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How Online Shopping Preferences Have Changed

In normal circumstances, when consumer behaviour changes, it’s a slow process.

Society often takes months – sometimes even years – to adapt to new services or technologies, and this is often due to how preferences and expectations evolve steadily over time. Until the younger generations truly start to push the boundaries, change moves at a snail’s pace.

With that all said however, change can sometimes be accelerated in unique circumstances and that is where the COVID-19 pandemic comes in. Consumer trends we thought were tried and tested have been shaken up with lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions.

But which of these trends have now permanently changed? What is the average shopper looking for from their online shopping experience in 2021? And what can businesses do to encourage customers to spend more online going forwards?

To find out, Magento Commerce surveyed consumers from around the globe including Europe, Africa and the Middle East – and this is what they learned.

Key Findings

(sourced directly from Magento Commerce global survey)

• 55% of consumers now shop online more frequently than they did during the first lockdown in the UK – and for frequent online shoppers, this figure rises to 65%.

• 60% have seen an increase in their online spending since the COVID-19 outbreak began, increasing to 71% for frequent users.

• Over half (54%) say the pandemic has changed their expectations of online shopping. Of this, 70% are more likely to shop elsewhere if they can’t find products quickly, while 52% are more likely to look for discounts elsewhere and 38% rank fewer steps in the check-out process as a priority.

• Easy to find pricing (66%), clearly displayed discounts (63%) and accurate product descriptions (62%) are the top three things consumers look for from a retailer’s website content.

• Half of all consumers say an experience without adverts or interruptions would ‘stand out’, while 35% would say the same about only seeing products and offers relevant to them.

• 44% say they tend to make at least one unplanned purchase with every online transaction – and 49% will buy more if products are suggested to them based on their history.

• A strong loyalty programme, a visually appealing website and personalisation are the top three drivers for spending more.

• Consumers are more likely to become a repeat customer if they’re offered free delivery (62%), lower comparable prices (53%) and an easy returns process (62%).

• 69% say it is important or very important that retailers have good environmental credentials – and 49% will even pay more if a brand is environmentally friendly.

At A Glance…

It’s of course obvious that online shopping habits have changed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

A significant majority of consumers are shopping online more than ever before, and it’s fair to say that comparing one online store to another is now commonplace. Customers will even abandon carts with one retailer if they discover better deals and a simpler buying experience at a direct competitor.

Features and perks that were previously considered ‘nice-to-haves’ by consumers have grown into requirements – things like an intuitive user experience, clear pricing and detailed product descriptions. Delivering on that ability to encourage repeat purchases and higher on-site spend is now critical to success, and offering free delivery and returns, bespoke personalisation and an experience free from ads is borderline mandatory if you’re to stave off the competition.

Consumers are now also far more aware of their impact on the environment than before the pandemic, and so many are willing to pay more for products that are sold by an environmentally-friendly retailer.

So How Will This Impact eCommerce In 2021?

The results from the Magento Commerce survey show that over half (54%) of those questioned said that the pandemic has shifted their understanding of what online shopping is and expectations of what it should be.

There are many ways that expectations have changed, but perhaps the most interesting for online retailers is the fact that seven out of ten consumers said they will likely shop elsewhere if they can’t find products quickly on a retailer’s website. This is then backed up by the 62% that said they would abandon a transaction at checkout if they discovered the retailer did not offer free delivery or free returns.

It’s clear that the modern-day consumer living in a world still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic wants experiences to be straightforward, frictionless and without additional cost or inconvenience. There is enough going on in the world right now!

Customers might not abandon a basket to head to their local highstreet these days, but they can certainly find your competitors online should the experience you provide fail to meet their growing expectations. Be aware that consumers are more prepared than ever to shop around – 52% said they are more likely to look for discounts or offers than they were pre-pandemic. Convenience alone is no longer a seller; consumers still want a good deal and will work to find it.

It’s fair to say then that despite an increase in the number of online shoppers, retailers can’t afford to rest on their laurels and simply wait for new customers to fall into their lap. You need to ensure you are offering the right products, at the right prices, via the right online experience.

Another key area to review in 2021 is security. The average consumer is now much more aware of their online security, with over half (55%) saying they feel it is more important that an online store is secure and payment details are kept safe. If you still haven’t moved across to utilise basic security features like HTTPS, you urgently need to do so.

However, balancing security with speed can be tricky. Improving on-site security often involves additional authentication steps and therefore a longer checkout process, so retailers need to be careful that complexity (at least from the user’s perspective) is kept to an absolute minimum at every stage of the buying journey. Do your best to help consumers navigate through to their desired purchases easily and integrate secure payment services like if possible.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of expectations that need to be met, but ultimately consumers are looking for a stress-free and streamlined user experience.

In Summary…

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the world remains a wildly unpredictable place. There is simply no way to tell when an event will come along that significantly alters consumer trends we were all still trying to adjust to.

What we do know however is that understanding consumer intent and evolving our eCommerce offering accordingly gives the sturdiest platform for success. More and more consumers of all ages are choosing to shop online, and so retailers need to think beyond just price – it’s now about creating an experience that is engaging, enjoyable and above all else rewarding.

The modern-day customer knows what they want, and they aren’t afraid to dedicate their time and energy to finding it. Brands that provide a streamlined, personalised experience via an easy to use website that presents their unique environmental credentials will undoubtedly attract a loyal and dedicated customer base in 2021 and beyond.

If you need help improving your online store or have any questions about how to be the best at selling online, get in touch with our team today!