Monitoring ecommerce features throughout the year ensures that one’s online shopping keeps pace with the industry and best meets online shoppers' needs.

Now that we are approaching mid-year 2022, I thought it might be an interesting time to reflect on how retailers are embracing features, while also looking at how shoppers perceived their value. The percent of retailers from Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 is shared for feature. Additionally, I have included how retailers are integrating some of the features into the shopping experience. That should be insightful as retailers make choices about what lies ahead for the all-important holiday season. Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights utilized findings from five of our core consumer surveys fielded over the past year.

They’ll be noted throughout this post by name or number:

  1. Conversion survey of 1,108 online shoppers (January 2022)
  2. Post-holiday survey of 1,033 online shoppers (January 2022)
  3. Marketplace survey of 1,000 online shoppers (April 2021)
  4. Home goods survey of 1,113 online shoppers (April 2022)
  5. Omnichannel survey of 1,132 online shoppers (March 2022)

Free still finds its way to the top

If online shoppers could have anything, it always seems that free shipping will rise to the top. 76% of survey respondents in the conversion survey indicated it’s the feature most likely to drive them to place an order on a retail website. Retailers appear to be paying attention, as 74.2% have free shipping as part of their site experience.

It’s also wise to look at why shoppers abandon their carts, as free shipping is also a factor. And it’s the cost of shipping that speaks volumes. Here, 41% of respondents indicated they do so when the order did not qualify for free shipping and 47% said they would leave the site when shipping costs made the total cost of the order more than expected.

Specifically, gauging consumer sentiment post-holiday, 64% of retailers chose a specific retailer due to free shipping. Once again, it was the No. 1 answer among shoppers.

63% of shoppers go to a marketplace rather than directly to a retailer when the marketplace offers free and discounted shipping. Conversely, 41% said high shipping costs could be concerning when thinking about making that marketplace purchase.

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Retailer recommendation: In all circumstances, assess if you can offer unconditional free shipping. If not, determine the right threshold that still allows you to reach your desired AOV. 

And now, free returns follow close behind at 60% when it comes to a feature, policy or initiative that causes an online shopper to place an order. Neiman Marcus is on their game, as they use top-of-site messaging to reinforce these policies front and center. Neiman Marcus ranks No. 74 in our Top 1000. The Top 1000 database ranks online retailers by web sales.

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Nordstrom also was early to this game. It has now added free return curbside as a feature to its already generous return policies, adding to its customer-centric journey. Nordstrom ranks No. 20 in the Top 1000.

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Retailer recommendation: Evaluate and test the impact of free return shipping.

Assortments attractive to online shoppers 

The word assortment conjures up many different meanings. But what we know is that online shoppers welcome a wide variety yet still appreciate the ability to zero in on hard-to-find products. Among respondents in our conversion survey, 53% rank assortment fourth among the reasons they ultimately purchase on a site.

We could define assortment as the number of products, a benchmark that puts Amazon clearly in the lead. Alternatively, I like this creative approach to gift finders on Etsy, where shoppers can browse by areas of interest. They have clearly covered their bases, supporting a broad range of items from unicorns to sunflowers so shoppers can make their choices. Amazon ranks No. 1 in the Top 1000, but it is No. 3 in this year’s Top 100 Global Online Marketplaces rankings. Etsy Inc. is No. 18 in the Top 100 Marketplaces rankings.

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When it comes to assortments, 27% of marketplace survey respondents find their broader assortments appealing. It should also not be lost on sellers that 27% believed marketplaces tended to have more inventory than some of the individual sites they could otherwise shop. Remember, it’s not just about the numbers but curation and creativity.

Retailer recommendations: Explore creative ways to grow your assortment or highlight products in more compelling ways.

Online shoppers place greater emphasis on in-stock status

One aspect of shopping that has surely changed is the hunt for in-stock products. According to our conversion research, 54% of survey respondents cited it as the No. 3 reason they would make a purchase online. Retailers have taken notice. Like Crate & Barrel, some have dedicated top navigation real estate to in-stock products. Crate & Barrel falls under Otto Group, No. 2 in this year’s Europe 500 Database. This feature helps shoppers browse available products, sparing them both the time and aggravation. This can be a category where shoppers can wait months for delivery, so finding available products has heightened value. Additionally, and not surprisingly, when asked why they abandon their shopping carts, 30% cite that the item they hoped to order was out of stock.

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Other findings from the post-holiday survey also support this issue. 30% encountered more out of stocks and 25% acknowledged they paid greater attention to retailers that had products in stock and ready to ship. This is significant, as 57% made choices about where to shop over the holidays based on if the product was available.

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Retailer recommendation: Aggregate in-stock products and highlight to maintain high shopper satisfaction.

Interest in same-day delivery grows despite the limited number of retailers who offer it

Some people can’t wait, and online shoppers have become accustomed to getting everything now. Or so it seems.

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When asked, “Which of the following activities were part of your shopping behavior over the past 6 months?” our omnichannel survey sees the strong adoption of same-day delivery. For web-based retailers, which surely included Amazon, 36% of those surveyed had used this option. 27% took advantage of it from store-based retailers. This compares favorably to buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) at 37% and curbside pickup at 25%.

A look at the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 database finds that just 6.9% of retailers offer same-day delivery as a service feature. Best Buy (No. 6 in the Top 1000) was in before the pandemic and offers same-day delivery. Shoppers must order by 3 p.m. and will receive their order by 8 p.m., which is impressive given their geographic footprint.

best buy

Retailer recommendation: Ask if same-day delivery matters for your business and would resonate with your customer.

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Marketplace growth is exploding, and I have selected a few questions from recent surveys that shed light on this.

Findings from our post-holiday survey reveal the vital role marketplaces play in online shoppers’ lives. The top behavior online shoppers did more of over the fourth quarter holidays: buy more from Amazon (61%). Meanwhile, 30% even bought more from marketplaces other than Amazon. From a Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 Database perspective, selling on the Amazon marketplace was seen on 54.3% of sites, while Walmart marketplace had a 12.1% penetration.

Retailer recommendation: Test a marketplace as this can be an important growth engine for your business.

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Ratings and review remain relevant to buyer behavior

It’s been a while since I called out ratings and reviews, but I can’t help but revisit this entrenched tactic. 79.4% of Digital Commerce 360’s Top 1000 integrate them into their websites. When deciding to make a purchase from a marketplace versus directly from a retailer, 35% of online shoppers identified seller feedback and ratings as the reason. That’s significant. Taking it one step further, online shoppers from this same marketplace survey revealed that 56% left reviews on Amazon. 39% added their voice to reviews beyond Amazon. When it comes to the influence of ratings and reviews on purchase decisions, there should be no doubt that they matter. 58% of survey respondents look at reviews all the time and usually base their purchases on them. The remainder (38%) sometimes look at those reviews and occasionally make purchases because of them.

Concurring with these findings is that 51% of conversion survey respondents believed the website feature most likely to cause them to place an order was the quality/quantity of product reviews.

When asked to choose their top five factors that were seen as important when selecting a retailer, a recent home goods survey revealed that customer ratings and reviews ranked No. 2, just below access to pricing, 62% of shoppers picked ratings and reviews.

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Aside from Amazon, eBags was one of the first virtual retailers to put reviews on their site. Reviews are a key feature that served as a core part of its differentiation for a long time. Today, it still maintains that prominence. It highlights five-star rated products along with their lifetime warranty and secure shopping. The Motherload is part of their private label collection, and its 9000+ reviews represent its community’s vitality.

Retailer recommendation: If you don’t have reviews, it’s not too late. If they are present, optimize to grow participation among your shoppers.

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Catering to the individual to drive conversion

Profilers and interactive features that allow shoppers to find and visualize the right products are becoming more critical to the online experience. One can find examples in categories as diverse as beauty to sporting goods, though only 13.5% of the Top 1000 have adopted this feature. Looking from the consumer point-of-view, shoppers were also asked to select the top five features when shopping for home goods online. Augmented reality came in at 17%, room design tools at 15% and styling profilers that assist in selecting the right item at 10%.

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Casper‘s profiling tool both questions and guides shoppers based on their feedback. Information requested includes current mattress, size you seek, how you want your new mattress to feel, your go-to sleep positions and any reasons you might not sleep. Like most retailers, they show me the product that is the best fit but take it one step further and explain why they selected it with a few featured call outs.

 

 

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Shoppers enjoy making things their own. Our Digital Commerce 360 database reveals that 25.8% of sites offer such a customization feature.

And jewelry is a staple in the world of customization. This example from Brilliant Earth highlights the company’s three-step process that includes choosing a setting, choosing a diamond and then a chain length to finalize. Brilliant Earth ranks No. 221 in our Top 1000. We have watched over the years as other categories bring customization to their customers.

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brilliant earth

Laudi Vidni, a Chicago-based retailer, spells individual backwards and has always stood for custom before it was trendy. Shoppers can customize handbags and their assorted details. The interface beautifully displays the products, allowing shoppers to get creative beyond standard-fare features they might find at retail.

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Retailer recommendations: Could your brand benefit from tools that evolve the shopping experience driving smarter decision-making?

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Gift giving

The gifting market opportunity continues to grow, estimated to reach $816 billion in the U.S. by 2024, increasing at a CAGR of 6% from $621 billion in 2019, according to Coresight Research. A look at gift cards shows 58.9% of the Top 1000 online retailers embrace them. Wish lists, while tangential, also play into this and are found on 44.1% of Top 1000 retailers’ sites.

Gift cards

Our post-holiday survey revealed that gifts were part and parcel to holiday shopping. 26% of online shoppers indicated they purchased more physical gift cards, while 12% purchased more of the digital option. Gift cards like those seen from Urban Outfitters (No. 27 in the Top 1000) continue to be a staple for gift shoppers.

urban

According to the National Retail Federation, both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day projections were strong, Mother’s Day spending was expected to total $31.7 billion this year, up $3.6 billion from the record setting 2021.

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The NRF expects Father’s Day to come in just behind. U.S. consumers are expected to spend more than $20.1 billion on gifts and other items this year. That’s up from last year’s record figure of $17 billion, according to the NRF.

Another tool that is being leveraged by retailers across the web is GiftNow. With buyers often uncertain about sizes and colors for potential recipients, this is a chance to still surprise your loved ones in a beautiful way. They can accept as-is or make changes to the size and color in advance of the shipment. Voila, the gift arrives.

michael kors

 

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Retailer recommendation: Elevate gifting on your site with creative gift card and tool implementation.

Start your summer brainstorming now

Summer lends itself to an evaluation of your feature set. A consideration of how competitors and the industry are evolving the user experience is warranted. Assess what tactics are right for your brand and your customers to ensure growth in a tight ecommerce market.

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