Take a moment and think back to just 10 years ago – mobile commerce didn’t even exist. Five years ago a tablet was something most people wrote on with a ball-point pen. Simply put, technology has evolved and so have the expectations of consumers when ordering products online. Here are four areas consumers expect more from their eCommerce experience:
- Mobile commerce is now commonplace – Launching an eCommerce site is already an exhaustive task which can take months (if not years) of planning and execution. Although mobile still lags behind the personal computer in web sales, the smartphone adoption rate in the United States has soared to almost 50% of the population and the need for mobile support is essential. Just porting over or modifying a version of an eCommerce site for mobile use isn’t good enough anymore, consumers want a site built for mobile devices that’s low on bandwidth, easy to navigate, and makes checkout a breeze.
One of the major benefits of mobile commerce is convenience – consumers can shop wherever and whenever they want and a mobile site should keep the concept of convenience at the forefront throughout the entire implementation process.
Tablets continue to evolve and more will be loaded with fully-functional operating systems (such as Windows 8 above).
- Tablet commerce requires interaction – While mobile commerce is primarily focused on convenience, interaction is a huge focus of tablet commerce due to the larger screen (the iPad is more than twice as big as the iPhone). For such modern devices consumers expect a modern experience – sites should looks as if they are being viewed on a PC but have touch functionality and little reliance on applications such as Flash (especially since the iPad has a 73% share of the tablet market but does not support Flash). Usage of HTML5 is evolving and because of the unique and innovative experiences desired by consumers on tablets there is a huge industry demand for tablet and application programmers. Consumers want to touch, feel, and re-create the in-store experience with tablet devices and expectations will only continue to increase over time, especially when tablets are predicted to overtake laptop sales this decade.
- Social media impacts customer perception – While Facebook commerce hasn’t done as well as some online retailers may have hoped, there is still no denying the power social media has on the success of an eCommerce site throughout the entire purchasing cycle. With the use of social media, customers can either give products praise and the ever important referral or show their disdain for poor brand experiences. While the former is great and can lead to an increase in site conversions, the latter is what can spread into a viral epidemic and reach the furthest corners of the internet. Being attentive, responsive, and cooperative with customers on their desired media is not only for the most loyal customers, but also the first time buyers to avoid un-repairable financial and brand scrutiny. Social media is powerful simply because it’s where people go for trusted information in real-time – the Twitter search engine is one of the largest social search engines in the world as the social media platform continues to see double-digit growth in membership.
Consumers expect brand “experts” to help on the phone with difficult concerns; they can solve the easy stuff online.
- Legacy channels are all about personalization – Telephone customer care may not be an emerging technology such as mobile/tablet commerce and social media but consumer expectations around these mediums are still changing. What was once the facilitator of all inquiries, customer care via phone now requires more retailers to staff “expert” agents on the phone and through live chat who can communicate in the same product language as customers and deal with difficult concerns that consumers cannot solve online. Retailers are also expected to have access to real-time order information on the phone, which can be a complex logistical task to maintain. Even legacy forms of social communication such as message boards and product reviews are lower cost solutions to help inform consumers about products and services. By creating incentive systems for brand advocates retailers can not only strengthen their bond with loyal customers but also entice these customers to further educate and advocate their products to their peers.
As we move into a new era of eCommerce, the expectations of consumers are not only higher in technological aspects but also from the levels of mobility and personalization. While consumers value the ability to shop when and where they want, there is a growing desire to replicate the in-store experience and level of service through eCommerce and the internet as a whole. Retailers who understand their consumers and are able to make them feel as valued online as when they walk into a store will continue to succeed.