If you’re like me, you’ve been an online shopping enthusiast for over a decade. Who doesn’t like sitting next to a fire with a good laptop, a credit card and a cup of hot cider buying gifts that show up conveniently at your door; next in line for the over-the-top wrapping job that makes the people on your list think you drove all over the country picking just the right gift? And if you forget someone mid-December? No worries – Amazon Prime will deliver to the intended’s doorstep well ahead of reindeer hoofs on the rooftop. It’s empowering as a consumer to have the world’s most unique and promotionally priced goods at your disposal this time of year. But seller beware! Online shoppers are more educated than ever, and more demanding than ever when it comes to buying.

Gone in a Click

The original attraction to online shopping was that it was fun and convenient. The holidays are hectic. And if you’re a student or a parent plus a full-time employee and yuletide party hopper, shopping online was a godsend. After a few years, we all got pretty good at timing our purchases so they arrived on time and met free shipping requirements. Then, we became a community of procrastinators when we could take advantage of next-day and same-day shipping. Now, we know how to find coupons, source marketplaces, use points, and watch our social media apps for the products we want at the best prices. In short, we’ve got online shopping and we’re not afraid to use it. And therein lies the problem for retailers whose sites don’t provide a positive customer experience. In about a millisecond, a shopper can abandon a site and make their purchases elsewhere.

Making the Emotional Connection

Though brick and mortar shoppers still can and will leave a store that doesn’t have what they want, it’s a little harder. Sometimes a bird in the hand – even if it’s not exactly what the buyer wanted – is better than putting tired, cranky kids back in the car, heading into a traffic jam or a shoulder-to-shoulder shopping mall to try their luck at another shop. When you’re in brick and mortar land, there’s a stronger emotional reason to settle for what’s in your cart. In a Forrester blog article, Analyst Victor Milligan talked about the human emotion side of online shopping. According to Forrester, their empowered customer research reveals that 40% of consumers have a high willingness and ability to shift spend rapidly upon a poor experience. A poor experience can be any number of things online from inaccurate filtering results, misleading promotional advertising, not enough product information, etc. Retailers that create a more positive user experience reap the rewards – including premium pricing and deeper customer loyalty.

Aligning Content and Commerce Can Help

One way to address the online shopping demands of Mrs. Claus and Mr. Scrooge alike is to get to know them, and give them what they want. Improvements to the customer experience can be made by focusing on content and commerce individually, and as a unified platform for modern ecommerce. In fact, our Forrester consulting commissioned study showed that online retailers who brought content more fully into their shopping experiences helped drive a number of business benefits, including lifts in sales metrics like customer lifetime value, average order value, and upsell / cross-sell. The use of engaging and interactive content such as video can help consumers visualize products for themselves or as gifts. As part of a content + commerce platform approach, customer insights can be used to determine what’s working and what’s not. The use of personalization and machine learning technology can put the shopper’s needs first, rather than serving up a catalog of unwanted products. With an agile commerce platform powering the back-end of a rich content system, integration with 3rd party solutions for marketing automation, campaigns, and site analytics can help digital commerce teams track and tweak their site’s performance. There is no shortage of technology available to create more emotionally engaging customer experiences for online shoppers. Shopping online makes life easier for consumers, but BAH HUMBUG! to online sites that don’t make it as fun and interesting as it was in the beginning.
(Image by Jim, the Photographer, CC BY 2.0)

margaret-profileMargaret Rea
Margaret Rea is the Head of US Marketing at commercetools. A multidisciplinary marketing professional, she has spent more than 15 years marketing computing devices, the networks that connect them, and the platforms that make them shoppable.