Great(er) Expectations: Meeting E-Commerce Consumer Demands

Consumers prioritize convenience, experience, and quality when making online purchases, according to an annual e-commerce study conducted by third-party logistics provider Dotcom Distribution. Data from more than 1,400 online shoppers indicates a shift from previous years, when consumers placed higher value on gift-like packaging and fast delivery.

Results also demonstrate a change in how consumers view brick-and-mortar, and that age plays a significant role in preferences.

Among the key findings:

Free outranks fast. Ninety percent of consumers highly value free returns when making online purchases; 91 percent say free shipping influences future purchases. Giveaways also positively influence consumers’ future purchases. These factors outrank faster delivery times.

Shipping expectations rise, but not on the customers’ dime. With 44 percent of respondents doing most of their online shopping on Amazon, same-day shipping’s popularity is unsurprising. But while same-day delivery trials rose 19 percent since 2017 (42 percent vs. 23 percent), consumers are more interested in free shipping and on-time delivery. Only 25 percent of 2018 respondents would pay extra for faster shipping—in sharp contrast to the 47 percent who’d have paid up to $9 more for faster delivery in 2016.

What’s inside counts…if it’s of value. In 2015 and 2016, unboxing was a key component in the e-commerce experience. Today, fancy ribbons and scented boxes take a back seat to value-added freebies; giveaways rank third on the list of what would motivate respondents to recommend a brand; 23 percent are more likely than not (43 percent) to buy again from brands that include a free giveaway in their order.

Omnichannel is omnipresent. Consumers buy more online now than ever, but a physical presence is still vital in the retail business model, and shoppers are drawing a stronger connection between the two. Thirty-two percent prefer buying online vs. in-store, yet 74 percent are more likely to make a purchase if they can return/exchange in-store. When asked how brands can encourage future purchases, 31 percent say "buy online, return in store"—ranking fourth of 10 choices.

Age dictates expectations and preferences. 2018 data suggests e-commerce expectations depend on age. Younger buyers prioritize convenience (flexibility of returning in-store, faster delivery). Older consumers want value (low-cost or free shipping, free returns).

Clothing, tech, beauty remain on top. For the third consecutive year, items purchased most online are clothing/apparel (77 percent), consumer electronics/technology (52 percent) and beauty products (41 percent). What consumers are purchasing online isn’t fluctuating; however, while clothing/apparel also tops the list of items respondents prefer to purchase in-store (58 percent), consumer electronics and beauty products drop to eighth and sixth, respectively.

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