By Jack M. Germain
Oct 5, 2021 1:11 PM PT
New research suggests that retailers may not be fully prepared to handle the expected increase in online shopping and risk considerable shopper bounce to their competitors.
AI-powered personalization platform Qubit on Sept. 29 announced findings from its 2021 survey of 1,500 U.S. and U.K. consumers that amplifies the need for improvement in the retail customer experience online. Nearly three-quarters of respondents reported that their reason for “bouncing” or abandoning an e-commerce site results from difficulty finding the products they want.
That research shows that 37 percent said that product recommendations are rarely tailored to them, suggesting that marketers may not be fully utilizing the benefits of artificial intelligence.
In August Qubit released data showing that nearly 86 percent of consumers plan to continue shopping at the same level or more online, despite physical stores reopening. Nearly one-third of shoppers expect to purchase even more online during the upcoming holiday season as compared to the 2020 peak period.
Considering the promise of continued e-commerce growth, Qubit's latest survey results highlight key areas of opportunity for brands to optimize for the upcoming shopping peak and beyond.
“Consumers are increasingly relying on e-commerce for their shopping needs and are doing so in greater volumes and with more resolve than ever before,” said Tracey Ryan O'Connor, chief revenue officer at Qubit. “The shift towards online shopping, which experienced unprecedented growth due to the pandemic, is showing signs of longevity.”
This research underscores the urgency for brands to improve the online shopping experience that they are delivering based on customer feedback and industry best practices, she added.
Optimization Is the Key Fix
Qubit's report unwrapped five major areas of concern related to retailers' approach to problems faced by visitors on their websites:
1. Products overwhelm online shoppers
Consumers face challenges finding desired products. This is their number one reason for abandoning a site without making a purchase.
2. Site design and product discovery pose challenges
Shoppers indicated poor navigation (61 percent) as a top reason for bouncing or abandoning a site. Results show that shoppers only search for products page by page. This is noteworthy because brands typically have only a couple of page views to grab and maintain a shopper's attention.
3. No room for delays or missteps in online customer service
High on the list for site abandonment were shipping and return policies (54 percent) and lack of reviews (52 percent).
4. Lack of personalization
Shoppers continue to expect one-to-one personalization which is not easily found. For example, 34 percent of U.S. and U.K. shoppers — 41 percent for U.S. respondents only — said they expect recommended products to be tailored to them specifically while shopping online, with 37 percent noting that product recommendations are rarely tailored to them.
5. More focus on mobile shopping
Easy mobile purchasing is a growing area of influence for shoppers, especially in the U.S. Mobile shopping appears to be more popular with U.S. respondents than in the U.K., with 40 percent of U.S. consumers reporting their preference to shop by smartphone versus 30 percent in the U.K.
Mobile e-commerce will only continue to grow globally in the coming years as social media and mobile devices make buying via mobile effortless.
Deaf Ear or No Data?
It is likely that retailers are not turning a deaf ear to customers' needs. Instead, they do not necessarily know the primary cause for site abandonment, according to O'Connor.
Retailers are incredibly data-driven and constantly look at key metrics from conversion rates, RPV or revenue per visit, clickthrough, bounce rates, exit rates on a weekly, monthly, seasonal, and yearly basis. But they do not necessarily know the underlying cause for poor or positive metrics because the data itself does not present the reason behind it, she explained.
“The other challenge is that these same metrics are oftentimes looked at from a variety of angles, as e-commerce teams and merchandisers oftentimes operate in the category of brand ‘silos' e.g., dresses, shoes,” O'Connor told the E-Commerce Times.
Site pages may be updated in different ways, regions, and times. As such, the data is then also sliced in a variety of ways, without uncovering the underlying reasons for consumer satisfaction or dissatisfaction at a site-wide level, or how different page updates may contribute and impact this, she added.
The research suggests that retailers cannot place all the blame on supply chain issues. The supply chain lag may not be the real culprit. Nor is it retailers not updating their online displays to meet potential customers' needs.
“The biggest takeaways are the main reasons for a customer bouncing without purchase resulting from not being able to find products they are interested in, the continued adoption and growth of e-commerce among consumers, and understanding the best strategies to enable product discovery and purchase for shoppers,” O'Connor summarized.
Supply chain lag has been a major challenge for retailers since the start of the pandemic, she agreed. But it is not necessarily the underlying issue for shoppers finding or not finding desired products according to Qubit's consumer research.
“The culprit seemingly relates to the visibility of desired products and how they are presented on-site. That is, how quickly visitors are able to find a product they are interested in purchasing once they have landed on a retail site, including providing alternatives for those that may be out of stock,” she offered.
If the process is not immediate — or soon after arriving — they are not going to keep digging for something to buy. Instead, they turn to a competitor's site where it may be easier.
When taking a step back, it is quite similar to the in-store shopping experience at a brick-and-mortar store. If a shopper goes to the store to buy something and products are laid out in disarray or they cannot find something they are interested in rather quickly, he/she is not going to continue to peruse every inch of the store to look for something to buy, reasoned O'Connor.
“They will likely leave and go somewhere else where they can more easily find something,” she said.
Balancing Act for Brands
The pandemic has accelerated e-commerce growth and adoption. That growth includes both consumers already comfortable with shopping online and newer shoppers with less online shopping experience, observed O'Connor.
“The key differential for retailers is understanding that continued adoption does not necessarily equate to satisfying buying experiences. Shopping online is convenient, but convenience alone is not going to enable endless gains online for retailers,” she said.
Brands need to continuously keep up with constantly evolving customer expectations and shopping habits. That provides more dynamically and proactively better online shopping experiences to bring in new customers in addition to retaining returning, loyal shoppers, she concluded.
One area that shoppers responding to this survey did not mention as a significant reason for abandoning retail sites was the ease of paying as part of a chatbot exchange on the retail site.
Consumers online now typically want service to be fast and frictionless. That now applies to digital payments, noted Joseph Ansanelli, CEO of Gladly. When they open a chat to ask about a certain product, shoppers typically want to purchase the product and complete the transaction right there in the chat without having to return to their shopping cart and check out.
“Brands that have equipped their service teams to assist customers throughout their journey — offering product advice, suggesting additional products based on purchase history and preferences, and now completing the sale on digital channels — will be the winners in the next era of commerce,” he told the E-Commerce Times.