by Tom Primrose, Brand Strategist, Curious London
When Amazon opened as an online bookseller back in the summer of 1995 it was the beginning of the end of the high street as we know it. While we didn’t know it then, and there was a further decade before online retail really began to prove itself as a threat, the concept of buying products online cheaper and with more convenience was born.
Physical retailers have been fighting digital ever since, but bricks and mortar stores have always had the edge over the internet for their ability to conjure up emotional connections, using everything from interior design, friendly floor staff and the opportunity to touch and feel products in their quest to connect with customers.
Meanwhile brands – and online retailers – have approached the marketing of their digital presence differently, assuming those important emotion-driven associations are impossible to replicate when they are a faceless entity on a computer or smartphone screen.
But online shopping is ramping up faster than ever thanks to lockdown which means competition between brands is even stronger and finding an edge is the difference between success and failure.
We recently teamed up with YouGov to conduct a study into The Hybrid Consumer, aiming to discover exactly how people’s on and offline habits will change for the long term and, being a creative brand strategy agency, we were keen to find out their thoughts about online retail platforms.
What we discovered was an appetite across the board to keep some elements of the digital life that the pandemic introduced. The vast majority of people will continue to bank (35%) and shop (36%) online while 13% will continue to access healthcare online. Interestingly, 19% of people will continue an element of their socialising online, highlighting the extent to which the pandemic has changed our relationship with digital technology.
However, one stand out statistic was that only 3% fewer people aged 55 and over will continue to shop online than those aged 25-34, showing brands do not need to work harder to attract older online shoppers but must understand what they want from their digital experience.
And people’s expectations of their digital experience are changing. A staggering one third of our respondents said they have not followed through with an online purchase in the past year due to a bad experience, with this figure jumping to 46% when looking across a lifetime. It seems astonishing that a brand could successfully navigate a customer through the entire marketing funnel, only to fall at the final hurdle and have them abandon a populated basket because the website was so poor.
That said, only 40% of digital natives – that is people aged 18-24 – reported a negative online experience in the last 12 months, suggesting either they are more confident online, or designers are making more effort with the UX of sites aimed at younger generations because they recognise the enhanced expectations.
At a time when consumers’ have spent more than a year living largely online – shopping, socialising and working – their reliance on technology is greater than ever before. Marketers now need to cater to these broad audiences of online shoppers with a digital offering that puts the shopper at the heart of the experience. The focus for retailers needs to be functionality, ease of use and visual distinction – getting these elements right will earn significant rewards with shoppers, endearing them to a website or app and seeing them not only complete their purchases but return again and again.