Consumer’s evolving digital shopping habits

by | Feb 27, 2018

Ask any parent of teenagers how hard it is to keep up with their teens’ ever-changing habits: favorite music and TV shows, favorite video games, and even their friends. All of that will change from week to week and even day to day, and the parents feel like they’re constantly running after their teenagers just to keep up with all these changes.

Now imagine you’re a retail brand, and your consumers are your “teenagers” with their ever-changing digital shopping habits: They want a local brick-and-mortar experience. Now they want an online experience. Now they want to buy on a mobile app. Now they want video reviews.

Now they want, now they want, now they want. Essentially they want it all, plus the cake and eating it, too.

For retailers to keep up, it’s not enough to just build a platform that matches the consumers’ habits, they need to have an organizational structure in place that’s broad enough and flexible enough to pivot with their consumers’ expectations. Customers are looking for a unified retail experience between mobile, online and real-world channels from their favorite brands, and they want great customer service to boot.

These are just a few of the changes in digital shopping habits we have seen over the last few years, as well as a few of the new changes we’re already starting to see.

  • The Amazon Effect has changed consumer expectations of product details, pricing, shipping, and product availability. People have figured out they can find things for less money when they shop on Amazon, they can get free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime, and if Amazon itself doesn’t have a product, the third-party marketplaces just might.
  • Mobile has become important to researching, browsing, and shopping. Sometimes consumers will do what’s called showrooming: browsing physical stores for the things they want, and then buying them on their mobile phones, often while they’re still in the store. Mobile has also opened up the door for “webrooming” – the reverse of showrooming, where they can find the item they want in a nearby store and drive there to buy it (or utilize “buy online pickup in store”).
  • Voice shopping is increasing, thanks to Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. Imagine being able to say “Alexa, order more coffee” or “Okay Google, order peanut butter and paper towels” and having those items show up a few days later.
  • Artificial intelligence is learning to make recommendations to consumers based on what they’ve purchased in the past, what their friends have bought, and what complete strangers have purchased based on other purchases. Amazon has found that 35% of their sales come from their recommendation engine.
  • Customers are fiercely loyal and become brand advocates once they find a company or a product they like. The Internet makes it easy to shop around and find new products and prices, but it also makes it easy to share their experiences via their social networks.
  • On the other hand, Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned. And they’ll burn up their social feeds with their unpleasant experiences. This can be a social media and PR nightmare, especially if the person in question is well-connected or the mistake was especially egregious.

All of these changes are happening so fast, it’s sometimes hard to keep up. Retailers that don’t want to deal with these developments are trying to stop the growth or slow down the changes. For example, some retailers were so unhappy with showrooming, they tried blocking mobile signals in their stores. What happened is that the showroomers just stopped going to those stores altogether.

If you want to keep up with your consumers, then you need to master the fundamentals: providing thorough product details and information, having photographs and visual content, having fast access to drop ship-capable suppliers, and the ability to find and add new products to your inventory in days, not months.

With all of this in place, you can fit everything into whatever system or technology your consumers decide they want now. You can adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape, because you’ve got the right content and system already in place; you only need to plug it into the new tools.

SPS Commerce can help retailers and vendors adjust and address consumers shifting digital shopping habits. To learn more, please visit our website at SPSCommerce.com or ask to speak with one of our specialists.

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Tony Thrasher

Tony Thrasher

Group Product Manager at SPS Commerce
As an expert in retail fulfillment, Tony offers a unique viewpoint on using the latest retail technologies, including the SPS Commerce Retail Network, RFID and more to drive innovation and growth. At SPS, he is responsible for using graph-based architecture to drive meaningful insights and expand the value of the SPS Commerce Platform to customers and partners.
Tony Thrasher

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