Many trends have emerged over the last 12 months in the world of online shopping, most prominently, an unprecedented spike in sales. The worldwide pandemic and the restrictions put upon us to travel to retail outlets in the physical sense have played their part. However, the world of online shopping and the absolute ease of buying online is also partly responsible for this increase.
For many people, not having to line up in a retail store and the convenience of quickly finding what it is they are looking for online is appealing. A major part of our purchasing decision making both on and offline is selecting the right product and then, of course, paying what is deemed to be a fair price.
But what does this entail for end-consumers shopping and purchasing online for personal items, without having seen it in person, or having used it before? Here, I explore how B2C organizations are rearranging their digital space to accommodate new decision-making approaches – making sure they eliminate the comparison-shopping consumers endure prior to making a commitment to buy.
Benefits of online shopping
Shopping online has a plethora of surface level advantages, not to mention the ease of convenience shopping any time, day or night, and having a wide range of products at our fingertips. However, one aspect that has been often overlooked is the rising democratization of online shoppers. Essentially, the demographic that wasn’t originally accustomed to buying online and/or hesitant to purchasing items that called upon your senses. Think paint color, think garden plants, think food.
Consumers have other resources they can use, of course. Reliance on user reviews, community sites and social media help in decision making. What I’ve encountered is an increasing number of Optimizely customers, from various B2C industries, looking to combat consumer digital anxiety and provide an inclusive experience that remedies online buying nervousness.
When it comes to customer expectations, engaging with Optimizely’s customer community from around the globe has taught me that what end-consumers enjoy most are measurable features.
Think free and speedy shipping, easy returns and the ability to pay in a variety of ways. This model has been helping Swedish retailer Skincity, as they create a digital experience that truly provides confidence to customers buying skincare products, without having a sample to test.
When it comes to past purchases, Product Recommendations are proving beneficial, giving businesses the ability to place new items in front of customers to discover and learn about. This is mostly embraced by online visitors who are purchasing items they are not all too familiar with and may not have the luxury of asking a sales rep in person for instant advice. Product Recommendations and to some extent, Content Recommendations, are helping unlock new ways for customers to discover products, services and insights, contributing to a more intuitive browsing experience.
How brands are improving the digital experience
Brands are doing everything possible through the sales process and customer journey to give customers all of the information possible to make the right, informed purchase. A good example of this would be Dutch brand Royal Talens, which specializes in artists’ hobby paint and accessories. Royal Talens is paving the way for more intuitive experiences by using a their color gage tool to help determine different hues for online shoppers.
Swedish brand Indiska sells fashion, interior and accessories traditionally sold via its 90 shops in Sweden, Norway and Finland. In the last three years, it has seen online sales grow and attribute to nearly 50% of its business. Although very impressive, the interesting part is that 50% of those sales are collected from a retail store, so customers can see the item in the retail environment before heading home. This hybrid approach of buying online and still visiting the retail store allows for international sales and the comfort factor of ‘try before you buy’.
What are these B2C organizations achieving? Ultimately, it’s about providing control, confidence and sentiment to its end-users. It’s brands like these that will ultimately win more leads, gain repeat customers and heighten loyalty, as they provide experiences that are memorable and helpful.
Whether you are reordering the same tried and tested product or buying a product that you’ve never previously seen, customers and brands are playing their part in ensuring the online shopping place is one of safety, value and convenience. I take my hat off to savvy brands like Skincity, Indiska and Royal Talens for forging the way and helping customers buy online with confidence and ease of use.