Six emerging consumer trends for retailers

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Online shopping habits are demystified by new research data. / Image by Campaign Creators on Unsplash.

A multi-step buying journey is now the reality for most retailers, but few companies have succeeded in optimising every step of the journey. Consumers themselves are not being helpful either - their behaviours online often appear to be scattered and elusive.

Episerver has released a new report with some ‘demystification’ data, showing exactly how modern consumers peruse the web in search of what they need. Below are the key findings, paired with some actionable advice on how retailers should adapt their marketing strategies to win more business in 2019.

98% of online purchases are pre-planned

These days even spur-of-the-moment splurges tend to be carefully orchestrated. Shoppers take their time to tread the online waters before pulling out a credit card. They also refer to search engines and popular online marketplaces before proceeding to the brands’ owned channels (website, mobile app, etc), especially when the shopper isn’t tracking down a specific product.

So how do retailers compete with the popular marketplaces and tech giants? By offering memorable, personalised and credible content to prospects. 26% of Episerver survey respondents stated that they enjoy the product information provided on retailers’ websites most, versus 11% for Amazon.

Clearly, content backed by data insights and tailored specifically to the customers’ position in the buying cycle, can become a major differentiator and revenue driver for brands.

Companies lose 97% of online shoppers due to incorrect or incomplete content on owned channels

Consistent content experience is paramount for online shoppers. Whenever some information is missing or is not clearly conveyed, most shoppers end up spending their money elsewhere.

Consumers now conduct research via multiple channels before placing an order and yet, many retailers are just catching up with this trend. According to earlier research from Forbes, 73% of retail companies state that omnichannel is important to them, but only 38% could move past the beginning stages of an omnichannel experience. If you are among those who struggle with simultaneous optimisation and multi-channel consistency, you may want to invest in data science and predictive analytics to bring more clarity to the table.

87% of online shoppers compare what they find on a retailer’s website to Amazon

Comparison shopping is a behavioural pattern no brand can change. But competing on prices alone can be a dangerous strategy for retailers who want to outpace Amazon. Betting on superior CX is far more viable. In fact, 76% of millennial consumers say they see customer service and customer experience as a litmus test of how much a company values them.

To stand out, retailers can start by offering a better level of personalisation to each shopper:

  • Create and curate data-driven brand stories, catering to different buyer personas and shoppers exhibiting different behaviours (e.g. frequent vs occasional buyers).
  • Design better chatbots to assist with CS and personalised product discovery.
  • Invest in better product search experiences that would allow shoppers to discover just the products they want.

63% of online shoppers have engaged with a social media ad

Should you invest in ads? The answer is a definite yes. Social media ads remain highly effective for reaching target demographics at the right time of their journeys. Two-thirds of online shoppers regularly click on ads, and 33% of those have proceeded to make a direct purchase from the ad.

The younger crowd is particularly prone to social media advertising, especially at the research/consideration stage of their purchase journey. As per Episerver, 37% of online shoppers aged 37 and under use social media for inspiration when they don’t have a specific product in mind to purchase.

Influencer marketing also reigns supreme when it comes to conversions. Out of all the surveyed shoppers, 52% have engaged with an influencer’s sponsored post, and 31% of those shoppers went on to place a direct order from the post.

74% of frequent online shoppers are equally or more likely to buy from retailers offering voice purchasing

Voice shopping is an emerging behavioural pattern among consumers. So far in 2019, 22% of Episerver survey participants used voice devices multiple times per month for product research – a significant 83% increase from last year.

Additionally, 17% of online shoppers have made several voice purchases within a month. As home assistant sales are on the rise year-over-year, and connected car commerce is doubling in popularity, we should expect the voice shopping trend to grow even stronger.

However, not everyone’s eager to jump on the bandwagon. Consumers name several major deterrents that push them away from embracing voice:

Addressing these would be crucial for retailers who already feel ready to explore this customer acquisition channel.

46% have failed to complete a purchase online due to overwhelming choices

Decision fatigue is mounting among online shoppers. A lot of them feel overwhelmed with the abundance of product categories, information and goods pitched to them on a daily basis.

Now it is the brands' responsibility to help the shopper deal with indecision. To accomplish this, retailers must decide how and when they approach different shoppers and deliver seamless access to relevant information for those different groups. Yet again, machine learning and predictive analytics will be the best tools for accomplishing just that.

Michelle Hill is marketing manager at Vertical Leap

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