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 do online shoppers want. The three key online shopping consumer benefits of convenience, range and price comparison help you focus on the needs of your e-Commerce target audience. And the needs of your audience drives your marketing plan 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 opportunities. Because let’s face for many businesses, everything does 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. To set up their own online store.
But as restrictions ease and retail stores start to re-open, it’s a good time to look at 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 Google Trends and look at that spike that started at the end of March 2020 with the runs on toilet paper.
Pun intended, obviously.
Look at how Shopify is growing its 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.
The rush to get your online business launched
If you are one of those businesses who rushed out an online offer as a response to the pandemic, now is a good time to go back over those parts of the e-Commerce planning process you skipped in the rush to launch your online business.
We’ve been there.
When your business is in a crisis-mode, and you identify the solution, you focus everything on the launch.
So, you focus on action and delivery, and short-circuit your normal planning and thinking processes.
But with your shiny new online store now live, what do you know about the needs of your target audience. What do online shoppers want? Do you need to go back and put more thought into your actual e-Commerce strategy? And we mean from the insight through your brand identity and your activation.
What online shoppers want
As we outline in our guide to the e-Commerce planning process, online shoppers want one of three things. They want ease and convenience, they want access to a range of goods and they want clear ways to compare prices.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Ease and convenience of online shopping
The majority of shopping is still done at actual stores, not online. But, when you think about it, shopping at a store more difficult and less convenient than shopping online.
With online shopping, you can pick up your phone that’s never more than 2m away from you. 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 physically carry products.
A few clicks and you are all good.
Compare that to shopping at an actual store.
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 have to get yourself physically to the store. To drive and park, 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 you can see below, 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 have limits on space and time. They can only hold so many goods. Those goods need to move along a supply chain and be 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 online consumer pays more than in-store for the ease and convenience of the delivery.
And because there are SO many online retailers, 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 online store, those are really the three opportunities to 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 wide 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.