How Online Shopping Has Become More Personal and Effective

More and more, we’re seeing online businesses add new features and services with the goal of replicating and even surpassing the personal ways we shop at brick and mortar stores.

A perfect example is how men’s fashion site JackThreads is revolutionizing online clothing shopping with a program called tryouts, which allows you to have clothes shipped to you where you can try them on for free before buying them. This isn’t the first time online shopping has become more effective or personal. Here are several ways online shopping has improved:

It’s Becoming More Like Shopping in Person

As for JackThreads, online retailers and ecommerce platforms are evolving to become more like shopping at brick and mortar establishments and in some ways are even better.

One way is the constant push to cut down on the cost and time of shipping. Amazon has always been the leader in this category with Prime free two-day shipping, but fewer people realize that Amazon now offers free two-hour shipping in several locations. Even one-hour shipping is available if you’re willing to pay a small premium.

These faster and faster shipping times are bringing us closer to the near instant gratification we experience when shopping at brick and mortar stores. For many, it’ll be more convenient and quicker to purchase something online than to go out and purchase it in person!

Another way online shopping is becoming like in person shopping is in the product descriptions and images. Gone are the days where retailers uploaded a few images of a product on a white background. Now, product dimensions and details are often more thorough than you’d find in stores. A few examples are the 360 degree product views, model size detail for online clothing stores.

Better Reviews

While some stores have attempted to implement some form of reviews, most don’t actually provide useful information. Best Buy for example shows how many stars a product has been reviewed online, but you aren’t able to actually see any of the reviews!

Online shopping has always been more effective than shopping in person because of the ease of accessing and reading reviews, and it hasn’t stopped improving. Thanks to time and programs that encourage reviews, products can have thousands of reviews, crowdsourced FAQs and more. This enables you to not only get a general consensus, but also to find people who are similar to you and see what they think of the products you’re considering.

The Ability to Find the Best Deals in Seconds

Almost everyone knows that you can find the best deals online much easier than in stores, but this has been taken to the next level in recent years. Many sites which focus on curating reviews and deals from across the web have sprung up. Some dive into a niche and only curate deals that appeal to a particular crowd such as HiConsumption (gadgets, architecture, design, fashion, art, vehicles and more for men) or Bring A Trailer (classic automobiles) while others highlight the best products and deals in specific categories like Best Deals Today.

Both types of sites will help you find the best deals and products in a matter of seconds — something that just can’t be done in several stores or even malls.

Customer Support Has Evolved

You expect excellent customer support at an in-person store and the same needs to be expected of online businesses. Many online retailers take pride in having speedy and friendly customer support representatives which make your shopping experience even more enjoyable. A lot of websites now have live chat available so that you can have responses faster than ever before.

A Hassle-free Checkout Process

Checking out online was long plagued by several steps from signing up, to filling out your address and billing information and more. Even if you had to wait in lines at stores, online shopping used to feel more burdensome. Today even that has completely changed since you can now save your card and shipping information. This way they can be used across several sites which makes checking out as easy as confirming your cart and pressing a single button to pay.

What’s Next?

Online shopping is quickly evolving and many can already buy everything they need (including fresh groceries) from the comfort of their home. We may be looking at online shopping as the main option sooner than we think.

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Shoppers now expect personalisation to extend to the store: study

Shoppers getting used to convenience and personalisation online now expect those qualities to extend to the store, a new study suggests.

Research for the iVend Retail report, Omni Progress: Are stores getting better at delivering connected retail experiences?, was carried out last year. It found that twice as many consumers (27%) expected online personalisation to be mirrored in the physical environment in 2016 than did the previous year (13%).

Ten reasons why Consumers are more demanding

Cape Town – Consumers are now more demanding of products, services and brands than ever before, according to a new report by Euromonitor International.

Consumers are using digital tools to articulate and fulfil their needs, the research found. Consumers have become harder to characterise, for instance. This means shoppers are more likely to have a hand in defining themselves and their needs.

5 Trends That Will Change The Way Your Customers Will Shop In 2017

At first glance, the queues for 2016’s hot-ticket holiday item, Snapchat Spectacles, might not have looked all that different from the round-the-block lines that formed for the Tickle Me Elmo craze of 20 years ago. But a closer inspection reveals how the simple act of shopping has been quietly transformed during that time.

Rather than waiting at the mall to make their purchase, Snapchat’s hopeful customers were lining up to buy specs at Snapbot vending machines in exotic locales such as the Grand Canyon, the Rose Bowl and Big Sur.

From limited releases of hot products sold in the unlikeliest of places to personalized shopping experiences that meld the online and offline world, the world of retail is poised to get even more interesting in the year ahead. Here’s a look at what’s in store:

Stores are out, experiences are in

Ten years ago, walking into a cool boutique to see a DJ spinning was novel. Today, it’s about the least a store can do to keep up with the times. Brands that are standing out are pulling out the stops to turn shopping into a rich and immersive experience.

Back to Snapchat, for example: selling those specs via vending machines was a quirky touch, but the real genius was in putting them in oddball locations. By doing that, Snapchat turned the simple act of shopping into a treasure hunt and adventure — even for those who didn’t manage to snag a pair before they sold out.

Similarly, brick-and-mortar outlets are also upping their game. Now that anyone can buy anything online, stores that are staying relevant are offering highly curated and immersive experiences. Whether it’s yoga classes and running clinics at Lululemon or grabbing a haircut and an espresso at Frank + Oak’s flagship Toronto store, we’ll see stores become less about being a place to consummate a transaction than a place to immerse yourself in a lifestyle.

Forget faceless brands, connection is key

Back in the day, you had a personal connection with the shops on Main Street. Malls and big-box stores changed all that. These days, however, we’re no longer content to buy from faceless — even if well-known — brands, and smart retailers are using creative tools to build a personal relationship with would-be buyers.

Currently, nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in the world of celebrity. Last year, for example, the likes of Drake and the Weeknd extended their personas into popup shops and full-scale brand lines that give fans more of what they want: direct ways to connect with their favourite personalities.

Meanwhile, Kith NYC designer Ronnie Fieg recently used Instagram to create a real-time window into a product launch event in Aspen. What we’re seeing in all of these cases is online sellers leveraging technology to humanize and personalize a transaction — emphasizing the link between maker and user — which is a far cry from the kind of shopping experience you get in a big-box store.

Evolution — and democratization — of the flash sale

Flash Sales are a time-honored tradition in the world of retail. But enter the Internet and things get a lot more interesting.

These days, putting a time limit on a product or price isn’t just a means to unload overstock, it’s become standard practice for product launches. Celeb cosmetics queen Kylie Jenner has expertly employed this technique, with her limited edition birthday and holiday collections flying off the virtual shelf.

But, of course, bots and resellers have also infiltrated the online sales space, with everything from Kanye West’s Yeezy sneakers to Hatchimals winding up on eBay for several times the retail price. In the year ahead, you can expect smart companies to come up with ways to ensure the right people — actual customers and fans with a history with the brand — are being ushered to the front of the queue. (Shopify launched one product aimed at solving this problem this year, which allows buyers to check out with one tap and sellers to handle thousands of orders per minute.)

Direct-to-Consumer takes a bigger piece of the retail pie

This holiday season, US shoppers spent as much online as they did in actual stores. But behind that headline is an even more interesting story: the direct-to-consumer revolution. From Michael Kors to Oreo, more companies are sidestepping the middleman. Ditching department stores in favour of selling directly to consumers will continue to be a powerful force transforming the way we shop in 2017.

Why? Selling straight to customers creates an intimate and immediate feedback loop that leads to a better customer experience. Companies like AYR, Bonobos and DSTLD jeans are pioneering a highly responsive approach: using sales data and customer feedback to adjust their styles, cuts and size runs in real time. A reality where your favourite store is never out of your size or preferred style is right around the corner.

Shopping gets more social

Imagine browsing your social media feed and buying any product that catches your eye with the swipe of your thumb. In 2017 this will become a widespread reality. Social media platforms like Pinterest, Houzz, Twitter and Instagram are already breaking the browse/buy barrier with options for in-app impulse buying. Now add to that streamlined pay systems like Apple Pay, which is poised to go from a niche payment option to a mainstream expectation, and ordering that eye candy will become almost dangerously easy.

Meanwhile, online sellers are also teaming up with services like UberRUSH and Postmates to solve the delayed gratification problem posed by buying online. Teaming up with innovative services gets products into the hands of customers on the day they buy and contributes to a shopping experience that’s faster and more convenient.

With the retail world in the midst of a reinvention powered by technology, one thing’s for sure: the only limitation today’s merchants face is their own creativity. The bar for retail was raised in 2016 and it’s set to go higher in the year ahead. The good news for consumers: there’s never been a better time to be a shopper.

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What do Online Shoppers really want?

What do online shoppers really want?

 Understanding and keeping pace with what drives people to shop and buy online is critical to succeeding in the digital world.

In response to demand for greater insights regarding the online customer, a new report by KPMG International analyses the online shopping preferences and behaviours of more than 18 000 consumers in 51 countries, by geography, generation and product category.

“Today’s consumer no longer goes shopping, but is shopping, all the time and everywhere. And in a truly global online marketplace, competition is no longer limited to local shops during regular business hours. Consumers can easily buy from retailers and manufacturers located anywhere in the world – or from those with no physical retail locations at all,” comments Dean Wallace, industry leader for consumer markets and technology at KPMG in South Africa.
“Increased competition, combined with consumer demand for richer experiences, means that retailers need to rethink their online strategy. For many retailers, creating an online shopping experience enhanced by technology such as augmented and virtual reality or 3D is becoming at least as important as providing convenient and personalised ordering, payment and delivery options.”

Behaviour Basics

The number of online transactions made by survey respondents averaged 17 purchases per year, or 1.25 per month. Generation X consumers (born between 1966 and 1981), averaged nearly 19 transactions per person per year, and they made more online purchases in the past 12 months than any other age group. In fact, Generation X consumers made 20% more purchases than the ‘tech-savvy’ Millennials (born between 1982 and 2001).
Wallace comments: “Stage of life and income levels are certainly primary factors driving both online and offline shopping, and Generation X consumers, many of whom are more established in their careers and may be building homes and families, are likely buying more consumer goods than the younger Millennials overall. As Millennials continue to enter the workforce and adulthood, however, their online shopping activity is expected to surge and even far surpass the levels currently exhibited by older generations.”
And while it may be presumed that the more traditional Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) are less inclined to shop online than younger generations, the survey revealed that in fact they shop online just as frequently as Millennials. Furthermore, Baby Boomers were more likely to spend more per transaction than the younger consumers (average purchase for Baby Boomers was $203, US$190 for Generation X and $173 for Millennials).

Online or offline?

When comparing the impact of online versus offline touch-points that create the first trigger moment, of note is that 52 percent of consumers cited at least one offline channel as a source of initial awareness, and 59% cited one or more online channels.
Retail websites or online shops were the most common source of initial awareness, cited by nearly a third of consumers, and online advertisements were cited by 15%. At the same time, physical shops were the second most popular source of awareness, cited by 22% of consumers.
Millennials were not only more likely than the older generations to be influenced by online sources such as social media or peer reviews – they were also more likely to be influenced by offline channels. Millennials were 25% more likely than Baby Boomers to have seen their most recent online purchase in a shop, nearly 50% more likely to have talked to a friend about it, and more than twice as likely to have seen someone with it.
Wallace comments: “E-commerce is not an online-only affair. Both online and offline channels are effective in creating consumer awareness and demand, especially when used together. Furthermore, despite the rise of online shopping, e-commerce still makes up a relatively small percentage of total retail spending. Retailers’ brick and mortar strategies need to continue to evolve to attract customers into their stores, and to compete with online retailers opening their own physical outlets. Increasingly, we are seeing innovative marketing strategies, as well as new technologies such as smart shelves, robots, self-checkout, and interactive and virtual reality, being deployed in stores, as retailers strive to compete on all fronts.”

Why and Where they shop online

The number one reason that consumers said they shop online is for the convenience of shopping at any hour on any day (cited by 58% as a top reason). This is followed by having the ability to compare prices (54%), or to find online sales or better deals (46%). All age groups reported the same top three drivers. However, when it came to locating harder to find items, Baby Boomers reported having a higher motivation for shopping online (26% of Baby Boomers versus 20% for Gen X, 17% for Millennials, and 20% overall).
When asked what is most important when deciding where to buy an item online, consumers were most likely to buy from the website with the lowest price they could find (57%) followed by websites with enhanced delivery options (43%) or easy return policies (40%). There was a notable difference between generations when it came to the importance of being able to see online whether a product is in stock. Millennials were the least concerned about being able to see real-time product availability (cited as important by 28%) versus 36% of Gen Xers and 37% of Baby Boomers.

Earning Trust

When it came to earning trust, consumers said that protecting their data and information was most important (63 percent). Although Millennials were the generation least concerned about data protection, it still ranked high as a priority for earning their trust (cited by 56% of Millennials, 66% of Gen Xers and 71% of Baby Boomers).
Wallace notes: “While most companies are of course making a concerted effort to protect their customers’ personal information, frequent media reports on data breaches around the world continue to make consumers anxious and keep the issue top of mind.”

Keeping Consumers loyal

Excellent customer support was the number one loyalty-earning attribute, cited by 65% of the respondents. The second-most successful loyalty strategy was providing exclusive promotions and offers (cited by 45 percent), followed by loyalty or membership programmes (37%). These top three loyalty drivers were consistently effective across all generations, with Baby Boomers placing a higher importance on customer support (74%) than Gen Xers (66%) or Millennials (59%).
Taking a deeper look at the differences by generation, younger consumers tend to be more loyal to companies that offer personalised interactions (customised promotions, anticipation of needs, having a sense of community, one-on-one engagement in social media, online games and other interactive experiences, as well as concierge services).
Wallace notes: “The more traditional attributes like excellent consumer support, loyalty offers and membership programmes will remain important for all companies to consider as part of their mix. The challenge will be for companies to find ways to also offer more personalised services to satisfy Millennials who, in 10 years, will be the mainstream consumer. One-on-one engagement will become an expectation for the majority of the market.”

Rise of sharing Feedback online

Overall, 31% of the consumers responding to the KPMG survey said they shared a product review online. The Millennials were the most likely to post a review (34%) followed by Gen Xers (29%) and Baby boomers (28%). Furthermore, nearly all (92%) reported reviews were positive.
4Wallace observes: “The growing trend for consumers to post positive reviews is driven by factors including the rise of social media, where consumers subtly compete with their peers by publicly sharing their latest purchases and experiences, the rise of bloggers, whose business models are based on providing product reviews that drive affiliate clicks, and sellers, who proactively solicit ratings from happy customers.”
Consumers responding to the survey said they were most likely to post feedback directly to sellers’ websites (47%) followed by posts on Facebook (31%) then on a manufacturers or the brands websites (18%). This was consistent across all age groups, with Millennials also frequently posting on WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.
“The implication for companies is that user-generated reviews are being posted on sites that are increasingly out of their sphere of control or influence. Companies need to integrate these social media sites into their marketing and customer strategy,” Wallace concludes.

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