Changing Online Consumer Behavior: Key Trends
The world is changing, and so is how people buy, spend and engage with brands online.
E-commerce and online shopping have continued to grow exponentially and become one of the main ways people access the goods and services they need and desire. At the same time, online consumer trends are shaping companies’ broader strategies and brand identities to a greater degree than ever before.
Within this context, gaining a strong grasp of online consumer behavior and trends has never been as important. By employing a careful balance of data analytics and creative innovation, e-commerce companies can not only curate their product offerings to better serve what consumers are looking for – they can shape and influence what they look for too.
With that in mind, this article will explore some of the most recent, key emerging trends of online consumer behavior, and provide strategic insight on how e-commerce retailers, and marketers can better engage (and retain) the consumers most likely to buy their products online.
After that, we’ll end with some broader tips on how to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to engaging and growing your customer base.
1. Online Shopping is Expected
In today’s online marketplace, the ability to shop online is no longer a welcome bonus: it’s considered by target customers to be a given. This applies regardless of whether you are a small boutique hotel, a supermarket or a provider of industrial machinery.
Online consumers are increasingly impatient when it comes to companies that do not offer easily-accessible, streamlined and highly efficient shopping experiences. If your checkout is awkward and full of bugs – or you simply don’t have an online shopping option at all – potential customers know that the next provider is usually only a few clicks away.
The main, overarching goal of any e-commerce company needs to be doing everything possible to prevent your users from wanting to abandon your site in search of someone else’s.
2. Free Shipping is Important
A recent survey found that online shoppers are 80% more likely to make a purchase online if they are offered free shipping. This is unsurprising, but many companies are still either unable or unwilling to offer the service – or do so only above certain thresholds. What’s more worrying for many companies is the fact that over half of surveyed consumers said that they would simply avoid online retailers who did not offer the service.
In response – and possibly contributing to the growing trend towards free shipping options – e-commerce leaders have refined the system – and have been rewarded handsomely for it. The best example is Amazon, whose ‘Prime’ service offers a subscription-based access to free shipping and other perks, such as better deals.
3. Mobile is Dominant
Mobile usage is now the primary way people access the internet, and it’s changing how consumers behave online. There are now over 5 billion mobile phone users around the world – the vast majority of the world’s population.
Those billions of new devices have brought an entirely new set of behaviors and expectations, especially when it comes to online shopping. To begin with, it’s no longer enough to just be present on a mobile device: ads need to be interactive and easy to use on a small screen for them to capture attention.
The rise of social commerce sites within large social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram — which effectively let people buy things without leaving the app — mean that companies need to adapt and be ready to build their own marketplaces within them, in parallel to their own standalone offerings.
4. Reviews are Dealmakers – or breakers
Social media does not only have an effect on consumers through the marketing channels that these platforms or offer, or the native marketplaces that many of them have developed.
Social media also offers consumers a way to review companies’ products and services like never before, providing a dynamic and user-centric perspective that companies cannot carefully vet and refine in their boardrooms.
The rise of the review as a powerful guiding force in consumer decisions has now reached extremely powerful dimensions.
Indeed, recent surveys have found that around 90% of consumers consider an online review to be about as important as a personal recommendation for a company, and are about 35% more likely to make purchases from companies with excellent reviews.
The ease of leaving a review on Google or Facebook means that companies need to be constantly vigilant and maintain stellar service and product levels constantly – one negative review can be the start of a downward spiral, where it goes on to affect other potential customers’ decisions to visit a restaurant, or purchase an item.
Companies will be well-advised to have a methodical and structured approach to regularly researching their reviews, and responding to negative reviews quickly – and in a polite and constructive way. While many reviews can be unjustifiably harsh, companies should take constructive criticism well and use the insights to improve their services.
After all, many companies pay a lot of money for the kind of market insights that are often offered for free by reviews.
5. Digital Natives
Another key trend is the rise of digitally-native brands, which are being created by companies who have never had a presence in brick-and-mortar. This trend is partly due to the ease with which it is to start a business in today’s world. It’s also a result of the generational shift towards online consumption and engagement, with a generation that is used to buying goods and services online.
While the rise of such companies – which tend to have significantly lower costs than brick-and-mortar businesses – can be seen as a threat to many physical businesses that need to compete with them, they also offer an opportunity: anyone with a great idea can create a brand and a website to market it.
This opportunity is evening out the playing field and allowing many smaller businesses and entrepreneurs to make their first forays in to the big wide world of e-commerce.
How Brands Can Keep up With Online Consumer Behavior
The future is already here in the form of intelligent devices, intelligent systems, and intelligent automation. By using an intelligent combination of Data Analysis and Insights, perceptive market research and seamless, dynamic digital offerings, companies can continue to grow in tandem with the burgeoning e-commerce and online retail space.
Do you have an e-commerce or other digital service product that you want to see developed into a fully-capable consumer engagement tool? Get in touch to find out how Bocasay can be your trusted partner in the process.