The Online Shopper’s Journey – Are you maximising opportunities at every stage?

A recent report analysed 200 multichannel retailers across nine sectors, including fashion, health and beauty, home and furniture, arts and crafts and more. This report set out to determine how these retailers scored across the five identified stages of the customer journey:

  1. Browsing
  2. Consideration
  3. Buying
  4. Collection/Delivery
  5. Returns

In this blog we’ll take a look at the latest trends and technologies and how they are being used by retailers to maximise opportunities at each phase of the buying process.

Stage One: Browsing

70% of website browsers will leave without making a purchase

Every user’s browsing experience is different and depends upon a multitude of factors. However, there are some core features which are consistently critical across any online retailer’s eCommerce site, namely site speed, search and site navigation.

One of the most important features of the user experience (UX) is site speed, however this report discovered that over 88% of retailers surveyed returned poor site speed results, indicating that even large retailers are neglecting to put site speed at the top of their agenda despite it being one of site users’ biggest frustrations.

When it comes to site search, it’s understood that shoppers who use the search box on an eCommerce website are five times more likely to convert and spend up to three times as much as those who don’t. This could be due to higher levels of purchase intent and prior knowledge of what a shopper is looking for (as opposed to impulse purchases) but it’s an important point. However if searches return irrelevant results, or worse still, no results, it can actually create a barrier to sales. This is why artificial intelligence (AI) and ‘suggested search’ is becoming more widely available on successful eCommerce websites, following the model employed by Google when a user begins to type a question and suggestions appear beneath the query.

When it comes to site navigation, it seems blatantly obvious to state that it has to make logical sense to the user. However if a retailer sells a wide or complex range of products, the navigation bar can quickly become overcrowded, confusing potential customers. This is where faceted search becomes a vital tool, that is the ability for shoppers to narrow down their search by applying a range of filters; over 90% of successful retailers employ this tactic.

Stage Two: Consideration

eCommerce websites which show product reviews have a 161% higher conversion rate

Most decision-making happens on the product page itself so it’s vital that retailers offer an outstanding UX and keep up with the latest trends and news on innovations. It’s no longer enough to simply show a product image and brief description, customers now expect so much more when it comes to features and functionality, including social proof, user-generated content (UGC) and live stock availability.  Other common UX-enhancing features include product star ratings, image zoom capability, video and shopper-generated images.

When it comes to social proof, customer reviews are essential as 88% of shoppers say they trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. Successful retailers such as Argos also include Question and Answer capability which boosts consumer confidence and reduces the need for a potential customer to contact the retailer with common questions.

One of the biggest frustrations customers face is finding a much needed item is out of stock, particularly if they have checked stock online and arrive to purchase it in-store only to discover it’s no longer available. This is one reason that popularity of buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), otherwise known as click and collect has surged in recent years. However, it’s estimated that half of all multichannel retailers lack robust inventory control systems which are integrated with their eCommerce. In order to ensure stock is correctly mirrored across all channels, a sophisticated retail management system is essential.

Stage Three: Buying

80% of people prefer a checkout process which mirrors the in-store experience

The online checkout process is critical to your eCommerce business and there are a multitude of reasons why customers may abandon their carts. Reasons cited in this report include:

  • No guest checkout – 24%
  • Slow checkout process – 18%
  • Insufficient payment methods – 7%

Our recent blog, ‘Online Checkout – The Key Elements of a Winning Strategy’ provides advice on how to mitigate against cart abandonment with some key recommendations such as: clear pricing and postage costs, email validation functionality and an address lookup facility. However, there are new technologies emerging which should also be on your list of priorities.

Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) has increased threefold since 2020 and is one of the fastest-growing checkout trends, with 17m customers in the UK utilising this function through vendors such as Klarna and Clearpay.  Mobile and digital wallets are accepted by over 90% of the 200 retailers surveyed and made up 32% of all UK eCommerce payments in 2020. Social login (typically powered by Facebook and Google) is growing at a slower rate as password management tools have recently risen in popularity, but they are still a popular choice for shoppers. And, finally, faster checkout technology provided by PayPal and Amazon speeds up the purchasing process, allowing customers to pay with a simple click.

We can expect new checkout trends to continue to emerge, as well as a greater proportion of retailers adopting them, with BNPL showing the most growth potential across all sectors in the next couple of years.

Stage Four: Collection/Delivery

67% of UK consumers care more now about the environmental impact of their retail purchases than they did five years ago

Over 75% of retailers questioned offer a BOPIS/click and collect service across multiple locations, including in-store or at partner locations such as convenience stores which is becoming increasingly popular. Next day pick up is most common, although 30% offer a same-day service but this is typically in-store only. For those multichannel retailers who are unable to offer same-day collection, a disconnected retail management system is often to blame.  

An interesting fact is that the average cost of an in-store click and collect order is only marginally less costly to the retailer, at £3.88 in comparison £3.89 with using a third party vendor. And, while 75% of multichannel retailers offer free in-store collection, only 10% offer free third party collection, opting instead to implement a minimum order value to ensure the transaction remains profitable.

When it comes to delivery, 43% of shoppers choose the next-day option, however over 70% of them actually abandon their order if they discover their chosen delivery option incurs a charge. That said, retailers are becoming more cost-averse when to comes to offering free delivery, with just 10% of retailers offering free delivery regardless of order value. However, a new trend has emerged over recent years, delivery subscriptions. Lead by large fashion brands such as ASOS and Next, shoppers can opt to pay a monthly subscription which entitles them to free delivery on all orders. As the average cost of a standard home delivery now tops £4.50, it’s easy to see why a prolific brand devotee would see the value in a delivery subscription.

Retailers across every sector of this report offer order tracking, answering the eternal customer question: where is my order (WIMO)?  Customers want to know where their order is and when it will arrive, with those operating in the children and toys sector leading the way in WIMO communications, closely followed by department store retailers and electrical/DIY.  Of course, attempting to offer this service without a suitably sophisticated retail management solution will only lead to higher operating costs and a greater risk of customer disappointment when it all goes wrong.

Stage Five: Returns

Up to 80% of consumers check a retailer’s returns policy before making a purchase

This report found that 78% of customers would buy more from a retailer if free returns were standard, and 42% of people are put off by an overly complex returns policy. Following a reduction in free returns as covid-19 restrictions hit retailers’ profits, it is now returning to pre-pandemic levels. And, as the number of Amazon and InPost lockers soars above 5,000 and with only 20% of retailers offering free home collection, it stands to reason that this method of processing returns is set to grow.

Conclusion

The trends revealed in this report centre around meeting customer expectations and how retailers can remove friction and barriers to purchase while maintaining high levels of service and protecting their bottom line. Ultimately a robust retail management system is at the core of everything and, while retailers can ‘get by’ with incongruent systems using third party integrations to bring it all together it’s not long-term solution, particularly if you wish to grow your business.

While we’ve made reference to some very large, well-known retailers, each principal covered is equally pertinent to even the smallest business as customers have come to expect fundamental features from every retailer they buy from. This is why OpSuite is the ideal solution for the ambitious retailer. Offering sophisticated functionality which integrates with all areas of a multichannel retail business right from day one, it’s a future-proof retail management system for retailers of any size. 

Book a demo today and see OpSuite in action or call our expert team on 0800 138 0050 to discuss your unique requirements.

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