How Retailers Can Address New Customer Expectations
Online customer expectations have changed dramatically in the last few years, as the digital age has reshaped the way consumers live their lives. To put it simply, today, consumers are picky. They can open their internet browsers to shop from various competitor websites if your online store doesn’t fulfill their needs, far more quickly and easily than ever before.
We also see that technology (hardware and software) performs continuously faster and more efficiently, creating higher demands for speed and immediacy. The expectations that consumers hold are based on their experiences with specific technologies or consumer websites. These are a benchmark for all the new experiences they have when they visit new websites to do their online shopping.
So, if your online store is not ready to handle the pressure of eager-to-buy customers, you risk losing them in just a matter of seconds. In fact, basket abandonment rates have risen from 28 percent in 2014 to 31 percent in 2016, as shoppers simply go elsewhere, even mid-purchase, for a variety of reasons. This means your conversion rates will start going down, and many potential sales are now down the drain.
Online customers today have that ‘want it now!’ mentality. However, in the effort to keep customers satisfied by always delivering a quick and efficient service, many retailers forget that the concept of having things ‘now’ is not the only reason why baskets are abandoned.
What do customers expect from online retailers?
Retailers should have fully streamlined technical systems that function smoothly and consistently across all devices. Personalization is also a key factor when it comes to meeting customer expectations. If those aspects are missing from your online store, the likelihood of customers bouncing off to a competitor is much larger.
Making online shopping experience worthwhile
Similar to how Netflix’s biggest competitor is sleep, online retailers are constantly competing against social apps, communication apps, work apps, as well as other retailers. For competitive retailers, this creates the need to provide an engaging experience across devices during key campaigns and top sales events of the year, in order to keep customers on the site.
Having systems in place that bring legitimacy and social proof to your customers’ online experience during these events is also paramount. In the event that you are dealing with online shopping peaks, the best solution is to communicate with and provide as much information as possible to your customers (e.g. how much they have to wait until they can purchase their favorite item, how many items are left in stock, etc.). Systems like virtual waiting rooms can help ensure that your customers are kept informed throughout their shopping experience. They can also play a big part in providing an integrated customer communication system during these events.
Beyond delivering on the desire for immediacy
As the speed of processes in companies is changing from relying on calendar time to relying on Internet time, there is a fine balance that retailers must keep when it comes to their customers’ desire for immediacy while shopping online. Nowadays, customers do not only want everything faster, but their expectations are also reshaping the operational requirements for businesses. For this reason, retailers need to utilize technology to create seamless customer experiences.
Despite the high-speed technology that we now have access to, there are still many products and experiences that customers are willing to wait for. People claim to hate wasting time, yet many are willing to wait for their favorite item on Black Friday or for the latest and greatest Apple gadget. This willingness to wait in line for something customers find valuable is a social proof element that online retailers can capitalize on.
Retailers can take action by focusing more on communicating to and informing their online customers during their shopping experiences to keep them engaged and satisfied. With customers expecting to move seamlessly across touchpoints, the retailers who come out on top are the ones who keep an eye on the ever-rising customer expectations, and focus on their efforts to optimize customer journeys as consumer behavior changes.