The shopper experience has changed. Today’s consumer can order groceries from their phone, jump straight from a photo on social media to a product page, and page through a sea of reviews online or in the aisles when deciding between products.
All of this change creates new challenges for brands and retailers that are forced to contend with omnichannel consumers who shop seamlessly between online product pages, social media, and brick-and-mortar stores.
To better understand what consumers want from the shopper experience, we analyzed shopper behavior data from more than 2,600 client websites and surveyed more than 2,000 consumers in North America, Europe, and Australia about the shopping experiences they value. Then, for good measure, we surveyed more than 400 brands and retailers on their business priorities to determine where they’re meeting — or not living up to — consumer expectations.
Our Shopper Experience Index offers important takeaways for what shoppers really want in 2018 and beyond.
Mobile has reached a tipping point
In 2017, mobile reached a tipping point. More than 50% of online traffic occurred on mobile devices, with some product categories like consumer packaged goods (CPG) seeing more than 60% of traffic from mobile. After several years of hearing about the mobile revolution, 2017 is the first year on record that more than half of e-commerce traffic came from mobile instead of desktop devices.
Because of this, consumers have raised their standards for mobile user experience. 68% of consumers now say it is important for companies to have an easy-to-use mobile experience to browse, research, and buy.
Across the board, consumers say the mobile experience is a critical component of the online and in-store shopping experiences. 45% of in-store shoppers report reading reviews while in the aisles, according to the Pew Research Center. What’s more, eMarketer has found that nearly two-thirds of internet users buy products on mobile devices.
Consequently, brands and retailers are doubling down on their efforts to improve the mobile shopping experience and, in some cases, catch up with the industry. 96% of brands and retailers say an optimized mobile experience will be a key differentiator in the next 12 months, and 86% say that enhancing the mobile shopping experience will be a key priority for their company in the next year.
The bar is set high for mobile user experience. The biggest issues — speed and responsiveness — are critical to get right. Google has found that 53% of shoppers will abandon a mobile site if it “takes longer than three seconds to load.” Second, consumers today demand photos and videos on product pages and have a preference for features like location-based asserts, offers, and other digital experiences that are personalized to where they are and what they need.
The bottom line: With more than 50% of all page views to product pages now coming from mobile devices, the best brands and retailers are continuing to invest in building exceptional mobile experiences — and, in some cases, they’re catching up with consumer expectations.
Social is emerging as the third channel in the shopping experience
Over the past few years, social media has taken on an outsize role in building brand awareness, consideration, and even driving direct purchase. Social media is rapidly emerging as a third buying channel, taking its place beside physical stores and e-commerce, with shoppers switching seamlessly between all three.
In our survey, 47% of brands and retailers say being able to discover and buy products from social media channels will be more important to shoppers in the next year, and 23% say being able to discover and buy products on social media will be a significant differentiator in 2018. Moreover, 81% say that integrating social channels with e-commerce will be a priority.
One way that brands and retailers are integrating social media into e-commerce is by incorporating visual consumer-generated content into product pages and online shoppable photo galleries. Doing this offers s continuity of experience between social platforms and e-commerce sites, something that’s becoming more significant in today’s shopping experience.
In 2017, visual CGC saw a 55% year-over-year increase in conversion lift, and a 96% interaction rate amongst shoppers. Moreover, visual CGC now has the highest revenue per visitor (RPV) lift of all consumer content on our clients’ websites.
Brands and retailers have taken notice. Among those we surveyed, almost 60% now say that visual CGC is standard in e-commerce, and 87% say visual CGC leads to increased conversions. Added to that, 91% sat it fosters a more engaging shopping experience and 88% say it improves brand trust.
This is just one way that companies can better integrate social media and e-commerce. With the continued rise of influencers, paid media, and shoppable content, expect to see e-commerce and social media continue to become more intertwined.
The bottom line: Brands and retailers are already making a big push into what’s becoming the third shopping channel. Expect to see continued efforts to better integrate the social and shopping experiences in 2018.
Brands and retailers are prioritizing personalization over trendier tactics
Despite the buzz around virtual reality, chatbots, and smart fitting rooms in the shopping experience, brands and retailers say they’ll be prioritizing personalization and developing a better view of the shopper in the next year.
Take virtual reality, for instance: 61% of retailers report it’s of limited interest to shoppers, and two-thirds say they have no plans to invest in it this year. This is in line with consumer sentiment: 48% of shoppers say virtual reality isn’t important to them, and less than a third saying it’s something they’d like to have access to in-store.
It’s a similar story across chatbots and smart fitting rooms. 65% of shoppers say chatbots are not important in the shopping experience, and a similar number dismiss the usefulness of smart fitting rooms. Moreover, 40% of retailers say chatbots aren’t a focus, and only 20% say they’re focused on building out digital in-store experiences.
In short, don’t expect to see a dramatic shift in the in-store shopping experience this year. Instead, expect the industry to put a premium on improving personalization and developing a better view of their shoppers.
Personalization, in particular, is a central focus. 81% of brands and retailers say using consumer data and machine learning to make personalized recommendations on their websites is a focus in the coming 12 to 18 months. What’s more, 91% say that receiving personalized content, offers, and recommendations while shopping online will be a significant differentiator.
But to improve personalization, brands and retailers need better shopper data — and that comes from having a better view into their in-store and online customers. Almost across the board, brands and retailers say they are behind in collecting actionable shopper data. Just 3% of brands and retailers say they are excelling in acquiring — and using — third-party data, and 58% say they are behind in developing a single view of the shopper across all of their touchpoints.
The reason for this disconnect is, in large part, technological. Connecting legacy and new technology, as well as aligning siloed databases of customer data, is difficult.
But then comes the challenge of structuring shopper data to make it actionable. Just 22% of brands and retailers say they are currently using machine learning tools to comb through massive amounts of customer data, while 74% say they are behind in implementing such tools. This perhaps helps explain why less than 20% of consumers say product recommendations are relevant.
The bottom line: Personalization emerged as a top priority and investment for brands and retailers who want to improve the shopping experience.
The best brands and retailers are meeting shoppers where they are. As consumer demands shift and the shopping experience becomes more dynamic, brands and retailers are facing new challenges as they strive to meet customers where they are — on mobile, social, and in-store.
Today’s shopper toggles fluidly through buying channels, expecting a consistent and personalized experience across all brand and retailer properties. The best brands and retailers will orchestrate coherent experiences for shoppers on their own site, on channel sites, in physical stores, and in the third channel of social media.