The conventional wisdom is that the popularity of online shopping all boils down to lower prices. But now that e-commerce giants like Amazon are able to offer extremely affordable products at prices that most small business simply can’t match, how can you compete?
Well it turns out that lower prices are really not that important. Surveys suggest that it’s actually pretty low on the list of reasons why people choose to shop online, so there are still plenty of ways for you to build a great online store that people will love to buy from.
Why Do People Shop Online?
E-commerce is inherently different from brick-and-mortar commerce. Both have their strengths and weaknesses and customers will always choose one or the other depending on circumstance. Rather than competing against brick-and-mortar stores, web stores need to be aware that they are primarily competing against other web stores.
Nevertheless, when a shopper chooses to go online, it’s because e-commerce can offer something that a brick-and-mortar store cannot. In order to identify exactly what people want from an online store, we need to begin by taking a closer look at the reasons why consumers choose to shop online.
- Convenience of shopping whenever – The number one reason people shop online is because of the convenience of shopping “whenever”. Today’s consumer is a busy person and e-commerce allows them to shop around their own schedule.
- Avoiding crowds – Another of the most commonly cited reasons why people shop online is to avoid the in-store crowds. With e-commerce, consumers can shop privately and don’t have to worry about time-wasters such as finding parking, waiting in line, etc.
Both of these motivating factors point to one thing: online shoppers want speed and convenience. Consumers want a store that they can navigate easily and quickly, so it’s important to keep your purchasing system stress-free and your checkout process streamlined. Shoppers concerned about time will be turned away by slow loading speeds and a poor user experience. Make sure you:
- Regularly perform “trial runs” to ensure that your web store is operating optimally and encourage customer feedback so that you can always be improving your customer experience.
Online shoppers are knowingly choosing convenience over instant gratification, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still shopping at the last minute. Make sure you:
- Offer a range of different shipping methods to ensure that even your most time-pressed customers won’t opt for the brick-and-mortar store.
You can also leverage your marketing around the demographics and online habits of your customers. With newsletters, social media and flash sales, you can plan your communications around the dates and times when your customers are most likely to make a purchase, such as paydays, holidays, lunch hours and evenings.
What People Want from an Online Store
- Free Shipping
After the convenience of shopping whenever, free shipping is the next most commonly cited reason people will shop at your web store. It isn’t cheap – it’s Amazon’s second largest expense after the cost of their products – but free shipping will win you some loyal customers and having a minimum purchase size can encourage shoppers to fill their baskets.
- Simple Search Tools
E-commerce has made it much easier for consumers to locate exactly what they’re looking for. Make your inventory easily searchable and consider adding features such as recommended products to help people narrow down their searches. Also consider increasing your inventory. Website analytics, such as what keywords are driving visitors to your site and what they’re searching for once they’re there, can help you to identify which products you should stock. Wider selection is one of the reasons why people choose to shop online.
- Price Comparison
It’s not just bargain hunters – 81% of consumers regularly compare the prices among several different web stores before committing to a purchase. To win over your visitors, you should present all the information they may be looking for, such as price and availability, early in the buying cycle so that you don’t encourage them to go somewhere else. This is also a good opportunity to advertise sales and free shipping options.
- Customer Reviews
Never underestimate the power of customer reviews. 79% of online shoppers in the UK stated that they trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. In order to win over customers, there are few things as effective at instilling trust as positive reviews from past customers. Encourage shoppers to rate and review your products and services and display the reviews prominently. You can also leverage social media “Likes” and followers to help instill trust.
Online merchants who focus their competitive strategy on lower prices will be unhappy with their results. When shopping online, consumers are interested in comfort, convenience, and a good customer experience. Web stores will never completely replace brick-and-mortar stores, but if you focus on the unique strengths of e-commerce and compete intelligently against other online merchants by making sure your customers are happy from their first visit to your site through to when their package arrives, success will be in your hands.