On this episode of “The Commerce Marketer Podcast,” we’re joined by Erin Jordan, vice president and partner at Walker Sands Communications, to discuss the key findings of their sixth Future of Retail report. There’s good news, challenging news, and then some more good news for online retailers.
The good news is that consumers are not just continuing to buy a higher volume of things online; they’re also more comfortable buying a broader range of products.
“Each year, we ask which categories of products would you never purchase online, and those numbers used to be so much higher for many categories,” Jordan says, noting that shoppers are purchasing a broader range of products, as well as more expensive products. “The data has been pretty consistent in this direction for the past couple years: There’s increasing comfort and trust in shopping online across categories.”
The challenging news is that consumer expectations for speed and convenience are also increasing. Fast and free shipping has always been the primary decision point for online purchases in their report, topping other options at 77% this year.
But even as shipping speed and online purchases have become more convenient, shoppers expectations have kept pace — only 30% of consumers were satisfied with Amazon’s shipping speed, including Prime and non-Prime members. Shoppers want more items to come with two-hour or less shipping, same day shipping, and next day shipping as well as easier, free online returns.
Also, consumers have been asking about drone delivery for the past three years of the report.
“What’s good vs. ‘good enough’ is an interesting question when you ask consumers directly,” Jordan says. “Because if it were up to them, it would be immediate delivery.”
Jordan says that as consumers have gotten used to the convenience of online shopping, they’re going to continue to push the needle about what they expect.
“The issue for brands and retailers not keeping up is that there are more options now, when consumer expectations aren’t being met,” Jordan says. “A lot of that comes down to what the product is and what the expectations and experience options are for that product.”
Meeting this expectations will always be a challenge for retailers, but there’s an opportunity for retailers here. Consumers are also increasingly demanding personalized brand experiences from retailers.
“We’re seeing this consumer call for more connection with brands to put meaning behind those purchases,” Jordan says. “There’s got to be something that drives you to purchase from that brand if it’s not the least expensive and most convenient option.”
Retailers should make every effort to increase convenience and delivery speed. But if they can’t beat online marketplaces on logistics and margins, they can differentiate themselves by creating consumer experiences and links between products and consumers.
Jordan then describes how brands can create these experiences for shoppers, as well as how driving shoppers in-store can lend itself to the experience. She says that retailers with physical stores should consider what the differentiator for their store can be, such as offering a curated, personalized experience or different products.
The report shows that consumers — particularly younger ones — feel more connected with brands when they go into a store. Retailers need to make an effort to give consumers something that they can’t get online.
“More than ever, the in-store experience needs to be worth having,” Jordan says. “Convenience and connection, what are you really providing for consumers who are coming into your store?”
Jordan addresses a few ways online and in-store retailers can create these experiences for their customers, and ends by reinforcing her message that all retailers should focus on creating connections with customers.
“What we’re really seeing in the report is that if retailers don’t give consumers a reason to buy from them through that experience or having a connection with how the products are produced, they’re going to seek out the fastest and most convenient option,” Jordan says. “And even then, they’re only going to be loyal until they find the next better option.”