2019 ecommerce trends and tactics: 4 dominant themes

It’s a tale as old as tech. Companies develop and introduce ways to make consumers’ lives easier and overnight, it seems, those changes become expectations.

Each year, Episerver develops a global consumer study in which those expectations are confirmed and the next face of innovation is addressed. For retailers wondering how they stack up to consumer demands and other digital commerce strategies, let the following be a starting point to tackling those objectives.

  • Be sure to join Episerver and Forrester analyst Sucharita Kodali for our May 2 webinar. Register now.
  • Don’t forget to download our full Reimagining Commerce report. Get the full report.

Let’s turn to the data…

1. Online Shopping Frequency

Most consumers are shopping online these days, according to our recently published Reimagining Commerce 2019 report. This is a continuing and stabilizing trend according to our survey of more than 4,000 consumers over the past three years. Our latest research finds that 61 percent of consumers shop online at least once per month and 26 percent of online consumers currently shop online at least weekly. This represents relatively stable online shopping trends from our 2018 report, which found 63 percent shop at least once a month and 23 percent shop online at least weekly. The headline: online shopping is becoming woven into the fabric of consumers' daily lives.

Yet there is more underneath the surface of this trend. Consumers have a variety of intentions for visiting a brand or a retailer's website and have higher expectations for the features a brand or retailer should offer. This will require online merchants to balance their desire to sell with the consumer's desire to browse and not miss key site capabilities whilst enhancing their sites with inspirational content and buying guides.

2. Purpose for visiting brand websites

Consumers visit a brand’s website primarily to search for products and compare prices. This trend has stayed consistent over the three years we have collected data. Looking for store information and for inspirational content or buying guides are secondary reasons for consumer visits.

This means that brands should not de-emphasize product discovery, nor should they assume consumers are coming to the site ready to buy by over promoting individual products. Most consumers are in a browsing mode when visiting your website. They search, navigate and compare your prices to other brands and retailers, and are looking for content to support their decision-making process. Striking a balance is crucial whether the consumer is entering on the homepage, category landing pages or product pages.

What is your primary purpose for visiting a brand's website for the first time?

2018

2019

Searching for a product or service

35%

33%

Comparing prices or other variables between brands

29%

22%

Making a purchase

17%

17%

Finding inspiration (e.g. style or usage guidance, direction from brands and retailers, etc.)

9%

10%

Looking for store information (e.g. hours, location, contact info, etc.)

7%

11%

Finding a dealer/reseller

3%

6%

One Episerver Commerce customer saw 20 percent of their traffic entering the homepage in 2018 but over 45,000 sessions that same year started from a single product page. Only 64 orders were placed directly from this landing page (0.14 percent conversion rate). What did the other 44,936 consumers do?

The top actions were:

  • 14 percent went to a product page for a similar product
  • 6 percent went to the top-level category for the product
  • 6 percent went to the basket/cart page
  • 5 percent visited the homepage

Recommendation: Just because your consumer enters on a product page, doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy. Merchandize your product pages to allow for product discovery - trusting the consumer will arrive at the product or experience that is right for them.

3. Top website features

When it comes to consumer expectations for website features offered by retailers and brands, expectations are increasing across the board. Common “place order” related features such as Free Shipping, Shipping Tracking and Information about returns scored highest and all increased in consumer expectations in our survey year-over-year. Click-and-collect (also known as Buy-online, Pick-up in store) saw the largest gain with 32 percent of consumers expecting this feature. More elusive features and capabilities, like two-day shipping and one-click checkout, did not surpass more than 30 percent.

Recommendation: The baseline expectations for brand and retailer websites continues to increase and become more universal across age and country. Brands and retailers should work to provide free shipping and basic order tracking before investing in more glamorous features such as one-click checkout. It is also important to ensure your site search works properly especially if you have a large product catalog and, if your vendor supports it, use artificial intelligence to automatically improve search rankings on your site based on consumer behavior.

What features do you expect brands and retailers to offer on their websites?

2018

2019

Change

Free shipping

58%

68%

10%

Shipping tracking

51%

62%

11%

Information about returns

49%

52%

3%

Easy-to-use product search functions

57%

44%

-13%

Customer testimonials

30%

38%

8%

Access to a customer service agent

24%

32%

9%

A website that works well on mobile devices

33%

32%

-1%

Click-and-collect

20%

32%

12%

Two-day shipping

35%

31%

-4%

Product FAQ Page

24%

29%

5%

One-click checkout

20%

26%

6%

Product recommendations based on my purchase/browse history

15%

20%

5%

Products auto-selected with me in mind

9%

11%

2%

Website content that uses my name and other personal information

8%

9%

1%

4. What about Amazon and other marketplaces?

We asked consumers ‘Where do you typically research a product before making an online purchase?’ and the top two choices in every product category except grocery were Amazon and Google.

Amazon’s top categories for research

  1. Books – 30%
  2. Consumer Electronics – 21%
  3. Office Supplies – 24%

Google’s top categories for research

  1. Books – 22%
  2. Luxury goods – 24%
  3. Office supplies – 21%

Brands and Retailers who sell Clothing & Apparel, Food & Grocery and Furniture scored highest in terms of consumer research on their sites; Books, Household Goods and Office Supplies were the lowest-scoring categories for site research.  

Recommendations

  • Regardless of where online shoppers choose to engage a company, they should be able to trust the accuracy and completeness of the information they find.
  • Companies can reach younger shoppers early on via social touchpoints and build lifetime loyalty on a channel where competitors traditionally struggle.
  • Brands and retailers have a responsibility — and frankly a lot to gain — when they help combat shopper indecision. The best strategy for accomplishing this involves streamlined digital commerce experiences that enable easier access to information and faster decision making.
  • Leading with relevant, educational content and experiences allows brands and retailers to build relationships with shoppers and become part of their everyday realities.

Keep Learning

  • Be sure to join Episerver and Forrester analyst Sucharita Kodali for our May 2 webinar. Register now.
  • Don’t forget to download our full Reimagining Commerce report. Get the full report.