Last week, we kicked off the countdown to Black Friday with a look at Black Friday eCommerce trends for the biggest shopping weekend of the year. Among the lessons to be learned from 2017 data and 2018 predictions, the two biggest take-aways are:
- Online is growing, but bricks-and-mortar retail is here to stay (for now): The death of bricks-and-mortar retail has been widely predicted for years. The advent of smartphones in particular, and the common practice of showrooming, was anticipated to herald the demise of going to a store to make purchases. But 2017’s Black Friday / Cyber Monday long weekend saw bricks-and-mortar retail remain flat rather than declining (as expected), showing that bricks-and-mortar isn’t going anywhere just yet!
- Mobile shopping is the new normal: Year-over-year, mobile has accounted for an increasing share of online retail traffic. 2017 marked the first year where desktop made up less than half of online retail traffic during the Black Friday / Cyber Monday long weekend.
But if we go beyond just doing a shallow dive on the 2017 data, what lessons can we learn about online retail sales for Black Friday / Cyber Monday?
While online shopping can bring convenience, it can also bring headaches.
Online shopping continues to grow in popularity, but there are still many ways in which the online retail experience needs to be improved. Among the top frustrations for online shoppers:
- Difficulty with searching when looking for a specific product: Poor search function, irrelevant search results, and inability to find a specific item they are looking for are rated as the most frustrating aspect of online shopping by 60% percent of consumers. Unfortunately, while many retailers have made it easy for consumers to purchase items online, they haven’t necessarily made it easy for consumers to actually find what they’re looking for.
- Lack of personalized service: Personalized service is one area where bricks-and-mortar retailers still have the definitive advantage. When asked about personalized service, 31% of surveyed shoppers said that physical retailers do a good job of providing personalized customer service experiences, while only 15% of shoppers would say the same about digital retailers.
However, implementing personalized product recommendations has dramatic benefits for retailers. Less than 6% of shoppers engaged with personalized recommendations during the 2017 Black Friday / Cyber Monday long weekend, but those shoppers drove 30% of BF / CM revenue!
- Slow website performance: As internet download speeds continue to grow ever faster, consumer patience with slow websites has become almost non-existent. 57% of online shoppers will abandon a website after only 3 seconds of waiting for it to load, and 80% of those consumers will never return to that website.
However, website performance issues are still a common issue for even the biggest online retailers: in 2017, 12% of the top 50 online retailers had some sort of website performance issues on Black Friday.
- Customer service agents are not able to answer questions: The inability of customer service agents to provide clear, consistent answers over digital customer service channels is another top frustration with customer service.
When asked what were the top hurdles to online customer service, 41% of surveyed consumers said that different agents gave different answers to the same questions, and 34% said it was customer service agents who didn’t know the answers to questions at all.
The key take-aways:
- Companies need to invest in testing and optimizing their search performance. Getting your customers to your website is only part of the battle; your customers need to be able to find the products they are looking for once they get there.
- Consumers want quick answers to their questions. Adding live chat, either with human agents or with a customer service chatbot, to your website will enable consumers to get answers fast and increase the odds of making a purchase.
- Today’s online consumer wants personalized service. Personalized recommendations can go a lot way toward making your customers feel that you value their needs, and will dramatically increase revenue from consumers that engage with them.
- It’s not enough to simply have digital customer service be available to your customers, your agents need to have the training and information available to find the correct answers to customer questions quickly, the first time they ask.
2. The mobile retail experience is complex and difficult
While mobile traffic to online retail sites continues to grow, the share of purchases made over mobile has not kept pace. According to online retail platform Shopify, mobile website conversions during 2017 Black Friday / Cyber Monday were less than half the rate of desktop sites: 1.65% on mobile versus 3.5% for desktop. Additionally, mobile cart abandonment actually increased in 2017 by 15.7% over 2016!
The reason for this is that mobile shopping is still complex and difficult for users to navigate. Many online retailers have made mobile websites available, but often those websites are either not responsive, or are not optimized for mobile. This lack of optimization extends even to the basics – with obtuse and confusing home pages. A recent usability test of the top 50 mobile eCommerce sites revealed that 42% of those mobile site home pages don’t allow users to deduce the type of website they’ve come to – leading to a high exit rate from the home page itself!
Mobile optimization is important for more than just the home page, however. Just as slow loading times lead to website abandonment for desktop sites, so does lack of mobile optimization: research by Google has shown that 30% of mobile shoppers will abandon an active transaction that isn’t optimized for mobile.
Lastly, one of the biggest barriers to the mobile retail experience is consumer fear over the security of the transaction. Comscore research has found that one third of online shoppers say they are concerned about the security of their data and financial information, which keeps them from finalizing transactions online. It is this last barrier that drives at our last barrier to eCommerce as a whole: trust.
The key takeaways:
- Optimize mobile sites to ensure that the customer journey is as easy on mobile as it is on desktop. This includes testing every part of the experience – from the home page, to product pages, to shopping carts, and payment pages.
- Just as with desktop, personalized recommendations will encourage consumers to engage with you and lead to increased revenue.
3. Online retailers need to build trust with their customers
Of course, two of the biggest barriers to eCommerce that have yet to be mentioned are entirely practical: consumers like being able to see and hold items in-store before purchasing. And, once purchased, consumers want to have immediate access to the products they have purchased.
Of course, retailers are finding ways around these preferences; it has become common to see multiple product detailed views on online retail sites, rather than just a single zoomed-out image. Many retailers are also adding options to purchase items online and pick up in-store, or are working on ways to reduce the time of shipping to the customer, such as with Amazon Prime’s same-day shipping.
The growth in online revenue from Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales shows that many consumers are growing more comfortable with making purchases online, both in large quantities and amounts. However, there is a significant group of consumers who view online shopping as inherently untrustworthy, and who are either reluctant or entirely unwilling to make purchases online.
- 22% of online respondents surveyed say that they never shop online
- 49% of those consumers say they don’t shop online because of a lack of trust in online shopping
It may not be possible to influence the opinions of shoppers who “never” shop online. But retailers can address the concerns of consumers concerned about the security of the mobile shopping experience.
Adding SSL or a trust seal such as Norton can help consumers feel more secure about conducting transactions over mobile, as can partnering with a payment vendor like Stripe or PayPal. Additionally, taking the time to fully optimize your mobile shopping experience will also build consumer trust, because consumers will feel that thought has been put into the mobile interface and will increase their willingness to share their financial data by finalizing a transaction.
- Implement security on your payment pages and consider working with a payment vendor.
Want to learn more about how you can improve your online customer experience? Contact us to speak to one of our digital engagement experts, or book a demo to see our omnichannel customer service platform in action.