The way people shop online is maturing and retail has been going through some heavy disruption. Rather than going to one place, shoppers now have their card details saved in as many as 10 different websites.
The speed of change has caught many retailers off-guard, but it should be the other way around. Retailers should be guiding users in their online habits and showing how the online shopping experience could be so much more.
If brands continue to neglect their eCommerce platforms, their sales channels and the structure of their data, it’s no wonder shoppers are having a bad time of it. Buying online should be an experience, not a chore.
To put it bluntly, the brick and mortar economy has little to no confidence and the future prospects for physical stores are grim to disastrous.
But that doesn’t mean shoppers have simply disappeared, they haven’t. They’re actually still shopping and still browsing catalogs. Only instead of whiling away hours strolling through the mall, they’re killing time shopping on the internet.
Right now, many retailers are not prepared for this. Put aside the huge logistical challenges of shipping and delivery, and let’s focus on the buying experience itself. It’s not good, and shoppers find it a frustrating, uninspiring process. Why?
Shopping in a store is a tangible process. Customers try things on, feel the fabrics, hold things up to a mirror. The online experience is a long way away from this. It will be years until technology is good enough to artificially show fitted clothes through VR or AR.
The only tool brands have for the moment is the accuracy of their product information.
Amazon is the only company that is even close to creating the right experience (they are strict on the information they request from their sellers). They understand the importance of the information for shoppers. Anyone buying a new laptop has some standard questions:
- How much does it cost?
- How much RAM does it have?
- What size hard drive?
- What do other people say about it?
- Are there any other options?
- What is the battery range?
But on many shopping channels, you find that this information is not provided for every laptop. So no comparison can be made, and it’s obvious why shoppers go elsewhere to find the right information.
The race to transformation
Brands need to create better product experiences for their clients.
Digital transformation for retailers is about much more than bringing in the latest apps and installing an eCommerce platform. It’s about creating a closer experience between brand and customer.
The reality of all of the transformation hype is that shoppers would like to buy online. So retailers and tech providers are currently working towards creating an affordable ecosystem that can give their buyers a unique and fluid shopping experience online.
Many retailers thought that one website was enough to keep them up to date, but that's not enough if:
- They don't provide buyers with information about stock in online channels and distribution in physical stores.
- They show outdated catalogues or poor product information. (61% of shoppers on mobile are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site. BrightLocal, 2019)
- They do not maintain agile, reliable and updated communication and exchange of product content with suppliers and manufacturers.
Retailers' products without a digital presence will increasingly lose sales by going unnoticed. Users will only come across what is best positioned on the internet and accessible through more channels than just a store or a website.
But it gets worse still for traditional retail. In this new era, no one will wait for the September trade show to discover your business, nor will they be interested in your ads in Country Life.
If your products are online and visible, that’s where the new revenue is.
The omnichannel shopping experience
More and more devices are connected and used for everyday shopping, even for mundane grocery shops. And people are buying not only on computers and smartphones (52% of web traffic worldwide is mobile. Statista, 2020), but Smart TVs, smartwatches, smart fridges, voice assistants and so on. Shopping and buying online will, as some experts define it, be pretzel shaped.
It is increasingly difficult to predict how a user will find a product. Companies need to be everywhere and easy to locate, but in an integrated and consistent way, with accurate information across all their sales and marketing channels. As users flit from screen to screen, they want to see consistency:
- Websites: Buyers often search in search engines such as Google and visit websites to find product information, compare prices, get inspiration and search for chain stores or other retailers with stock.
- Social networks: More and more users visit websites based on social network ads. Influencers have already established themselves as a major channel for attracting buyers. (Half of revenue is influenced by social selling in 14 common industries, including computer software, healthcare, and marketing and advertising).
- Marketplaces: Most online shoppers do their first product search on marketplaces like Amazon, whether they already have a clear idea in mind or need to research products. (49% of Internet users start their search on Amazon).
What consumers are looking for in today's shopping experience
Shoppers want convenience; they always have. The internet doesn’t change that basic principle. New shopping experiences make it easier to save previous purchases, make suggestions appropriate to the history of each buyer and attend to them personally via chat or chatbot.
- Personalization. It’s easier to customize shopping experiences through browser history and previous purchases.
- Support materials: More than a product, the buyer is looking for extra value. Lookbooks, PDFs and video tutorials. Products can be surrounded by more useful content to help inform shoppers.
- Reliability: One of the main reasons buyers abandon a basket is the lack of sufficient, complete and reliable information. Many retailers simply copy the manufacturer's data, which prevents them from standing out from the competition. Having consistent and up-to-date content across all channels through Product Information Management (PIM) software reinforces retailers' image.
- Reviews: Shoppers' opinions of a product make a big difference in deciding whether to buy from your store or not.
New retail methods to keep up to date
The online shopping experience is vastly different from the in-store experience. But this is used as an advantage on the best websites that are harnessing the tools offered by eCommerce platforms.
Buyers want to see similar products displayed on the same page. Quick, at-a-glance reviews are now fundamental to good product experience. Buyers already expect to see reviews, and without them, value is lost from the very start.
The opportunities offered for cross-selling and upselling are huge. Offers and discounts can be made at speed, and according to analytics data on visits and conversions.
Follow the trends
Google some years ago introduced the structured internet (Schema), a set of guidelines that would allow search engines to more easily scan websites and give programmers a better chance of making readable websites. The tourism industry came next with unified information across many platforms, making holidaying a more affordable and more immersive experience.
Retail looks a little chaotic in comparison. Even some of the biggest brands have a lot of catching up to do. And consumers are out in front waiting and wondering when the internet will offer some really cool shopping experiences.
That will only come after retailers start to get a grip on their product information.
Do you need help getting your product catalog online in multiple sales channels? Schedule some time with us.