Retailers Learn Hard Lessons From the Ghosts of Websites Past
We're all familiar with Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol," where counting-house manager Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. What might those ghosts have looked like if Scrooge had been responsible for managing an e-commerce website?
New data from Pack’s inaugural E-Commerce Trends Report, a survey of more than 2,000 online shoppers in the U.S., reveals consumers’ habits, preferences and frustrations from past “e-tail fails,” as well as their expectations and demands for online retail experiences in the future.
A Message From the Past: Make it Fast
Over the last several years, marketers and developers alike have been wooed by bells and whistles and point solutions in an ongoing effort to make their sites both speedy and stylish for users. Unfortunately, many of these options have bogged down website speed unnecessarily. The reality is today's consumer wants to get what they need quickly and easily. If a website takes too long to load, more than half (55 percent) of shoppers will look to make a purchase elsewhere — a figure that jumps to over 60 percent for the key demographic of 18- to 44-year-olds.
However, speed isn’t just about load times: nearly two-thirds of shoppers said they would look for an item on a competitor’s website if they can't find what they want after one search. What’s more, 57 percent of Gen Z and millennial consumers agree that the ability to buy something quickly is more important than having a variety of items to choose from. It’s clear that the one-click experience consumers have come to expect from social media is quickly becoming the norm for online shopping overall. So much so that almost a third of consumers said they would be willing to wait up to three days longer to receive an item if they had an easier and faster shopping experience. Let that sink in. Consumers shouldn’t have to make sacrifices for a quicker path to purchase, just as retailers shouldn’t have to surrender a sale because of website limitations or performance.
The Ghost of Websites Present
We know the post-pandemic/work-from-home world has radically changed consumers’ behavior, but it’s also rocked their loyalty to brands. Research from McKinsey shows that more consumers are switching retailers and brands now than in 2020 and 2021, citing convenience and value — the latter of which has become increasingly important to consumers amid inflation and an impending recession.
Pack’s research found that nearly half of 18- to 44-year-olds bought more from independent brands last year than in 2021. Thirty percent of the same age group say they’d actually forgo buying items from a big-box retailer in favor of e-commerce sites with a faster purchasing experience. Many successful direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, like Cuts, use no/low code technology to create custom design experiences to keep consumers coming back — increasing its conversion rate and average order value while retaining customer loyalty in a fickle market. As they say, to the victor go the spoils — and in this case, modern DTC businesses are reaping the benefits of a more nimble user experience over their legacy e-commerce counterparts.
The Ghosts of Websites Future
The assertion that today’s online consumer is dominated by a digitally native generation of shoppers is a gimme — the shoppers driving the experiences of tomorrow are the socially native generation. They expect the speed, convenience and seamless experience they get today from social media platforms, and will choose retail experiences that best mirror what they know. Nearly half of Americans (43 percent) find it easier to buy straight through social media rather than following a link to a traditional storefront, and one-third have expressed that they would choose an online shopping platform that reminds them of social media experiences.
This trend has accelerated a movement toward headless commerce, which decouples frontend, customer-facing layers from backend business processes. Separating these frees up retailers from having a single technology dictate how they build and present their brand to the world. Ultimately, e-commerce innovation shouldn’t be limited by legacy tech. A headless approach allows retailers to focus on what really matters — customers, products and sales.
'Bless Us, Every Site!'
The final stanza of "A Christmas Carol" begins with the line, "Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more." That's precisely what tomorrow’s consumers expect of retailers. They expect more seamless purchase journeys, more innovative fulfillment options, and a more personalized user experience that meets them wherever they live online. The proverbial Tiny Tim of e-commerce hopes that every brand is blessed with the ability to learn from the ghosts of websites past in order to drive shoppers to the cart well into the future.
Cory Cummings is the co-founder and CEO of Pack, a headless commerce platform.
Related story: 4 ‘Symptoms’ That Point to a Headless Commerce ‘Cure’
With nearly 10 years experience in the digital ecommerce space, I kicked off my career by developing and optimizing cutting-edge digital storefronts for some of the largest digitally-native brands on Shopify. Since working in the ecommerce industry, I have helped online retailers better serve their customers while providing a platform that is low-code and user friendly.
As co-founder and CEO of Pack, the platform for headless commerce trusted by direct-to-consumer (DTC) and omnichannel brands, I am directing new strategies for ecommerce brands, big and small, by developing a robust platform that is providing a unique customer experience while helping to remove the barriers to building a modern storefront. I’ve built sites for the likes of Kylie Cosmetics, UntuckIT, MVMT, and Thrive Causemetics as they became DTC powerhouses known for enjoyable, personalized shopping experiences.
Prior to co-founding Pack, I worked at a couple of different agencies around San Diego where I had the opportunity to work with very talented people who took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. My first gig in the ecommerce space landed me at BVAccel. I got to work with some of the largest brands in the ecommerce space and learned more than I would have ever imagined.
Throughout my career, I’ve always agreed with the notion that you can’t do services and products at once to create an amazing customer and user experience in software, which is why I guided my team in identifying and aligning on what we wanted at Pack. I am continuing to create a vision and driving my people to that vision — no matter how difficult it might be to get there.