Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights surveyed 1,060 online shoppers in January 2023. We started by reflecting on 2022 and — not surprisingly — it all comes down to price. Inflation affected conversion. We asked what kept shoppers from placing an order. Overwhelmingly, higher prices were the biggest issue.
Notably, only 14% of online shoppers mentioned finding limited promotions. One in four shoppers had general economic concerns. Of course, free shipping remained a draw for 35% of respondents. Retailers continue to grapple with how best to profitably extend this benefit.
Personal circumstances may be playing an oversized role now more than ever, especially finances. Some of those who gave “other” as an answer included limited money or not being interested in buying unnecessary items.
Other inhibitors included inventory, with 25% citing out-of-stock products, and slower deliveries for 21%. Both were factors throughout 2022 and may continue to challenge retailers into 2023.
Fundamentals are most likely to drive conversion
We asked what website features or attributes should be in place to drive conversion, and we are compelled to start with money-oriented conditions. Topping the list were free shipping (69%) and the right price (66%). We all know promotions beyond free shipping can tempt online shoppers, and that was a factor for 36% of survey respondents. 13% cited the ability to finance orders, paying in installments. Depending on economic factors, that could grow in importance.
Product rules, and that starts with product selection at 47%. Close behind (45%) is having that product available when you decide to buy. Shoppers seek information to make the best decisions for themselves. That includes the right quality and quantity of product reviews for 39%, along with ample product information and imagery for 28%. 13% noted videos, including product demonstrations. The preference for video tends to be category-driven.
Trust in the brand is central to conversion and, while a given, its high 46% penetration coupled with a prior purchase or subscription by 43% also are central to buying. When shoppers become members of loyalty programs, this also speaks to a greater likelihood to convert for 28%. Though smaller in number, the support of causes from social to political was noted by 12% of respondents. We will likely see incremental growth in the coming years.
The overall user experience is core to conversion, as 40% noted. Shoppers embrace speed. A fast checkout was a must for 32% and a fast-loading site for 21%. Finding what you need is critical to a successful shopping experience as 24% cited site search that returns relevant results. Shoppers often need more information, and that’s when easy access to on-site customer service can be invaluable, suggested by 21%. Online shoppers (19%) now want the ability to contact customer service in multiple ways, including text and social. This is likely greater for younger consumers. Personalized experiences based on behavior were also integral to driving conversion for 11%, while interactive tools (at 9%) saw limited value.
Fast shipping, free return shipping top list of initiatives that drive conversion
Online shoppers expect fast shipping (61%) and desire guaranteed delivery times (39%), and both impact conversion. Shoppers have long memories, and past experiences with retailers are important, as 45% of survey respondents shared. To drive conversion, the quality of customer interactions count toward subsequent conversion (24%), as do interactions with customer service reps (16%) and virtual appointments (8%).
When it comes to returns, shopper preference is:
- Free return shipping (55%)
- A straightforward/easy return policy (42%)
- Physical store return options either beyond the retailer (36%) or via the retailer’s store (32%)
Online shoppers can also be enticed with a promotional email, particularly when it speaks to an abandoned product (17%). Conveniences include a quality mobile app option (18%) and easy reorder functionality (21%). Both intend to save shoppers time.
A look at advertising finds that two in three online shoppers don’t care where they see an online ad when making a purchase.
What they do care about is the location. Digging into locations that resonate with shoppers that lead them to click and ultimately make a purchase, can help retailers prioritize how they spend their marketing budget. Facebook is the powerhouse in terms of converting orders, with Instagram and Amazon also effective.
Social media stacks up as follows:
- Facebook: 36%
- Instagram: 26%
- YouTube: 22%
- TikTok: 14%
- Twitter: 12%
- Pinterest: 6%
- Social media ad that features products of interest: 4%
- Influencer on any platform: 3%
- LinkedIn: 2%
General advertising success begins with Amazon, including sponsored ads for 26%. The next significant location is far behind, with display ads on websites at 5%. Email still captures shopper attention and drives conversion, though the promotions offered matter. Those with an offer find traction among 22%, while emails with new items and/or trends but no offer only resonate among 8% of those surveyed. TV advertising remains relevant with 18%. SMS/text messaging will be one to watch as well, though today it only has 4% penetration.
Shopping carts play into conversion in different ways
Shopping carts serve many purposes for shoppers where the intention to buy may not be immediate. That might include wanting to save a cart for later (32%) or getting distracted and forgetting (17%). The cart is a holding pen for 19% who added items to the cart to compare prices (19%).
Alternatively, cart abandonment is money-related. 35% of shoppers indicate they will abandon if shipping costs make the total cost of the order more than expected. Along the same lines, 29% will do so if they don’t qualify for free shipping. Unexpected additional expenses (tax, white glove, delivery) are a factor for 18%. Of course the same percentage abandoned carts when the site would not accept their coupon code.
The out-of-stock factor drives abandonment as well for 22% of participants. Delivery is less of a concern, but when it did not meet shoppers’ needs (18%) or there was no guaranteed delivery date, 12% left their carts behind.
From a convenience standpoint, 15% decided to purchase at the store and 8% simply didn’t trust the seller.
The user experience of the cart — including speed, errors, transparency to payment choice and polices — also can lead to cart abandonment. Though not as significant as many of the other issues, it’s still instructive to be aware of the following:
- Preferred pay option not available: 15%
- Checkout page returned an error/glitched: 12%
- Checkout process too long: 10%
- Loaded too slowly: 9%
- Return policy was not clear: 8%
- Financing was not available: 8%
- Would not accept gift cards: 8%
- Could not remember username/password: 6%
81% of surveyed shoppers had an online customer service interaction
Sometimes information is not forthcoming or a shopper has a question that they need answered to make an educated purchase decision. Retailers must offer an array of communication touchpoints, though not all deliver the same conversion rates. Topping the list of customer service interactions that drive conversion are email (40%) and live chat (human) interactions (37%), while their bot counterparts are quite a bit lower at 14%. Phone calls came in at 26% and close behind was text at 21%. Interestingly, interaction via social media was low at 12%, though likely to grow and be more important for certain audiences. Appointments/store-related options have seen a lot of variances over the past few years.
Their likelihood to convert was as follows:
- In-store interaction: 18%
- Virtual appointment: 10%
- In-store appointment with associate: 6%
Mobile accounted for 41.6% of online shopping in 2022, according to eMarketer, suggesting that much is working well. But not all shoppers wish to complete their shopping on a smartphone, so abandonment rates shown may not factor in this dynamic. Sometimes retailers don’t have an optimized mobile app, and 17% faced that. It’s also important to remember that some folks simply don’t own or choose to use a smartphone to shop, according to 5%.
Mobile phone users require efficient shopping experiences that take into account the unique user experience (UX) needs of the device. Saving time has always been important to the shopper, and 28% indicated they can get their shopping done easier and faster on the desktop, keeping them from going mobile. From a usability standpoint, there are numerous challenges including being hard to go back and forth when comparing products (26%), too much scrolling (25%), slow load times (24%) or too many steps (17%). And when questions arose, not being able to quickly find a retailer’s phone number was in play for 10%.
From a UX point of view, there is plenty to be concerned about. 20% cited cumbersome navigation, while adding a promotion code or redeeming points was difficult. Often, imagery does not render well or is too small (18%), or there is a difficult checkout (17%). Mobile design can be challenging and information shown is poorly laid out for 17%, or that content does not appear properly (15%). Lastly, the navigational button size might not work as was the case for 10% of those surveyed.
When it comes to personalization, search results and the homepage are star performers
Personalizing the site experience should be a priority given its potential to drive conversion. Locations where personalization converts best include personalized search results (32%), the homepage presentation (28%) and the welcome message (16%).
The product page is an important decision-making location, and recommendations based on prior buying (24%) and browsing behavior (22%) can be productive as well. The shopping cart appears to have a less significant role where recommendations based on prior browsing (17%) and buying behavior (15%) are less likely to convert.
Cart abandonment emails should be activated given their ability to remind shoppers of past browsing. They resonate with 20% of respondents, while post-order emails based on prior behavior see traction among 11% of those surveyed.
It is important to note that some online shoppers have no interest (22%) or don’t like personalization (12%), which retailers should consider.
Product availability and conveniences drive omnichannel purchasing
In order to place an order for store pickup, the product must be in stock. It tops the list at 47%, followed closely by the shopper’s proximity to the store location (43%). The type of pickup location was a purchase driver for only 20%, while the number of designated parking spaces was even less important to 12%.
Incentivizing shoppers to use the store to pick up orders is seen as favorable to making a purchase. Money talks, and 42% of shoppers appreciate the discounts extended for shopping in this channel.
The retailer’s ability to quickly turn around orders is critical. 41% cited the time when one’s order can be ready for pickup while the number of stores that had inventory resonated with 25%. Communication capabilities with the retailer are important. 19% appreciated the option to notify the store that you’re on your way, while 12% cited geolocation technology that detects you are close.
We have already spoken about positive experiences with retailers, and it similarly resonates with omnichannel shoppers as 30% highlighted it, while 16% mentioned the sophistication of the retailer’s app.
Retailers have work to do to ensure conversion rates remain strong
While retailers can’t control the economy and the high prices from inflation, they know it requires diligence to achieve high conversion rates with optimized shopping from the desktop to mobile devices. Retailers must be cognizant of price and should monitor fundamentals including products, stock and delivery. With those well executed, shoppers will continue to expect the process to be fast from the user experience through delivery time. And free is always a welcome shopper favorite. It’s a job that never ends, but the dividends pay off.
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