Online shopping is an integral part of our everyday lives, so much so that we often take the experience for granted.
With just a few clicks, consumers can browse an endless array of products, compare reviews and prices, and have their purchases delivered right to their doorstep. The ease, speed and convenience of online shopping means consumers expect more and more from every customer journey. In this blog, we will explore five consumer expectations of eCommerce that you need to know in 2023 and the importance of brands to not only meet but exceed these expectations in order to thrive in today’s competitive retail landscape.
What do consumers expect from online shopping?
1. Free shipping
A whole host of factors have made for a somewhat fragile and unpredictable socio-economic climate that weighs heavily on many consumers, who are very concerned about their own financial situation. Indeed, research from PwC has found that a staggering 96% of surveyed consumers intend to adopt cost-saving behaviours over the next six months. This will undoubtedly extend to the online checkout, where the cost of shipping is front-of-mind in the purchase decision. In fact, high shipping costs are the number one reason for cart abandonment.
With consumers prioritising cost over convenience, many are willing to forego their typical preferences of same- or next-day delivery in favour of waiting a few days for free delivery. It speaks volumes of current buying attitudes and behaviours that 66% of consumers expect free shipping for all online purchases. In a world where Amazon Prime has set the shipping standard, offering free delivery could be a conversion game-changer, but every business must assess whether this is the right move for them. Some businesses could offer free shipping on purchases over a certain amount to ensure profitability.
2. Fast shipping… but not at the cost of a free service
Many consumers have become accustomed to Amazon Prime-level delivery speeds – particularly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic – so it might surprise you to learn that the majority expect their online orders to be delivered within two to three days on average. This expectation could be a stretch for businesses to meet when shipping orders across multiple countries, but it does provide further indication of a shift in consumer behaviour. Most products ordered online are not required urgently, so consumers are willing to wait longer for delivery.
This is especially true when you consider that consumers are more eco-conscious than ever and understand the impact of fast shipping services on the environment, but more on that later. There will always be customers prepared to pay for the privilege of getting their hands on a product quickly. However, most consumers still prefer free over fast shipping as it ultimately meets their needs at a time of significant financial pressure. Online businesses that will get ahead of their competitors under these challenging conditions are the ones that offer choice at the checkout.
3. Better visibility on deliveries
The nature of traditional retail means a consumer can see the product they want from the moment they enter a physical store and find the product, to when they pluck it from the shelf, purchase it at the checkout, and exit the store with the product in hand. This experience provides instant gratification that encourages repeat business, but is not as easily replicated in eCommerce, where consumers often have less visibility. It makes sense then that consumers expect online businesses to communicate with them across the buying journey, but particularly when it comes to deliveries.
Indeed, 93% of consumers want proactive updates about their online orders. This highlights an opportunity for eCommerce brands to provide the visibility customers desire through shipment tracking, which is the key reason (besides on-time delivery) why customers choose one courier over another at checkout. Not only does this improve customer satisfaction, but also presents a platform for businesses to promote and cross-sell their products. Imagine just how much you could boost conversions by providing product recommendations each time you update your customers about their delivery.
4. Hassle-free returns
Given that 51% of consumers always return a product if they are unsatisfied, businesses must accept that returns are inevitable in eCommerce. Consumers expect to return a product for whatever reason, and many will find a way to do so even if you do not strictly accept returns. Unhappy customers are bad business for numerous reasons, which is why it is in your company’s best interest that customers can return their orders when needed. Although this means a short-term loss of revenue, the potential customer lifetime value (LTV) increases dramatically.
The key to getting returns management right and retaining high customer satisfaction is to ensure the process is as fast and easy as possible. If you are in an industry that typically deals with a higher quantity of returns – fashion, for example – then it might be worthwhile outsourcing to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to help you streamline the process. You may wish to consider making returns free, particularly as 78% of consumers will buy more from an online store in the long run if they offer free returns. If you must charge for this service, it is important to be clear on the costs.
5. Sustainable business practices
We previously touched on the fact that many environmentally conscious consumers are adapting their buying behaviour in a bid to reduce their impact on the planet. Even with a tighter hold on their purse strings, 54% of consumers are prepared to wait longer for an item that is shipped by a more sustainable method, and 37% are willing to pay more for such services. Consumer expectations around environmental impact extend right across the eCommerce fulfilment process, with 72% also expecting the packaging of products ordered online to be fully recyclable.
These statistics show that consumers expect online brands to align with their environmental values and provide solutions that enable them to live more sustainably. The importance of this cannot be underestimated when at least six in ten consumers say they would be less likely to buy from a brand that performed poorly on environmental practices. One area in which brands can make tangible, positive changes is in how online orders are fulfilled. By working with a trusted 3PL provider like Zendbox, businesses can take advantage of a sustainable fulfilment service that includes eco-friendly packaging and delivery options.
Expect your customers to expect the best
Technology is gradually making the online shopping experience as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable than the traditional means of going in-store to buy products. With these tech advances come higher consumer expectations, with most demanding nothing short of excellence when they engage and buy from an online brand. By understanding what these expectations are, businesses are better positioned to deliver on them, thus fostering customer loyalty, driving growth, and maintaining a competitive edge in the ever-evolving eCommerce world.
Check out our blog hub for more useful insights. If you are looking for a fulfilment provider to help you exceed your customers’ expectations, request a demo today.