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How Retailers Can Target Changing Consumer Shopping Habits Online

19 July 2019

By Drew Smith

Drew is the Director of Product Strategy at Volo and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.

Consumer Behaviour

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retailers target consumer shopping habits online

Shoppers have moved online. The first step to matching changing consumer habits is to build an ecommerce strategy.

10 years ago, it was good enough to simply sell products on your website — this is no longer the case. Changes in consumer shopping habits go beyond online shopping and involve targeting how shoppers engage online.

To stay competitive, you need a multi-channel, optimised, data-driven ecommerce campaign. You need to understand the modern, digital-native consumer and be ready to meet their demands. Let’s get started.  

Third-party marketplaces — Google Shopping and Amazon

People love convenience. They don’t want to browse five different stores for different items — they want a single place where they can purchase everything. People want simple product comparisons, simple checkouts (that have their details saved) and single delivery slots for products from multiple sellers. 

This is exactly why third-party marketplaces such as Google Shopping and Amazon are so popular. Particularly with Amazon, you are delivered a single, massive marketplace where buyers can pick out multiple items, add them to cart, make a single payment and conveniently receive all their items from a single online channel.


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 Google’s move to introduce in-Shopping checkout features and an ‘express delivery service’ will transform Google Shopping from a product comparison engine into a true, ‘one-click’ competitor to Amazon. In both cases, the convenience is difficult to beat, customers understand this. 

As of 2019, almost 90% of UK shoppers use Amazon. This impressive figure demonstrates how dominant a player Amazon is in ecommerce. Google Shopping aren’t far behind, with retail advertising spend on Google Shopping Ads now amounting to 82% of retail ad spend, attracting 87.9% of clicks. Retailers can see how vital it is to be on these platforms, and if you aren’t on them, you will get left behind.  

What to do:

If you aren’t on Google Shopping and Amazon, you aren’t really making the most of the biggest online channels, which is limiting your ecommerce reach. It will have a huge negative impact on your exposure, and customers will have a much harder time finding your products. The first thing to do is to get your product listings on both channels. That means creating accounts with each and simply creating product listings. 

In both cases, where your listings will appear within the channel is dependent on the quality of product data you supply. You need high-quality photos, keyword optimised titles and descriptions, and accurate product categorisation. You need to match each channel’s specific filtered search criteria. With Google Shopping, you also need to develop a sophisticated bidding strategy.   

A lot of businesses find success optimising their use of both platforms simultaneously using ecommerce software with analytics and automation capabilities. Check this article out to learn more about both Google Shopping and Amazon for product listings.  

Social shopping — Instagram and Facebook 

Shopping on the internet has now exploded onto the social media scene. The moment a celebrity tweets about a product or when an influencer shows themselves using a product on Instagram, it gains an immediate boost of popularity. Paid advertising on social media has only grown in importance in recent years.  

If you thought social media was important to retail in 2018, 2019 and beyond is going to be even bigger. Instagram Shopping and Facebook Store are starting to roll out in-app purchases. Whilst these are relatively new and not across all channels, devices and regions yet, and don’t offer the convenience of searching through multiple items and comparing prices like Amazon and Google Shopping, they offer an instant way to purchase items. This can actually be the preferred way to encourage impulse buys.

People are already on social media for other reasons. Being able to buy a product that’s being advertised (or simply posted about) straight away from social media has its own kind of convenience.

What to do:

With social media set to rival ecommerce giants like Amazon, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are looking to influencers to help grow their brand while also building a solid social media presence themselves. Whether it’s developing a brand persona yourself or relying on figureheads in the industry, it’s important to focus on social media visibility to take advantage of social shopping.

You need a social media account, you need to place ads on social media, and you need to engage with your customers on social media. A big benefit of social media is that if you cultivate a following, you gain visibility without having to pay for it directly — what marketers call ‘earned social’. Create an online presence with product listings on platforms like Instagram Shopping, and watch your online sales grow.   

Filtered search and voice search in ecommerce

The way we interact with computers is changing. Think about how people buy products using their Alexa or Google Assistant — they simply ask them to find something. When people talk, they generally speak in longer phrases with more detail. It’s currently estimated that voice shopping will increase to over $40 billion in the U.S. and U.K. by 2022 thanks to the accessibility of smart home devices and voice-assisted smartphone features. This will change how search engines look for keywords. 

The other change is filtered search. With thousands of items available in most online stores, it’s become incredibly difficult to search through each page or category to find the items that you want. To combat this, filters have become a popular way to search for specific items or styles. For instance, a clothing store will generally have size, colour and even material selections.

What to do:

On your own website, you need filtered search capabilities. If you don’t have this, it will put off shoppers. Just as importantly, you need to optimise your third-party listings for the filtered search criteria on each channel. When it comes to voice search, you need to think about long tail keyword phrases in product descriptions. You also need to think about including those details in your titles. Luckily, many of the long tail voice commands align with filtered search criteria. 

Ecommerce platforms that can pull changing filtered search criteria right from the source can greatly help optimise listings and ensure that product data is kept accurate. Software can also help pull analytics data from across the web on specific voice search patterns, helping you keep on top of developing trends. Both can be done manually, and are worth investing in either way. A manual approach will simply take up time that could be dedicated to other critical aspects of managing your ecommerce campaign.  

One-Click Shopping, Fast Delivery and Free Returns

Customers will always expect that your store offers them a smooth experience. From browsing for your product to the purchasing process, everything needs to be set up to provide customers with a seamless and enjoyable experience. If there are any hiccups, errors or issues that could cause your customers to be frustrated or stop their order, then you will lose sales.

One of the reasons why platforms like Amazon are so popular is because it’s so simple to make purchases. Amazon goes as far as to allow one-click purchasing, meaning all a customer has to do is click a single time and their saved details will be used to make a purchase. In addition to their fast 1-day delivery (or even same-day for certain products) it makes ordering a fast and convenient experience.

There are also excellent return policies now, especially for products like clothing. For example, the majority of retailers now offer free refunds which increases the likelihood of customers to buy, try and return if they’re not happy with the sizes or made a mistake. Amazon also offers refunds for products and in some cases will even collect the products from your home.

What to do:

You basically just need to match these capabilities. Part of that can be done by engaging with those other platforms — Asos allows for third-party listings, something you should take advantage of as well as being on Amazon. But, fundamentally, you need to provide a  seamless, hassle-free online shopping experience wherever your products are listed. Without fast delivery, easy shopping processes and free returns, you’ll struggle against some of the larger ecommerce businesses out there.

What ecommerce brands need to do to succeed online in 2019

These customer trends are incredibly important to focus on when it comes to growing your business. It’s all about building an ecommerce campaign that is structured around collecting data and improving brand experiences, Whether it’s by offering convenient social shopping experiences, free returns or adopting voice shopping commands, there are many ways to reach the large tech-savvy audience that exists today.

While it may seem difficult handling so many different sales channels, ecommerce platforms can help you create consistency by collecting and analysing data that can be used for features like filtered searches and optimising Google Shopping listings. They will also help you collect and analyse customer data from third-party websites, something that can otherwise be challenging to do and limits your ability to responsibly adapt to customer interest.

Software able to automate technical aspects of product listing also frees up the time of your teams to focus on the more creative aspects of product listings — like writing compelling copy, creating great visuals and planning your campaign. 

It’s no longer enough to just offer your products online. You need to offer customers an optimised shopping experience that comes with more convenience, but also offers safety through free returns and guaranteed shipping dates. That is what shoppers expect, and only through delivering that will you grow online.

After all, with customers’ needs constantly evolving, their shopping habits are changing too. Many consumers demand instant gratification, making it vital that you are ahead of the curve and can meet these demands. Advancing technology improves retailers’ ability to push the boundaries of ecommerce and beat the competition. This doesn’t just mean employing technology such as ecommerce platforms to optimise listings and analyse data. You need to be constantly evaluating your strategies, figure out what is performing best and adapt this to the needs of your specific customers.

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