This article is part of Raydiant’s Consumer Behavior series which interviews top industry experts to better understand the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on consumers, how businesses can adapt to these changes and how it will shape shopping experiences in the future.
The following is an interview we had with Polly Kay, Senior Marketing Manager at English Blinds.
How has consumer behavior evolved over the past 5 years?
PK: Over the last five years, consumers have become both more demanding and more impatient; cart abandonment levels have risen and smaller pain points (such as a slow checkout process or the requirement to enter a large amount of personal data) are exponentially more likely to lead to abandonment than they were five years ago when the market was less flooded with competing sellers.
Consumers are also increasingly making use of price comparison sites and shopping/discount club apps to enable them to get the best deal without the need to shop around or manually compare like-for-like offerings.
What are the biggest consumer behavioral changes you’re seeing due to COVID-19?
PK: In the wake of COVID-19, customers are prioritizing businesses that are being clear and open about their ability to serve customer needs; they’re looking around for statements on shipping times and methods of ensuring safe delivery, and purchasing choices are driven by a need for consistency and reassurance.
Businesses that are able to maintain near-to-normal service or find clever ways to mitigate delays or supply chain issues, and those that are keeping customers informed about how they’re doing this, are those bringing in the most revenue at present.
How can businesses adapt to these changes?
PK: Businesses first need to take a hard and impartial look at their website sales funnels, from the point that a shopper begins to populate a cart through to successful checkout, and where along the way they lose prospects. It can be hard to be objective about this and so there may be merit in some cases in hiring impartial third parties to perform an analysis instead.
Areas to focus on include the speed of checkout, keeping requests for details or inputting information to a bare minimum (do not, for example, request several contact numbers) and ensure that shoppers are given full autonomy and control over their information, for instance using opt-ins for marketing mailing lists instead of opt outs, and clarifying that data input will otherwise only be used to fulfil the order.
Offer guest checkout options (the need to register and sign up is one of the easiest ways to cause cart abandonment, and yet shoppers who checkout once as a guest will be exponentially more likely to create an account voluntarily on their second visit) and offer a range of payment methods to speed up and streamline the process.
Have clear and easy to understand policies in place advising customers of any changes in place due to COVID-19, such as longer shipping times or different delivery methods, and make it very clear on item pages if items aren’t in stock or may be delayed.
Keep shoppers informed and never be tempted to promise what you aren’t sure you can offer, as this alienates shoppers and ensures they won’t return again if you let them down.
What behavior trends should businesses be focused on?
PK: The ongoing drive for increasing levels of personalization for shoppers without crossing the line into intrusion is a fine balancing act for businesses, and a good way to strike the right tone is by enhancing personalization with interactivity.
This essentially enables shoppers to personalize their own experience, which both invests them in the process and enables them to willingly provide you with insights that will help you to serve them, without making them feel as if you know too much about them or gained your insights by intrusive means.
What will the consumer shopper of the future look like?
PK: Shoppers of the future are looking for a more uniform and linear shopping and checkout process, if anything. From a consumer perspective, sites that all used the same format or even software and so work in the same ways are ideal, as they are familiar, reassuring, and save time.
This isn’t something that is likely to happen, nor that would necessarily be a good thing for the average online retailer if it did; but the more intuitive a site is to use, and the faster and simpler its checkout process, the more likely it is to catalyze ad retain buyers.