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The online retail market is a competitive place, but despite the challenging economic times shoppers aren’t spending less, they are just spending differently.
According to figures from IMRG, conversion rates from visitors to sales for online retailing in May 2013 rose by 20% when compared to the same month in 2012.
However, while overall sales and conversion rates may be on the up, the average basket size has actually fallen to £77 from £83 in 2012, indicating a change in consumer behaviours.
These figures highlight how, whether they are shopping on their laptop, tablet, or smartphone, shoppers have become increasingly nomadic in their online shopping behaviour and focused on the hunt for a bargain.
Once they find the right deal, they are more likely to commit to the purchase. Ultimately, this boosts sales and conversion rates while reducing basket size, but it can also encourage retailers to compete solely on price, which is a dangerous game to play and can ultimately put profit margins at risk.
Making online more personal
The key to attracting consumers, beyond just a race to the bottom on price, is to offer them a personalised and human experience with the brand.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a big brand or a boutique retailer, there is a wealth of opportunity out there to engage consumers on more than just price.
By presenting customers with personalised offers and product recommendations, or offering access to customer services through click-to-call and instant messaging services, the ability for retailers to give their customers a personal experience online is integral not just making the sale, but retaining that customer too.
For example, Orange offers consumers assistance on its retail site via instant messaging, whether they are existing or prospective customers.
By offering a personal and more human interaction, retailers can create an experience online, or on mobile, that is more akin to the customer service they would deliver in-store, allowing retailers to attract and retain more loyal customers through their online platforms.
Connecting online and in-store
Digital and mobile technologies can also help to enhance consumers’ experience within the retailer’s physical store.
Believe it or not, many retailers are still only offering online customers traditional delivery options, when they should be offering ‘click and collect’ or ‘deliver to store’ services that allow consumers to order their items online and pick up in store.
This not only restricts the customer to having to wait around for the product to arrive, but also means the retailer is missing out on an opportunity to engage and potentially up-sell the customer in-store.
F&F Clothing at Tesco, for example, now offers the ability to collect online purchases from over 1,500 of its stores, allowing its customers to make their purchase decision online whilst still having the flexibility to pick up their products, and possibly something else, in store the next day.
Despite its obvious success, some multichannel retailers have yet to offer the service. A recent study found that half of the UK's top 50 online retailers don't offer reserve and collect.
Q: Did you reserve any items online for in-store collection this Christmas? (1,000 UK respondents)
Turning the nomad into a loyal customer
It might be tough to attract loyal customers online, but it’s certainly not impossible. With a more personal touch and by encouraging customers into physical stores, retailers can give themselves the opportunity to engage these increasingly nomadic online consumers.
The benefit of which is not just additional sales, but also the opportunity to foster a stronger relationship with those customers, making them more likely to return to the retailer again and again.
Ultimately, offering a more personal and human ecommerce experience gives retailers the opportunity to turn the nomadic online consumer into a loyal customer.