Commentary

Brands Must Provide The Whole Magillah

According to a new BrandShop study, Ecommerce, as a segment of the retail industry, is thriving, and brands must offer near-perfect shopping experiences to meet the needs of their customers. The modern consumer desires authentic experiences and the ability to make purchases directly on a brand’s digital marketplace, through various channels and from desktop to mobile.

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For brands and retailers content, design, transaction and fulfillment capabilities must all come together to provide a genuine and engaging shopping experience.

Considering that over 78% of the U.S. population over the age of 15 make online purchases, the survey targeted a general audience with a wide range of participants. Consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 were surveyed throughout the U.S., across all income levels, with a total of 1,055 respondents completing the survey. Statistically, the results yield a 95% confidence level with a +/- 3% margin of error.

Key findings from the study highlight some of the critical aspects of an ideal consumer-brand digital shopping experience, says the report:

  1. Consumers are looking to transact, not only engage with a brand. Brands must empower their customers with the ability to transact directly on its digital channels, providing consumers with an authentic, branded experience.
  2. While most purchases take place over third party channels, it is now understood that consumers prefer to buy directly from a brand if given the option. The confidence and authenticity a consumer experiences from transacting directly with a brand is not easily replicated by third parties.
  3. During the consumer shopping cycle, the most essential step is research. Brand content and relevant information give consumers the confidence to purchase right then and there, without having to leave the site.
  4. There is a huge gap between consumer expectations and the current reality. There is only a short list of brands that enable direct transaction through active engagement, content, information, transaction and fulfillment.

Fueled by the growth of the Internet and the modern digital consumer, e-commerce has become a global market. According to estimates released by the U.S. Commerce Department, 2014 U.S. web sales were up 15.4% from 2013, marking the fifth consecutive year of growth close to or above 15%. It is currently a 300 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone and shows no signs of slowing down over the next few years, says the report.

The modern on-the-go consumer demands a seamless brand experience across all channels. According to a recent study by Criteo, mobile shopping now accounts for over 30% of all global e-commerce sales. In the top quartile of retailers, this figure is at a staggering 47%. Having a mobile-friendly website no longer gives a company the competitive advantage that it once did; it is now a necessity for doing business online, says the report.

Digital content has also started to play a much larger role in the online shopping experience. Keeping in mind that today’s consumer can tap into a wealth of content before making a purchase, brands have the opportunity to create better digital experiences that are laced with informative, quality content. Catering to the demanding, always-on consumer is the new norm, and whether a brand embraces it or not will make all the difference in market share, says the report.

Over 71% of respondents shop online at least several times a month. Online shopping has become a new norm for the majority of consumers. The growth and optimization of mobile will play a significant role in the continued evolution of e-commerce for both brands and retailers.

96% of all respondents feel research is a crucial step in the shopping experience. It is imperative for brands and retailers to provide accurate and relevant information about their full line of product offerings. Customer confidence is synonymous with conversion and brand loyalty.

58% of respondents start their product search on Google, and 22% of respondents go directly a brand’s website. Surprisingly, third party retailers such as Amazon trailed behind with just 14% of respondents starting their product searches there, which makes brand websites the second most utilized channel for product discovery and research.

 An overwhelming 82% of respondents expect to be able to complete a purchase directly from a brand’s digital marketplace, proving that engagement alone is not enough. Brands must enable transaction, and transform their sites into brand marketplaces to seamlessly and directly connect with consumers, says the report.

88% of those surveyed prefer to purchase directly from a brand if given the choice. Considering only 37% of respondents make purchases directly from the brand’s website, there is a huge disparity between the current reality and the consumer’s preference.

Only 18% of respondents are highly satisfied with their branded shopping experience online. Nearly 10% of all respondents were dissatisfied with the experience and the remaining 72% felt they were somewhat satisfied.

When it comes to determining a site’s legitimacy, the quantity, quality, depth and presentation of information provided were key factors for shoppers. A brand’s website should be informative, content rich and transparent to pass the initial “sniff test” before consumers consider making a purchase through the site.

Brands are held accountable regardless of where the transaction took place. While most online purchases are made over a third party retail channel such as Amazon, more than half of the respondents hold the brand responsible for any shortcomings. In light of this finding, reclaiming ownership of a brand’s end-to-end experience and its identity remain crucial to its success.

The report asks, “… how are these findings correlated and what does it all mean?”

 Just over a third of respondents buy directly from a brand, yet 82% expect to have the option and an astonishing 88% would buy if given that option. Consumers transact with third parties out of necessity, not preference - they do so because their options are limited. This is the most critical finding for brands, notes the report.

Enabling transactions are a great way to start, but consumer engagement doesn't stop there, says the report... 71% of those surveyed shop online regularly, at least several times a month and much more frequently in some cases, yet only 18% are highly satisfied with their shopping experience.

Improving the experience requires a clear understanding of consumer expectations and values. For instance, says the report, 97% of all respondents agree that research is an important part of the online shopping process, with more than half responding that it’s absolutely critical. As a result, it is crucial for brands to provide comprehensive information to assist in their research. The added confidence can make all the difference to consumer satisfaction, concludes the report.

The report concludes by noting that “… it was previously understood, qualitatively, that brands who only seek to engage with a consumer without providing the opportunity to transact was disappointing to consumers…” The BrandShop Consumer Survey shows that consumers are expecting to engage with and transact with a brand within the same experience and in one setting. This means that brands must enable their engagement platforms and supply chains for direct-to-consumer commerce in order to compete in the digital landscape.

For more information from BrandShop, please visit here.

 

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