Want to win more customers this season? Give the gifts of transparency and convenience
By Quentin Montalto
From every angle, 2020 has been a year of exception. Phrases like “unprecedented times” and “the new normal” have become so trite, they’ve all but lost their meaning. At a time when little seems reliable, it’s understandable why many online retailers feel like they’re dangling over the edge of a totally unpredictable holiday shopping season.
The good news? Consumers continue to shop and their shopping habits so far, amid the pandemic, shed valuable light on what the season will bring, according to a recent survey of 1,500 self-identified online shoppers conducted by ShipperHQ.
According to the survey, 20% of online shoppers said they will do more of their holiday shopping online this year. Bigger picture, 31% of respondents said they’ve been shopping more online overall than ever before. These figures suggest an important opportunity for online and multichannel retailers to capture new audiences and re-engage existing ones this holiday shopping season – as long as they provide what shoppers truly want. Let’s take a look.
Since the dawn of commerce, convenience has been an important part of the decision to buy something. Amid the pandemic, it has become all but essential, forcing traditional retailers to adapt quickly. Buy online/pick-up in-store (BOPIS) has become an incredibly popular option. According to Adobe’s ”2020 Holiday Predictions,” the volume of BOPIS purchases is expected to increase 40 percent year over year. And in digital customer experience agency Blue Acorn’s ”2020 Holiday Readiness Guide,” 47 percent of consumers said they plan to use BOPIS in the future.
It makes sense, then, that 45% of respondents to ShipperHQ’s survey said they prefer to pick up their orders themselves, rather than waiting for items to be shipped to their homes.
Other popular, convenient pickup options include:
- Curbside pickup: Similar to in-store pickup but customers never have to leave their vehicles. This option could provide peace of mind to the 66% of shoppers surveyed by ShipperHQ who said they will shop in-store less often or not at all this season.
- Alternate location pickup: Services like FedEx Hold-At-Location or UPS AccessPoint allow customers to pick up packages from a designated, secure location, such as Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy locations. This provides increased security against “porch pirates” and gives customers a convenient time frame of pickup windows.
Available and on-time
Seventy-six percent of shoppers said they plan to buy gifts earlier this year, both online and in-store, the ShipperHQ survey found. However, concerns about on-time delivery and stock shortages going into the holidays are well-founded. Smart e-commerce stores can get ahead of the issue by analyzing customer buying and browsing data to understand what users are interested in within their storefront.
On a high level, customers are buying online what they used to buy in stores. Categories experiencing especially notable growth include food and alcohol (up 13%), clothing (up 15%), beauty and personal care (up 12%), and cleaning supplies (up 11%), according to the survey. For retailers selling these items or others seeing exponential growth, inventory management is vital, as is communicating about stock levels and purchase cutoff dates.
To mitigate delays, retailers with multiple warehouses or fulfillment centers should consider multi-origin shipping to ensure every order ships from the most efficient location. Whether that means split-shipping from multiple locations or shipping from the location closest to the customer, related tools allow faster delivery and better service to customers. For the same reasons, retailers may also want to work with multiple shipping carriers for holiday shopping and beyond.
This holiday season, shoppers will be spending less time with friends and family, with 71% who said they plan to attend fewer or no holiday events, according to the ShipperHQ survey. However, 51% of shoppers said they plan to spend more this holiday season, suggesting gift-giving may provide a proxy for in-person quality time.
As such, the online checkout experience requires retailers to provide the utmost transparency:
- Shipping and production cutoff dates for general orders should be clearly displayed on home, product, and, most importantly, checkout pages so customers understand exactly when orders must be placed.
- Delivery dates and, where applicable, times must be part of the checkout process to show customers exactly when their products will arrive. Customers show such a strong preference for delivery dates that 44% said they would pay more to know the specific date an item will be delivered, according to the ShipperHQ survey.
- Accurate shipping rates are a must, too. Offering an address validation tool at checkout can help by ensuring the address type is correct, which, in turn, ensures shipping rates are accurate and account for any applicable residential delivery fees. Additionally, if a commercial address is provided, shipping delays can be mitigated by allowing delivery only during business hours.
Don’t dismiss in-store
While the majority of surveyed shoppers said they prefer to shop online this year, multichannel retailers must also plan for the 33% of online shoppers who said they have no reservations about continuing to shop in-store. For those with brick-and-mortar stores, providing safe and conscientious in-store shopping experiences during the pandemic is key. Overall, 82% of shoppers said they’d prefer to shop at stores that take precautions for health and safety. That applies equally to big-box retailers and small local stores.
In it for the long run
Holiday season shopping may be the starkest demonstration of changing consumer behaviors of yet, but it’s indicative of much more. Though the catalyst for these developments may have been COVID-19 restrictions, 88% of shoppers said they plan to stick with at least some of their new shopping habits permanently, according to the survey.
In a year of uncertainty, retailers have the unique opportunity to provide a bright spot of accountability and reliability. The stores that set themselves up for success this holiday season – providing convenient, high-quality experience and customer-centric transparency – will reap the benefits of their investment for far longer than the 2020 holiday season.
Those retailers that take the time to optimize the finer details of their offering for this season are sure to enjoy sustained customer loyalty and affinity in the long run, pandemic or not.
Topics: Trends & Research, Digital Transformation, Insights & Inspiration, Commerce, Retail, COVID-19, Retail and ECommerce Trends, Experience Cloud,
Products: Magento Commerce, Experience Cloud,