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Why shoppers buy – the importance of confidence and of delivery and returns promises: research

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We take a look at what the latest shopper research says about customer priorities when it comes to buying online

Inspiring shoppers to buy

Brands must give shoppers the confidence to buy direct from them online if they are to avoid losing customers to Amazon or another online competitor at the last minute, new research suggests.

Shoppers browse a range of websites, and some go in-store as well, when they are researching potential online purchases – but 44% abandon purchases at the last minute to see if the same product is available from a competitor, while 43% go to Amazon and buy there instead, finds a new study by Walnut Unlimited for Ve Global. More than 2,000 British adults were questioned in an online survey, which found that 52% of potential customers look at different product descriptions online, while 20% go in-store to find out more. But a third (34%) of customers will not buy from the original site where they found the product – looking for a lower price (65%), to buy from a trusted brand (22%) or a site that is easier to use (14%) instead.

Time spent researching

The study suggests that 34% of shoppers spent several days researching big-ticket purchases, with 23% taking a few weeks – a time in which 31% visit an average of three sites to compare the item they are planning to buy before making a final decision. Research also comes when shoppers are not decided on making a purchase: 14% of customers browse online shops every day with no intention of buying and 37% add items to their basket to save for later, but without a final decision to buy.

Converting researchers into shoppers means offering a reputable brand experience (49%), more detailed product specifications (37%), and recommendations (21%) and advice (19%) on the site, the study suggests.

Jack Wearne, chief executive of ecommerce technology business Ve Global, says: “Brands face a growing challenge to convert researchers into purchasers. Many currently have non way of distinguishing between those adding items to their basket with no intention to buy at all, those in the early research phase with a high propensity to buy and those who are ready to purchase.

“A brand’s job is to give customers the confidence to buy and to buy from them. Instead of wasting effort on those who are never going to convert, brands must identify those who are real to take the leap and deliver an experience that gives them the confidence to buy from them, not Amazon.”

Delivery and returns

Free delivery (66%) tops the list of what shoppers want from a brand or retailer if they are to buy online from them, a new study suggests. That’s followed by a choice of returns options (54%) – with 67% of shoppers saying they are put off buying from a brand if the returns process is too difficult.

Arlington Research, working on behalf of ecommerce solutions provider PFS, questioned 4,000 adults in the UK and US – half in each market and found 56% say they are now more likely to buy leisure or non-essential purchases online. But 20% say they don’t feel any emotional connection to brands.

Asked for the most important factors in their decision to buy again from the same brand or retailer, respondents said free delivery (37%), and competitive prices (33%) were important. In the UK, cost was more important than brand loyalty (31%).

Free returns (23%) and good customer service (22%) were also important, while 80% said convenience was a key factor, and 54% thought retailers were improving the way they offer a seamless service across channels – helping to improve brand loyalty.

Just over a third (35%) of shoppers said that sustainable packaging, delivery and returns options were important – a figure that rises to 38% in the UK. But the higher costs of sustainable products are likely to hold 34% of shoppers back from buying in a more eco-friendly way, while 26% say they find it hard to know which brands actively support sustainable initiatives.

Jamie Saucedo, senior vice president of business operations at PFS, says: “2021 has been another challenging year for retail, dealing with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and Brexit, and battling through a sea of shortages – from raw materials to labour and infrastructure. Amid this turbulence, we cannot ignore that consumer attitudes have altered, and retailers and brands need to recognise that brand loyalty is no longer what it once was. To appeal to and build loyalty with today’s consumer, cost, convenience and consciousness around sustainability need to be brought to the forefront of operations – and that involves providing a range of options around delivery and returns that seamlessly integrate across ecommerce channels.”

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