Brands and retailers are constantly in a sea of digital change and have to adapt quickly to stay on course. Everything from the introduction of new e-commerce platforms to changes in consumer behavior keeps merchants on the constant lookout for the next big wave of change. To better understand how best to navigate a continuously evolving e-commerce landscape, I analyzed a survey SUMO Heavy conducted of 1,055 U.S. consumers in April on how they feel about and interact with various devices, channels and features. Here’s what I learned:
Seamless cross-device experiences matter
The fragmentation of the digital landscape has caused a need for online merchants to be more adaptable. Consumers today are more demanding than ever, and if they can’t immediately access what they need on any device, they’re likely to shop elsewhere.
While the majority of consumers still prefer to purchase products on desktops and laptops, 28% of those surveyed actually prefer to shop on tablets and smartphones. With this number constantly growing, it’s become more important than ever for merchants to build and provide seamless cross-device shopping experiences so that customers can easily transact on whichever device they choose.
Mobile can no longer be an afterthought
Mobile commerce has led the majority of growth in e-commerce but many merchants still lack a strong mobile strategy. Among those consumers surveyed, 20% rated their mobile phone shopping experience as unpleasant and 48% of them claimed that their tablet shopping experiences fell short. Merchants that have yet to offer mobile-optimized experiences are missing the opportunity to take advantage of this fast-growing and lucrative channel.
For merchants that are unsure what they need to offer, 64% of consumers stated that they prefer to shop on mobile-optimized sites over native mobile apps. Factoring in the high development costs and long lead time needed to introduce an app, it may be more beneficial for merchants to focus on building mobile-optimized sites.
Another important insight uncovered is that 62% of those surveyed rely on smartphones to assist with in-person shopping. Their top reasons included:
- To compare prices (73%)
- To search deals/coupons (58%)
- To view product reviews (58%)
Even if consumers don’t directly transact through a mobile site, there’s a high likelihood that they’ll use the site to gather information. Because of this, merchants must think of their mobile site as not only a transactional platform but also an informational one that delivers engaging content to consumers.
Some features should be prioritized over others
Whether consumers are shopping on desktop or mobile sites, they all want an easy-to-use shopping experience; 47% of them agreed that usability and responsiveness are the most important features of an e-commerce site. A clean and intuitive site structure is a must for all brands and retailers.
Site speed is another factor that is critical as 3 out of 4 shoppers said that slow speed and complicated checkout processes will drive them away.
Other features such as product image zoom and site search functionality are highly preferred by online shoppers, as 71% and 63%, respectively, stated that these were features they frequently use.
Social media remains a relatively untapped channel
Now that social media has permeated every aspect of our lives, it’s obvious that social commerce is the next frontier for online shopping. The only question is, do consumers really want to make purchases through social media?
3 out of 4 consumers have heard of social Buy buttons but only 10% have actually used them. It’s evident that social commerce still has a long way to go before taking off as the next big e-commerce channel. It’s still too early to tell if people will embrace social commerce in the near future, as 1 in 5 of those interviewed say they are open to the idea of social commerce but haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
But widespread adoption may only be a matter of time once consumers finally give it a try. 73% of consumers who have tried a social Buy button said they would use it again, showing that this promising channel has real potential.
Is virtual reality (VR) the next frontier?
VR presents many exciting opportunities within retail and will ultimately change the way people shop. Behind social commerce, this will likely be the next major platform that merchants will need to develop. However, not all retail categories will be equally desired by consumers; 52% are most excited for clothing & apparel, 49% for consumer electronics and only 27% for household appliances. Since building out VR capabilities is a costly proposition, merchants should first ensure that there is adequate consumer demand for these new experiences.
The e-commerce landscape is ever-evolving
E-commerce is changing every day with the emergence of new technologies and channels. Consumers now have more choices than ever before so brands and retailers that want to successfully navigate in this very competitive environment will have to constantly monitor new developments. Those that can successfully stay ahead of the curve will be best prepared to not only meet but also exceed the needs of their ever-evolving customers.
SUMO Heavy is a digital commerce consulting firm based in New York and Philadelphia