Walker Sands’ Communications recently released their 2014 Future of Retail Study titled “Reinventing Retail: What Businesses Need to Know for 2014“, and it provides some invaluable insight that can help small e-commerce retailers compete in today’s global marketplace.
For their survey, Walker Sands’ worked with a large variety of companies and surveyed 1,046 consumers across the United States about their spending this past year, and their preferences for future shopping in 2014. The purpose of the study is to gain a “comprehensive understanding of consumer shopping behaviors”, and considers online, in-store and mobile shopping preferences.
Their study reveals that 62% of the participants shop online at least once each month, and less than 1% never shop online. Trends show that there is still room for the online market to continue to grow, especially for books, consumer electronics and clothing.
While 95% of shoppers say they have purchased products from Amazon.com in the past year, only 40% say they would be okay buying anything the online giant sells. Consumers still aren’t comfortable purchasing luxury goods, food or groceries online.
Small e-commerce retailers may have difficulty competing with online mega-stores through price-matching, but there is a silver lining. Small e-commerce retailers who offer added value to consumers with free shipping and free returns, can still be competitive with massive online retailers.
Consumers are willing to spend more if they feel they are getting a value. In fact, 80% of respondents said they would be more likely to make an online purchase (and they would pay more) if free shipping is available. 66% said 1-day shipping would influence their buying decision.
Returns are important too, as 48% just said they wanted easier returns for online purchases and 64% say they would be more likely to buy if they are offered free returns and exchanges.
Free and fast delivery can be costly for e-commerce businesses, however, Walker Sands’ study suggests that it may be “well worth the investment if customers purchase as much more as they say they would”.
Online retailers can also stay competitive by interacting with their customers on social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. In fact, 80% of survey participants said they interact with brands on social media, with 55% saying they used Facebook, 21% use Twitter, and 10% use Pinterest. YouTube influenced at least 53% of consumers to make an online purchase as well.
The reasons people interact with brands is mainly for coupons and promotions (78%), but consumers also use social media to discover the latest products from brands (65%), get support (24%) and to see what other people are buying (19%).
What the study makes clear is that e-commerce retailers can compete in a global marketplace. Online merchants have an opportunity to increase their sales by offering value-added services such as free and fast shipping, free and easy returns and by interacting with their clients on social media.
Fewer add-on fees, and less complex processes will make your customers more comfortable to make an online purchase.