Written by Emanuela Lertora
To date, the online marketplace has been dominated by relatively cheap and easy to deliver items such as books, music, electronics, accessories and apparels, but recent trends show consumers are willing to buy new product categories online. This pattern is encouraging, and it opens up a space for brands and product categories that haven’t entered yet the digital shopping channel.
The shift in the market has been triggered by the consumers’ preference of streaming books and music instead of buying them, and by the introduction of new shipping and delivering options in the market, that make it easy and more common to buy products online.
In the coming years, the growth of current popular online segments is expected to be minimal, while bigger items such as household goods, appliances, furniture, home décor and sporting goods are showing some of the highest growth potential. Telecom products, fragrances, wine, liquor and art are also expected to grow. In general, the categories that are foreseen to perform better, are those which do not need trial and where consumers already have faith in the brand and the product quality.
What drives a customer to buy online rather than offline in the first place? The top reasons include time and flexibility – unlikely physical shops, online purchases can be done at any time 24/7. Promotions and discounts are also among the main drivers for choosing digital shopping channels – many online retailers such as Amazon, Taobao and Alibaba sell items at reduced prices all year around.
The desire to avoid crowded places, like shopping malls or popular high streets is another important motivation, usually people can shop outside working hours or during the weekends, which are the busiest time to visits shops. More and more customers are shifting to online in order to escape bad experiences associated with lack of car parks and long queues. And finally, online shopping, can be the most convenient alternative for people who live in remote areas with limited access to physical shops or specific goods.
As consumers are increasingly choosing to shop online, it opens up new opportunities for established brands, middle size companies and start-ups to boost sales and grow market share.
However, vendors should position their online presence to meet customers’ evolving needs and preferences.
Here are 10 tips to win online customers.
1. Delivery time and return policy
When shopping in physical stores, people have an ‘’immediate gratification’ because they can buy the items and taking them straight away. The key to success for on-online shopping operators is to reduce the delivery time to a minimum, in order to match the immediate gratification aspects of the typical in-store experience.
Companies will also need to have a customer friendly policy that include the possibility to return the items if not satisfied or if the product is not fitting.
2. Trusted website
Given the nature of online shopping, which involves consumers buying products without seeing them, providing personal data online, and often paying in advance, having a brand and website that consumers trust is critical.
3. Easy to reach
Customers like websites that make it easy for them to get in contact with a representative in the company.
4. Data privacy
Companies need to sufficiently protect consumer data and ensure the quality and safety of the products they manufacture or sell.
5. Risk management
In this age of prolific mainstream and social media, news of a data breach or production quality issue can quickly spread out of control. Companies that are not prepared to prevent or manage these risks can see their customers trust and brand reputation extinguished overnight.
6. Brand ambassadors
Winning trust and customer loyalty is key to a company’s success. It helps generate a particular attachment to the brand and create brand ambassadors who inspire others to follow.
7. Customer support
More often than not, excellent customer support, is what makes consumers loyal to one company over another. When shopping in-store, people have certain service level expectations of staff attentiveness or product knowledge. In an online environment, when transactions are conducted with no personal contact at all, it is a good practice for online retailers to go the extra mile by reaching out to their customers with an effective personalized communication and offering an extraordinary issue resolution.
8. Customer experience
When shopping in physical stores, people can see, feel and try the items, thus in order to recreate the in-store experience, online retailers should go the extra mile, for example by providing comprehensive sizing and measuring charts, detailed photographs with 360° and zoom viewing and by delivering free fabric or sample product by mail. Loyalty will be granted to those companies that make their customers feel like they are part of a community, and that made them feel important, unique and valued.
Millennials like to feel special, and for this reason, in order to attract younger consumers, companies need to offer more personalized interactions, customized experiences, one-on-one engagement and customized promotions,
10. Online review
Statistics are showing that before buying a products people are researching either offline by visiting a store, or online by consulting corporate web site or by checking reviews available in third party web sites and social media. Since online reviews can influence customers’ purchase, it is vital for companies to monitor online conversations and to make sure that users have a favourable opinion and a positive sentiment about their brand.