making such an investment.Further, if you do make a change based on customer feedback, make sure to notify your customers. Send an email pointing out the update and reference that you made the decision based on their feedback. This reassures your customers that their responses are taken seriously and that your company is dedicated to providing the ideal shopping experience with them.
If your team is ready to assess your performance, a SWOT analysis for ecommerce can help your business get organized and turn your findings into actionable efforts. Learn more about how you can efficiently conduct a SWOT analysis in the guide below:
2. Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) Fulfillment Will Continue To See Growth
For retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence, BOPIS has become an essential fulfillment option due to COVID-19. Curbside and in-store pickup have been gaining popularity in recent years, but at certain times throughout 2020 they were the only ways for customers to experience “in-store shopping.”
Almost one year into the pandemic, and consumers are still prioritizing safe and contactless exchanges. A Bizrate Insights survey on shopping behavior in response to COVID-19 found that 60% of shoppers are more likely to consider alternatives to in-store shopping, such as BOPIS, with over 25% extremely likely to consider these alternatives.
If you don’t currently have a BOPIS program running, now is the time to act. Get started by focusing on the following four elements that online shoppers identify as necessary for a successful BOPIS experience.
- Make sure that your company has strong inventory management. It’s a guaranteed disappointment if someone successfully buys something online only to find that the item is out of stock when they arrive at the store for pickup. This can be avoided by implementing a cross-channel inventory management system.
- Provide a fast and seamless pickup experience. A customer’s order should be ready for pickup within a couple of hours of completing their purchase. By the time the customer has arrived, whether it be at the curb or in-store, you should have a system in place for ensuring the process is quick and effortless. Make sure you are adequately staffed and have an efficient process for exchanging goods with customers.
- Promote your BOPIS program. Currently, one of the top reasons consumers choose BOPIS is for health and safety reasons. Your company should focus on this and angle your BOPIS communications around their well-being to demonstrate your dedication to providing a positive shopping experience that meets their expectations.
- Make it easy to choose BOPIS. Review your website layout, shopping cart, and checkout processes to verify the process is intuitive for customers. In addition to running tests for user experience, your company can implement a Voice of Customer solution to find out how your customers feel about the BOPIS experience, such as where they get caught, the features they like, and what they would improve.
To learn more about planning and executing a BOPIS strategy this year, download our guide, Data-Driven Tips to Create a Winning BOPIS Program for exclusive insights from online shoppers.
3. A Stellar Digital Presence Will Be a Key Differentiator
With consumers predominantly shopping online, we recommend focusing on your company’s digital presence. This includes your website appearance and functionality, social media activity, virtual engagement within your industry or community, and visual content. Below are some ways your organization can boost digital presence.
- Participate in online events. Streaming live events and webinars will allow your company to establish a personalized connection with your audience. Investing in your customer relationships will show how much you respect and value their needs. According to a report by the Harvard Business Review on the value of emotional connection, “fully connected customers are 52% more valuable, on average, than those who are just highly satisfied.” Retailers looking to nurture their customers into that sought after “fully connected” group will need to engage with them digitally and online events are a great way to help get them there.
- Strategically leverage social media. In addition to developing a regular cadence for publishing and responding to comments on social media, conduct research to find out if you have an opportunity to leverage social commerce. A recent Bizrate Insights/eMarkter survey found 18% of respondents have made a purchase on Facebook, 11% on Instagram, and 3% on Pinterest. Another report found “the percentage of U.S. adults who have purchased products directly on social media has nearly doubled over the past two years—from 13% in Q4 2018 to 25% in Q3 2020.” That trend is likely to continue in 2021.
- Create engaging content. From video to how-to blog posts, creating content that is relevant to your target audience establishes you as a thought leader and builds trust. Video content is particularly effective at connecting your brand with your target audience, with a recent report by Business Wire finding that 85% of survey respondents saying they have purchased a product or service after viewing a video.
4. Omnichannel Strategies Will Be Necessary for New Customer Acquisition
Omnichannel strategies are focused entirely on pleasing your customers and take place across all shopping mediums. A survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review shows that 73% of respondents use multiple channels throughout their shopping journey. The report adds, “The more channels a customer uses, the more valuable they are.”
In order to effectively implement an omnichannel strategy, Bizrate Insights recommends taking the following steps.
- Build a foundation. This may sound like common sense, but building a solid foundation that allows for the communication of customer information across your different channels and platforms will prevent disconnects in the buyer experience. In addition, this will give you an opportunity to ensure that all product information such as prices, descriptions, and images are consistent across all of your company platforms.
- Outline customer journeys. The great thing about an omnichannel strategy is that it considers all the different channels a customer can interact with before making a purchase. By mapping out your customers’ possible journeys, you can identify areas of engagement, establish consistency, and improve your customers overall experience with your brand.
- Segment your audience. Your company appeals to a certain audience, but the needs and interests of customers within that group can vary greatly. Segment your customers so that the experience is unique and personalized.
5. Prepare to Focus on Post-Pandemic Operations
As vaccine distribution ramps up, we can expect an increase in in-store shopping sometime this year. While it may not be an immediate action item, businesses should reserve some of their development resources and funding for post-pandemic operations.
Sample considerations include store layout and flow of traffic, adequate spacing for browsing and checkout lines, how you will account for continued BOPIS activity, increased use of contactless payments, and ongoing prioritization of store cleaning procedures.
Next Steps To Take
Customer experience, BOPIS, digital presence, omnichannel strategies, and post-pandemic operations will all be at the forefront this year. Take these trends into consideration as you implement plans for 2021. This will be a dynamic year for ecommerce and we realize that shifting gears to leverage these trends could be a daunting task for your team. To help you get started, check out our infographic: The Top 5 Ways COVID-19 is Changing Retail to help visualize the evolving retail space.
In order to identify where your business is succeeding and where it needs to focus resources in terms of the customer journey, your company needs to know how customers experience your brand. We recommend collecting Voice of Customer data to help your team identify its position in the marketplace. Our omnichannel solutions can help your company learn more about your customers’ online behavior. Contact us to schedule a demo and start collecting your customers’ feedback now.