We’re over half way through 2023, and changes within the market are now occurring that will shape the way consumers shop this Christmas. Whether you’re a large retailer or a smaller seller, here are 5 of the leading consumer buying habits to consider – and how you can use them to plan for a profitable festive season.
1. The habit: Payment flexibility
Today’s online shoppers expect a variety of payment options to be available at checkout. These include PayPal, mobile-friendly options like Apple Pay, and even buy-now-pay-later credit platforms. Klarna is the most popular of these services in the UK, but there are others like Clearpay and Laybuy.
How to plan: Consider updating your website to support these extra payment options. Most can integrate with all major ecommerce platforms. If you don’t have the time or cashflow to implement lots of payment options at once, you can always add a ‘coming soon’ signpost to let shoppers know to check back again in future.
2. The habit: Hybrid shopping
Online shopping is slowing and instead a blend of digital and physical ‘hybrid’ shopping is taking its place. This includes buyers doing their research online and making purchases across both online and offline channels; ordering online to then click-and-collect in-store (click-and-collect was worth £42bn in 2022, 8.4% of the industry’s total income1) or trying things on in-store and making an online purchase later.
How to plan: Make it easy for consumers to shop in whatever way they prefer by offering a seamless hybrid experience. This could include in-store QR codes which, when scanned on mobile, bring up the product information. Or an online stock-checker that lets customers know whether they can go and buy in-store or click-and-collect to their local shop. Or even an app that allows consumers to ‘try on’ clothes virtually at home through their phone camera and AR (Augmented Reality).
3. The habit: 24/7 customer service
Because of the always-on nature of the internet, customers now want to be able to get in touch with your business any time of day, any day of the week. So a traditional customer service approach, like a weekday 9am-5pm manned phone line, may no longer cut it. If a shopper can’t ask a question or chase up an order when they want to, you may lose out on sales.
How to plan: You don’t need to have a customer service team waiting by the phone all hours of the day and night. New AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology, such as chatbots on your website that can respond to customer prompts, can help you offer round-the-clock support. The bots are able to provide accurate answers and solve problems, and the simpler versions can be very cost-effective – particularly when compared to the cost of helpdesk staff.
4. The habit: A focus on value
We all know that the cost-of-living crisis is adding pressure to household finances, and so it’s no wonder that consumers are seeking value for money wherever they can. But though it’s tempting to offer heavy discounts to attract these buyers, business costs are also being squeezed.
How to plan: Don’t eat straight into your product profit margins, and instead offer value through low-cost or even free deliveries and returns. But ‘value for money’ also means different things to different people. Which means you may see more success putting emphasis on the amazing quality of your products and materials; or the fact you use UK manufacturing; or how sustainable and ethical your products and supply chain are. Share these stories on your website and social media.
5. The habit: Shipping transparency
Nothing is more frustrating than placing and order and discovering it’ll take much longer to arrive than you thought. Consumers want to know how long their shipping will really take, including any delays. 69% of people are less likely to shop with a retailer in the future if their delivery doesn’t arrive within two days of the promised date. And 86% say their expectations for on-time delivery are higher during the festive season.2
How to plan: To boost customer loyalty, offer clear and realistic delivery times which you communicate on your website and are confident you and your delivery partner can fulfil. To keep on top of delays, use technology to provide customers with accurate shipping information that updates as close to real-time as possible. And keep an eye on the Quality of Service levels of your logistics partner to understand whether they’re delivering on what they’ve promised!
From ensuring your online and offline sales experiences seamlessly integrate, to offering always-on customer service, retailers can see great results this Christmas by planning ahead to get in front of changing consumer habits.
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