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What do online shoppers want from e-Commerce?

Three brains e-Commerce online purchase with credit card

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Why read this? : E-Commerce has boomed during Covid-19. But long term success still depends on answering a key question. What do online shoppers want? We review key areas like convenience, range and price and show how they fit into your e-Commerce plans. Read this to learn about the most common benefits sought by online shoppers.

The e-Commerce opportunity in crisis

Motivational speakers like to tell you, “there’s an opportunity in every crisis”. 

It’s a neat way to say have a positive outlook. Even when things don’t look great. 

And given recent events, many businesses have had to look for opportunities in crisis. Because let’s face it, the business situation hasn’t been great for many of us recently, has it?

Can’t do this. Can’t go there. That’s not allowed.

Person paying for an e-Commerce purchase as they hold a credit card up in front of a laptop

For many businesses, particularly those in retail, the opportunity has been to move into e-Commerce. To set up their own online store

But as restrictions ease and retail stores start to re-open, it’s a good time to ask what do online shoppers actually want when they shop online?

Interest in online shopping in the last 12 months

Certainly, during the lock-down phase, interest in online shopping rocketed. Check out Google Trends. Look at the spike which started at the end of March 2020 with the runs on toilet paper.

Pun intended, obviously. 

Look at how Shopify is growing its presence. How brands like Lindt chocolate and Heinz ketchup jumped into Direct-to-Consumer. 

Google trends online shopping last 12 months 170620

Heck, even IGA which we’d flagged in a previous post as a e-Commerce laggard has managed to launch an online delivery service.

But look at the more recent trend. 

Interest judged by searches is still high. But it’s back down at similar levels to Christmas, Black Friday and Singles Day from last year.

So yes, COVID-19 might have pushed the e-Commerce baseline up. But that initial peak has subsided.

And yes, it’s been like a short-term adrenalin boost for e-Commerce. But, there’s still a lot of thinking to do to work out your longer-term e-Commerce business plan. 

Plus, people have started to head back to stores. Look at the queues outside shops in countries which have had more restrictive closures, like this example in the UK.

E-Commerce is a marathon, not a sprint

If you rushed out an online offer as a response to the pandemic, now’s a good time to pause and reflect. To go back over the parts of the e-Commerce planning process you skipped in the rush to launch.

When you’re in crisis-mode and rushing, you take short-cuts. You focus on getting momentum, not where the finish line is. 

But e-Commerce is a marathon, not a sprint. And winning a marathon takes planning and strategy as well as effort. You make more conscious choices about where and when you focus your efforts. 

Relay sprinter holding a baton in his blocks about to start a sprint relay

If you’ve got a shiny new online store up and running, now’s the time to answer some key questions. Like how much do you really know about your target audience‘s needs, for example? What do online shoppers want?

The helps you work out if you’ve got the right e-Commerce insights. The right  e-Commerce competitive strategy. You need those to define your store’s positioning, its brand identity and to write the briefs which drive your activation

What online shoppers want

As per our e-Commerce planning process guide, most online shoppers want one of 3 things from e-Commerce. They want ease and convenience, they want access to a range of goods, and they want clear ways to compare prices.

Ease and convenience of online shopping

Most shopping is still done at actual stores. Even though shopping at a store is a lot more hassle and a lot less convenient than shopping online. 

With online shopping, you can pick up your phone that’s never more than 2m away from you. You press a few buttons on the screen. And, voila.

Whatever you want magically turns up at your door a few hours, or a few days later.


Person holding a mobile phone with an e-Commerce page on screen and a credit card in the other hand

At any time of day or night, any day of the week. No need to go out. No need to physically carry products.

A few clicks, and you’re all good.  

(check out our online alcohol shopping article for more examples of online shopping convenience). 

Traditional shopping is less easy, less convenient

Compare that to traditional shopping. 

You can only shop at times the store decides to open. And those times suit the store, not you.

There’s no guarantee when you go, they’ll have what you want. And if they do have it, you have to carry it all the way home.

All harder and less convenient than online shopping. 

Plus, think of all the time it takes. Time to get to and from the store. Search the shelves. Talk to staff when you need help. And queue in line to pay.  

So, what we see again and again, like in this recent e-marketer survey on Amazon, is online shoppers really like the ease and convenience which e-Commerce offers. 

Because let’s face it, most of us are lazy.

Or have better things to do with our time. 

e-marketer amazon shopper driver study


Next, e-Commerce also wins over traditional retail because it can offer a bigger range.

There’s much more choice. It’s also easier to find what you’re looking for. 

In the Amazon research, it came second in answering what do online shoppers want. 

Physical shops have limits on space. The store’s physical dimensions limit how much stock they can carry. There’s also time limits on product availability. When products are sold in a store, the shelf’s empty until it gets physically replenished. 

Screengrab of search result on converse on

But you remove many of these space and time limits when you sell online. 

The customer’s screen shows everything that’s available in the warehouse. It’s easy to search for what you want. If something’s out of stock, you can usually see when it’ll next be available. And if you get stuck, it’s easy to jump over and look at another online store.

As a shopper, that means you can buy pretty much anything you want from anywhere. All from your phone. Unlimited choice when it comes to range and availability.

(Check out our online fashion shopping article for more examples of range selling).

It’s no surprise Jeff Bezos positioned Amazon as the ‘everything store’ in the early days. Because unlimited choice is a strong and compelling driver to buy (and sell) online.

As a shopper, once you press that “Buy Now” button, unless something goes wrong, your ‘job’ is done.

How it actually gets to your front door, well, who cares, as long as it gets there. 


There’s a widely held belief that people who shop online are all bargain hunters. They like the ability to compare prices across multiple retailers and pick the best price.

And yes, you should consider sales promotion and price discounting for online selling. 

But while we know it happens, it mostly happens a lot less than you think it would.

You see it most often in bigger ticket-items. Think holidays, cars and electronics. 

Selling high ticket products online - Good Guys Linsar 75" TV product page

In these categories, the value of the time spent to compare prices results in savings worth the search time. Savings in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars range.

But when you’re looking at lower-value everyday items, like most groceries, the ability to save a few cents here and there doesn’t seem such a valuable use of time. In fact, most people who shop online tend to be LESS price sensitive than in-store shoppers. In general, the online customer pays more than in-store customer for the ease and convenience of the delivery. 

And because there are SO many online retailers, it would be impossible to research prices on all of them. That’s why range aggregator sites like Amazon, E-Bay and Google Shopping are so popular with those who like to shop on price. They make comparisons easier when you can see all the prices in the same place. 

Online shoppers want convenience, range and price

So, if you now own a shiny new online store, those are really the 3 main opportunities to plan for.

First, how will your store deliver a product or service which makes the shopper’s life easier and more convenient? Are your product pages well set up? Is your order to delivery system efficient? Do you offer extra services like subscriptions or CRM programs to encourage loyalty? 

Then, think about the range you offer. How do you use the space and time advantages which online offers to offer as much as you can to meet the needs of your target audience? How do you organise those items so it’s easy for customers to find what they want? 

And lastly, think about your approach to price. How does it fit your competitive strategy for example? What’s the role of price discounting and sales promotion for your store? 

Price isn’t always about being the cheapest. But you need to make sure your overall product and service package justifies the price point you take. It needs to meet target audience expectations.

Conclusion - E-Commerce opportunity in crisis

Back to the “opportunity in crisis” motivational phrase we started with. Those speakers will often also tell you the Chinese word for crisis has 2 characters.

One represents danger. The other represents opportunity. Except digging a bit deeper, it’s not an exact translation from the Chinese. As rather than opportunity, it actually means “a point where things happen(which may be good or bad).

And given where we see most businesses currently at, when it comes to online shopping, we’re certainly at “a point where things happen” right now.

If you have a newly hatched online store, the big opportunity is really to understand what online shoppers want and give it to them.

Check out our where to start with e-Commerce insights article for more on this topic. Or contact us, if you need help solving a specific e-Commerce problem. 

Photo credit

Credit Card / Laptop : Photo by on Unsplash

Sprint : Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Online shopping with phone and credit card : Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels

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