Snapshot : We’ve all heard a lot of noise about the e-Commerce opportunity during the COVID-19 crisis. As normality slowly returns, it’s a good time to look at what online shoppers want. The three key online shopping consumer benefits of convenience, range and price comparison can help you frame your longer-term e-Commerce target audience and marketing plan. These can support you to find true opportunities to grow your business online.
The e-Commerce opportunity in crisis
“In every crisis, there’s an opportunity” is a common phrase that crops up in many motivational speeches.
It’s a neat way to say have a positive outlook even when everything looks like shit. And given what’s happened over recent months, a lot of businesses have been looking for this opportunity as well, everything looks like shit.
Can’t do this. Can’t go there. That’s not allowed.
For many businesses, particularly those in the retail world, the opportunity has been to accelerate into e-Commerce.
But as restrictions ease and retail stores start to re-open, it’s a good time to reflect on what online shoppers want from e-Commerce.
Interest in online shopping in the last 12 months
Certainly, during the lock-down phase, interest in online shopping rocketed. Check out the latest Google Trends survey and look at that spike that started at the end of March 2020 with the toilet paper apocalypse being predicted.
Look at how Shopify is growing it’s presence. How brands like Lindt chocolate and Heinz ketchup jumped into Direct-to-Consumer. Heck, even IGA which we’d flagged in a previous post as a e-Commerce laggard has managed to launch an online delivery service.
But look at the more recent trend.
Interest judged by searches is still high. But it’s back down at similar levels to Christmas, Black Friday and Singles Day from last year.
So yes, COVID-19 might have pushed the e-Commerce baseline up. But that initial peak has subsided.
So, while it’s been like a short-term adrenalin boost for the e-Commerce business, there’s still a lot to review if you plan to have a longer-term e-Commerce business.
And people have started to head back to stores. Look at the queues outside shops in countries that have had more restrictive closures, like this example in the UK.
If you are one of those businesses who’ve suddenly found themselves with an e-Commerce side to their business, now is a good time to go back over some of those more strategic considerations you most likely skipped in the rush to get your online business launched.
We’ve been there.
When your business is in a crisis-mode, and you identify the solution, you are really focussed on the launch.
So, you become very focussed on action and delivery and short-circuit your normal planning and thinking processes.
But with your shiny new online store now live, do you actually know what online shoppers want? Do you need to go back and put some thought into your actual e-Commerce strategy?
What online shoppers want
As we outline in our guide to getting started with e-Commerce, online shoppers want one of three things. They want ease and convenience, they want access to a range of goods and they want easy choices around price.
Let’s pick those apart a little more.
Ease and convenience of online shopping
Many people seem to like to physically go to shops. But, when you think about it, this is not actually an easy or convenient option when you compare it to online shopping.
With online shopping, you can pick up your phone that’s never more than 2m away from you, press a few buttons on the screen and voila.
Whatever you want magically turns up at your door a few hours or a few days later.
At any time of day or night, any day of the week. No need to go out. No need to carry products. A few clicks and you are away.
Go to the shops however, and consider all the challenges in comparison.
You can only go at certain times of day. Times of day that the store decides.
When you go, the store might not have what you want in stock.
You have to physically carry goods all the way from the shelf till you get it home.
And think of all the time you have to give up.
You actually have to get physically to the store. Get parked or use public transport. Talk to staff members. Tell them you’re not interested in their loyalty scheme, again.
So, what we see come out again and again, like in this recent e-marketer survey on Amazon, is that online shoppers want ease and convenience most of all.
Because let’s face it, most of us are lazy.
Or have better things to do with our time.
And here’s where e-Commerce really wins out over physical stores in terms of what online shoppers want. Because in-store, we’ve all had that moment, where what we went in for is sold out. Or unavailable.
It sucks, right?
And it happens because physical shops are limited by space and time. They can only hold so many goods. Those goods need to more along a supply chain to get replenished when someone else goes in-store and buys them.
But online, those space and time restrictions don’t really exist.
You can buy pretty much anything you want from anywhere, all from your phone.
Think about it.
You can buy anything you want.
It’s no surprise, that Jeff Bezos positioned Amazon as the ‘everything store’ in the early days. Because unlimited choice is a strong and compelling driver to buy (and sell) online.
As a consumer, once you press that “Buy Now” button, unless something goes wrong, your ‘job’ is done.
How it actually gets to you when you are a shopper, well, who cares, as long as it does get there.
There is a commonly held belief that people who shop online are always bargain hunters. They like the ability to compare prices across multiple retailers and pick the best price. And yes, so sales promotion on pricing is something you should consider for online shopping.
But while we do know this happens online, it’s happens a lot less than you think it would.
It comes across most clearly in bigger ticket-items. Think holidays, cars and electronics. Because in these categories, the time invested to save on price when you compare multiple sites seems a valuable use of time.
But when you are looking at lower-value everyday items, or even at a total basket of groceries, the ability to save a few cents here and there does not seem like a valuable use of time. In fact, most people who shop online tend to be LESS price sensitive than in-store shoppers.
In particular, for the many stores who still add delivery costs, the consumer pay more than in-store for the ease and convenience of the delivery.
And because there are SO many online stores, it would be impossible to cover all of them. That’s why range aggregator sites like Amazon, E-Bay and Google Shopping are so popular with those who do like to shop on price. They make the price comparison more convenient when they put everything in the one comparable place online.
e-Commerce Opportunity in crisis
So, if you are the owner of a shiny new e-Commerce store, those are really the three opportunities you should consider.
How will your store deliver a product to consumers that makes their lives easier and more convenient. And if you have set up your online store functions and systems to be relatively automated, you’re already well on the way to this goal.
You need to consider the range you offer.
But online, it should be EVERYTHING you can possibly supply.
Of course, you need to make sure the way those items are organised in your online store makes it easy for the consumer to find what they want. But unlimited choice should be part of your benefit for consumers.
And price. Well, online selling should be part of your pricing and sales promotion strategy for sure.
Price is not necessarily about being the cheapest. But you do need to make sure that what you offer in terms of the overall product and service package justifies the price point you take. It needs to fit with your target audience expectations.
Back to the opportunity in crisis motivational phrase we started with. It’s also often referenced in conjunction with the fact that the Chinese word for crisis has two characters.
One represents danger and one represents opportunity. Except if you do some investigation, it’s not an exact translation from the Chinese. As rather than opportunity, it actually means “a point where things happen” (which may be good or bad).
And given where we see most businesses currently at, when it comes to online shopping, we’re certainly at “a point where things happen” right now.
And if you have a newly hatched online store, the big opportunity is really to understand what online shoppers want and give it to them.