Retail is shifting to an online environment, and entrepreneurs in both the e-commerce and brick-and-mortar spaces must know how this shift is affecting consumer expectations and loyalty in order to effectively target these individuals.
As online retail gains more share at the expense of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, entrepreneurs should be aware of the following trends in consumers' online purchasing habits and what it means for targeting these individuals.
1. It is a multi-device, omnichannel world now.
Going online does not just mean using desktops and laptops anymore. It is anytime, anywhere connectivity afforded by tablets, smartphones and smart watches. Customers use multiple devices on their path to purchase – starting their search on mobile phones, purchasing products using tablets or laptops, and interacting with their friends about their purchases using all these devices. In a multi-device, omnichannel world, a firm cannot operate a website optimized only for the desktop or laptop. It has to be accessible with smartphones and tablets. Firms need to provide as seamless an integration as possible for an optimal customer experience.
What does this mean for entrepreneurs? If you are going online, then optimize the experience for all devices, providing clear guidance for a seamless customer experience. Remember, if you are targeting them with an email, they could open it on any device, especially on a mobile device, and your website should be ready for access from that device.
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2. Customers shop around much more than before.
Smartphones and mobile apps allow quick searches for products and services across different retailers and firms, so shopping becomes very easy for customers. These devices also allow retailers to target customers with attractive offers, coupons and deals while they are on the go. Researchers have found that all these conveniences have made customers heavier shoppers than ever before. Even if they are loyal to some retailers, they easily switch to competitors when inundated with attractive offers. These trends are not easy to fight, but it also means retailers need to fight for a share of customers' attention early in the purchase funnel as customers shop around.
3. Consumers expect personalized experiences.
Devices and channels also provide more opportunities for customizing the customer experience. Collecting data on customer preferences and shopping habits and making use of their past purchase data allow retailers to tailor the experience customers have at their websites. Such customization can lead to increased conversions and is the best way to counter shopper promiscuity and keep customers coming back. Retailers do not need to spend thousands on marketing analytics software – systematic collection and analysis with common tools can get retailers 80 percent of the advantage that personalization can provide.
4. Word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends are still powerful.
This is the age of social media and networks, where customers share their experiences, likes and dislikes with their friends and acquaintances online – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. Retailers should have a clear social media strategy to cultivate their customer base. Retailers can harness the power of word-of-mouth to increase their reach and reduce their marketing budget on paid media by earning their reputation through customer satisfaction. This also makes retailers take a long-term view of their customer relationships and reputation rather than depend on short-term gimmicks to increase revenue.
5. Consumers take their privacy very seriously.
Finally, as much as the online environment provides opportunities to collect data and information on customers' preferences, likes and dislikes, and to enable customization and personalized experiences, it is important to take customers' privacy concerns seriously. Do not sell their email addresses to others, do not spam them, and make sure you manage their data securely.