By Matthew Furneaux, Director Location Intelligence, Loqate
The pandemic inextricably altered the retail sector. Most prominently a surge in online shopping boosted eCommerce revenue by nearly $175 billion in 2020. Today, the eCommerce share of U.S. retail sales is at its highest, which is likely the result of shifting consumer shopping habits. At the same time, nearly 70 percent of all eCommerce shoppers abandon their carts before making a purchase, which equates to a significant opportunity for businesses to capitalize on the shifting retail landscape.
As retailers plan for the post-pandemic shopping experience, it’s clear that many COVID-19-related commerce trends are here to stay, such as rapid delivery, curbside pickup, and virtual shopping experiences, which all proved popular and effective methods for moving merchandise.
As Stefan Larsson, chief executive of the company that owns the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands, recently told The Wall Street Journal, “Consumers found some of the experiences forced by Covid to be convenient. Anything that they perceive as making their life easier will be here to stay.”
Moving forward, retailers need to optimize the customer journey for a digital-first shopping journey, executing both technical and practical elements to deliver unparalleled shopping experiences that keep customers coming back for more. Here are 5 priorities for today’s retailers looking to thrive in this new environment.
#1 Page Load Speed
Online shoppers demand a seamless shopping experience that’s immediate, engaging, and dynamic, making slow websites a liability for online retailers. According to a recent report, slow page load times cost companies billions in missed sales opportunities, and 70 percent of consumers report a slow website caused them to abandon a purchase.
Incredibly, retailers have just seconds to respond. It’s estimated that 40 percent of consumers will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load, and eCommerce sites perform best when they load within two seconds.
This narrow window makes web development a critical element of online sales conversion. To combat technical issues, consider page speed monitoring tools like GTMetrix and Monitis. In addition, perform regular checks on pages. If sustained speed patterns persist, developer teams need to quickly identify and fix the problem.
#2 Site Performance
Online retailers need to be prepared for large numbers of buyers during peak periods or festive shopping seasons. When online retailers aren’t reliable, the costs can be significant. In 2019, Costco’s website couldn’t account for surging Thanksgiving traffic, crashing for 16 hours, and costing the company nearly $11 million in lost sales.
Even world-class online retailers have learned this lesson the hard way. In 2018 Amazon’s website crashed for more than an hour on Prime Day, the company’s self-created high-traffic shopping day. Similarly, Macy’s online store went offline for several hours on Black Friday, leaving customers in the lurch and creating a backlash on social media. Even Chipotle’s website couldn’t handle the web traffic on Guac Day. Every minute that a website is offline is a missed opportunity to convert sales and damages long-term brand reputation.
Ensure websites are prepared for large numbers of shoppers by thoroughly analyzing performance issues experienced during peak traffic times. Discover your tipping point, and add capacity as needed.
#3 Buyer-Specific Functionality
Today’s online shoppers are not a monolith. Some visit online stores just to browse, while others are astute researchers, scouring custom reviews, tech specs, and product details to make the perfect purchase. Notably, each customer type requires unique conversion factors, and identifying different shopper profiles can empower design teams to make strategic decisions that drive sales conversions.
Common buyer types and design priorities include:
- Product focused. Prioritize clear product descriptions and images.
- Browser. Engage buyers with new, popular, and on-sale products.
- Researcher. In addition to clear product descriptions, define unfamiliar terminology and offer user reviews written in easy-to-understand language.
- Bargain hunters. Display sale items alongside full-priced inventory and provide easy coupon redemption processes.
- One-time shoppers. Ensure clear site navigation, complete product descriptions, and concise, trustworthy company information.
Buyer-specific functionality allows sites to cater to customers and, ultimately, convert web traffic to sales conversions.
#4 Fast, Secure Checkout
Checkout is the final frontier for online shoppers. It’s the place where shoppers decide to complete a purchase or to walk away. Providing a fast, secure checkout experience can reduce cart abandonment while increasing sales and brand reputation.
For example, many shoppers are turned off by lengthy forms that collect shipping and billing addresses, making it one of the prominent reasons that shoppers abandon a purchase.
In addition, allowing customers to skip the registration process by including a “checkout as guest” option decreases friction and improves sales conversion.
Of course, today’s consumers are wary of exposing their personal or financial information online. According to one survey, 25 percent of Americans won’t return to a data-breached business, making secure checkout a bottom-line priority for developers and cybersecurity personnel.
Streamlining the checkout process and securing online stores helps facilitate an incredible customer experience that supports long-term growth goals.
#5 On-Time, Accurate Delivery
Amazon and other online retailers have trained consumers to expect fast, accurate, and reliable online shopping. However, it’s estimated that one in twenty online orders never reach the customer’s doorstep. What’s more, 57 percent of consumers say they would avoid buying from an online store that failed to deliver products on time.
While shipping platforms like USPS, UPS, and FedEx are often blamed for these disruptions, an ineffective checkout process also contributes to the problem when incorrect addresses collected at checkout send packages astray.
Verifying addresses in real-time reduces these errors by simplifying the checkout process and ensuring packages are delivered accurately and on time.
A Final Thought
The recent pandemic may have accelerated the shift toward eCommerce sales, but it didn’t instigate this trend. Rather, shoppers love the convenience, ease of use, and accessibility of online shopping. Therefore, businesses shouldn’t presume they are ready to thrive in this burgeoning digital-first retail space. Instead, they should create an unparalleled shopping experience that encompasses everything from online browsing to customer’s front door.
About The Author
Matthew is a location technology veteran with over 20 years of experience in helping global businesses reach their customers globally. Matthew is a director at GBG and responsible for strategy and innovation for GBG's location intelligence solution, Loqate. Matthew’s also a retail and eCommerce expert, having worked with leading eCommerce brands at Loqate such as Nordstrom, Sephora, Kohl’s, Ralph Lauren & Michaels. Prior to joining GBG, Matthew cofounded Global Address (later acquired by Trillium Software) and helped to create a single platform model for a global location validation service.