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Survey: Consumers Expect More from Online Shopping Than Ever Before

Consumers are getting tougher than ever on brands that can’t provide a five-star shopping experience, be it online or in-store.

A new survey, conducted by Chicago-based consulting firm Avionos earlier this year, analyzed the opinions of 1,500 shoppers, age 18 and above, and found that 73 percent said even one bad shopping experience could turn them away from a brand for good.

The breadth of what a bad experience entails has also grown. Features that were once considered luxuries are now mandatory for most shoppers.

“Capabilities and features once seen as differentiated value-adds—like free shipping and mobile apps—are now table stakes,” Avionos researchers explained. “Unless companies can both duplicate and go beyond the ease of shopping these titans have popularized, they’ll lose out in the long term. When online shoppers intend to purchase a product, 35 percent start their search on Amazon and 19 percent start with Google.”

Above all, nurturing repeat customers is about offering a “five-star experience,” and, increasingly, that has a lot to do with logistics.

Giving a “five-star experience”

Several factors play a role in creating worthwhile experiences for consumers, but Avionos found that a good experience primarily consists of fast shipping, easy delivery and ample, upfront product information. Ease of purchase and return follow quickly on the heels of those factors, with today’s consumers making it very clear that logistics play an outsize role in their e-commerce purchasing.

This comes in no small part as a result of Amazon’s game changing two-day—and now same day—delivery options. Not to mention the sheer scope of its offering.

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“It’s more difficult for smaller brands to differentiate based on common factors alone, even when their offerings are excellent and innovative,” Avionos researchers wrote. “For example, when product price and quality are equal, online shoppers choose to purchase via Amazon instead of directly buying from other brands and retailers because Amazon offers better shipping options (49 percent), they are more familiar with Amazon’s platform (40 percent) and Amazon provides useful product reviews from other customers (40 percent). In the same scenario, online shoppers name special loyalty promotions/deals as their No. 1 reason (25 percent) for purchasing via other brands and retailers over Amazon.”

In order to compete, brands and retailers will need to start fighting on their own terms by blending in-store experiences with online engagements, something even Amazon has yet to master. According to Avionos, if a business can provide “repeatable, individualized interactions” powered by unique technological features, they stand a much better chance at success.

Find a way to individualize

With personalization on the tip of every tongue, it can be hard to stand out in a sea of brands angling for the same thing. But that could be the entire game for some brands. According to Avionos, when all else is equal, 78 percent of online consumers would prefer a brand that offered a superior personalized experience.

“More than half of online shoppers who expect personalization (54 percent) say it’s because the capability helps them find products they may not otherwise have purchased,” Avionos said. “Additionally, personalization makes experiences faster for online shoppers (51 percent) and helps them narrow down final purchasing decisions from many options (44 percent). Simply put, personalized experiences yield greater sales opportunities for your business.”

Close to a majority, 48 percent of those surveyed, look to personalization features for discounts and offers based on their buying history and 63 percent say that they would be more willing to share information if it meant brands and retailers could better understand their product preferences.

“For example, cosmetics and retail companies can incorporate augmented reality solutions that allow shoppers to see what they look like in a new shirt or with blue hair,” Avionos researchers continued. “Individualized experiences center on creating actionable strategies based on a deep understanding of your customers’ needs and wants. Implement these strategies soon so you can foster memorable relationships with younger shoppers, many of whom have yet to form long-term brand loyalty.”

According to the survey reported, the desire for personalization falls off as age increases. In total, 85 percent of Gen Z shoppers expect personalization compared to just 57 percent of Boomers.

Taking cues from DTC

As more digitally-native direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands emerge from their online cocoons, shoppers have become more familiar with their retail strategies and have since responded positively. Nine out of every 10 surveyed said they are now more likely to shop in-store for a brand that previously operated as an online-only business. Once in-store, 82 percent of those very same shoppers said they would be more inclined to buy more items than they’d set out to get.

These shoppers, according to Avionos, are motivated both by a curiosity to see a formerly digital brand operate in a physical space, and to upgrade a previously digital relationship to a more convenient one. After a positive experience with a DTC brand, 59 percent of shoppers said they wanted to see the same thing, in-store.

Work with, not against, Amazon and Google

More shoppers start their search by visiting Amazon and Google than any other platform—and by a wide margin. Avionos said brands and retailers should work to maximize their SEO and SEM work to capitalize on this popularity instead of working to usurp it. Just one out of 10 shoppers starts their online shopping experience by visiting a specific brand or retailer’s website or app.

That number barely changed when separating for shoppers who were simply browsing and those shopping with intent, although a small number of shoppers preferred Google when not looking for something specific, and Amazon when searching for something they know they want. Fewer than 15 percent said they typically search brand websites in either situation and fewer than 5 percent said they would use a branded mobile app instead.

“Treat Amazon and Google as an extension of retail channels for your brand, not separate endeavors,” Avionos said. “Investments in more strategic SEO and digital marketing programs will help you engage shoppers before they even visit competitors like Amazon. Also, focus on proactive outreach through targeted social and email to bring potential online shoppers directly to your retail store. Find and engage customers before they go searching for their needs.”