Why read this? : The path to e-Commerce success starts with answering a key question. What do online shoppers want? We show the impact shopper wants like convenience, range and price have on e-Commerce planning. Read this to learn about the most common benefits sought by online shoppers.
The e-Commerce opportunity in crisis
Motivational speakers like to say, “There’s an opportunity in every crisis”.
It’s a neat way to say, stay positive. Even when things don’t look great.
And given recent Covid-19 news, many businesses have had to look for opportunities in crisis. Because let’s face it, the business situation hasn’t been great, has it?
Can’t do this. Can’t go there. That’s not allowed.
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
During the lockdown, interest in online shopping certainly 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.
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 pushed the e-Commerce search baseline up. But that initial peak has subsided.
And yes, it’s been like a short-term adrenalin shot for e-Commerce. But, there’s still a lot of thinking to do to work out your longer-term e-Commerce strategy.
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 rushing in crisis mode, you take shortcuts. You focus on moving, and not where the finish line is.
But e-Commerce is a marathon, not a sprint. And winning a marathon takes strategy and planning as well as effort. You make more conscious choices about where and when you focus your efforts.
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 and brand identity and to write the briefs to drive your activation.
What online shoppers want
Ease and convenience of online shopping
Most shopping is still done at actual stores. Even though shopping at a store is more hassle than shopping online.
With online shopping, you just pick up your phone. Press a few buttons. And, voila.
Whatever you want magically turns up at your door when you want it.
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 convenience examples).
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 home yourself.
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 often see, like in this recent e-marketer survey on Amazon, is online shoppers really like the ease and convenience of e-Commerce.
Because let’s face it, most of us are lazy. Or have better things to do with our time.
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 are also time limits on product availability. When products are sold in a store, the shelf’s empty until it gets physically replenished.
But you remove many of these space and time limits when you sell online.
The customer’s screen shows everything 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.
You see it most often in higher-ticket items. Think holidays, cars and electronics.
In these categories, the value of the time spent comparing 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 e.g. groceries, saving just 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 the 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, eBay and Google Shopping are so popular with those who 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
If you now own a shiny new online store, these are the 3 main opportunities to aim at.
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?
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 has 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.