Understanding Online Consumer Behaviors for a Better Customer Journey

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There’s been a rapid evolution in online consumer behavior. 

This evolution is the byproduct of drastic changes in ecommerce as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Launching ecommerce in the future far beyond any reasonable or predictable expectations, COVID-19 triggered a new age of retail. 

This new age of retail is marked by the transition of the customer buying experience from brick-and-mortar shopping to online shopping. And it occurred much more quickly and on a much larger scale than ever anticipated.

To be successful, ecommerce companies need to understand new trends in consumer shopping behavior stimulated by the pandemic. What drives customers is different than it was. Thinking through the entire end-to-end ecommerce shopping experience, what are consumers expecting now? Moreover, what can retailers do to meet new expectations brought on by this rapid and drastic shift in ecommerce? 

Before examining new trends in ecommerce and how to meet consumer demand, it’s important to understand online consumer behavior.

What is online consumer behavior?

Online consumer behavior is the process of how consumers make decisions to purchase products in ecommerce. 

The behaviors themselves — such as identifying a problem or deciding to make a purchase — are based on ever-evolving expectations and needs. And while needs look different for every shopper, the new expectations that currently drive online consumer behavior are entrenched in commonality. 

Expectations like product availability, delivery transparency, affordable shipping, and more recently, a convenient buying journey all affect how consumers make decisions to buy items online (and whether or not they’ll remain loyal customers once they’ve made a purchase). 

How COVID-19 transformed online shopping behavior

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a remarkable and unprecedented shift occurred in ecommerce. Many brick-and-mortar stores were forced to close, and consumers were placed under stay-at-home orders. 

Subsequently, consumers placed exceptional and unpredictable demand on the ecommerce marketplace to provide the products they previously purchased in person. In 2020, 84% of consumers shopped online more than before. 

Initially, online stores struggled to meet this incredible demand. Products sold out at record pace, stock dwindled or disappeared altogether, and fast shipping and delivery lagged. 

Eventually, ecommerce stores began to fall into step with this new, heightened demand. But along with that heightened demand for products, there was also a transformation in consumer expectations for what the online shopping experience should include. 

These new expectations created different trends in online consumer behaviors. Even as brick-and-mortar stores began to reopen their doors, a large majority of consumers continued to utilize ecommerce to make purchases. 

Consumers discovered positive components to online shopping that they enjoyed that weren’t available in the traditional offline shopping experience. These positive online shopping experiences further encouraged new trends in consumer behaviors to take a steadfast hold. 

So what new behavior and shopping trends have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

A recent research study by Linnworks identified five significant ecommerce trends that help drive online consumer behavior. And while these trends materialize at various points in the customer buying journey, they all have one constituent in common — convenience. 

The key to success in ecommerce is understanding these new trends and adopting business strategies to meet the current expectations of a convenient buying journey.

1. Convenience is a top priority.

According to Linnworks’ study, 76% of consumers value convenience as one of their top priorities. (And 78% of consumers now value convenience more than they did before COVID restrictions.) 

One of the primary things consumers find convenient is the ability to browse an online store and check out as a guest. In addition, the fewer forms consumers have to complete — the more convenient and better they find their overall customer buying journey (and the more likely they are to return). 

2. Easy access across all devices

81% of online shoppers seek a seamless transfer between devices throughout a buying journey. In fact, the expectation is now that consumers can begin a buying journey on one device, such as a desktop, and end on another, like their mobile device — without interruption. 

This cross-device experience is also expected to include checkouts with personal details already completed on whichever device customers finalize their buying journey (even if they filled in these details on a different device). 

3. Access to omnichannel shopping

With access to multiple technology options, consumers are engaged in an ‘always-on’ shopping experience. 70% of consumers now shop while multitasking (for example, while scrolling social media platforms). And they’ve come to expect that their favorite brands are on the same channels where they spend the majority of their time. 

This maximizes convenience by ensuring they never have to leave their favorite and trusted platforms during the buying process. For retailers, this includes implementing an omnichannel model by focusing on various marketplaces where consumers spend their time and, more specifically, selling on social channels such as Facebook and Instagram.

4. Effortless payment

When retailers are considering tips to keep up with consumer expectations and behaviors, it’s essential to focus on every aspect of the customer experience. 

Consumers seek convenience throughout the entire buying journey. As as part of that end-to-end buying convenience, they look to discover ecommerce online shops that have easy-to-setup payment gateways that also accept popular payment methods — such as “buy now, pay later.” 

The simplicity of payment options drives 89% of consumers to make purchasing decisions more quickly. And 84% of consumers purchase larger ticket items with offered effortless and flexible payment options.

5. Fast and reliable delivery

95% of consumers feel that fast delivery options are a must-have factor when shopping online. That’s why ShipBob offers fast 2-day shipping and has a dispersed network of logistics centers to split inventory across to help reduce shipping costs, speed up delivery times, and meet customer expectations. 

Shipping transparency is also highly expected of online retailers. In fact, 72% of consumers have abandoned their purchases over a lack of shipping transparency on ecommerce sites.

How to meet modern online shopping expectations

The key to success for retailing in ecommerce is understanding the evolving and complex trends set forth by consumers. For retailers, meeting and exceeding customer expectations defined by ever-evolving online shopping trends are antecedents to creating the best customer journey possible.

So how can ecommerce retailers keep up with the drastic changes and demands catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Sell across multiple platforms

Retailers aren’t going to find success online unless they meet consumers where they are. And in today’s marketplace, that means selling across multiple ecommerce platforms. 

According to these worldwide ecommerce statistics by Statista, in 2020, online marketplaces accounted for the largest share of global online purchases. And while necessary, it can be difficult to manage sales and inventory when selling on multiple sites. 

Using a system such as Linnworks Multichannel Listing Software will connect, manage, and automate commerce operations. A system like this allows retailers to meet consumers wherever they shop, providing convenience and capitalizing on as many revenue opportunities as possible. 

Provide faster shipping

With the rise of ecommerce conglomerates, like Amazon, able to ship items quickly, consumers have come to expect transparent and convenient expedited shipping options from all of their online retail shops. Plainly stated, consumers want their products quickly and cheaply. And they’re willing to prioritize retailers who can make these expectations a reality. 

In 2021 and beyond, it’s essential to offer customers the fastest shipping possible. As a global logistics platform, ShipBob works to make that a reality with distributed warehouses and logistics automation. ShipBob’s fulfillment solution allows retailers to meet fast shipping demands consistently to help establish customer trust and increase customer satisfaction.

Offer a simple return process

The customer journey doesn’t end when a purchase is made. To keep customers loyal after they check out, post-purchase services and interactions need to be as frictionless as possible. 

This means offering a simple and convenient return process. ShipBob allows customers to generate return shipping labels and track returns all from one dashboard. An all-inclusive system such as this also enables returns items to be processed and put back into available inventory as efficiently and as seamlessly as possible.

Create a personalized buying experience

Consumers want to conveniently see recommended products that fit their specific needs or solve a problem they’re experiencing — without having to dig deep. 

To do this, marketers need to create a targeted and personalized buying experience based on data from search, viewed, and purchase history. Demographic data like location and email can also help determine customer needs or problems they need help solving. A cross channel marketing platform can make this a scalable, automated process.

Then, this data collected should be analyzed and applied to create the most customized online shopping experience possible that meets the customer’s needs or solves the problem.

Upgrade the mobile shopping experience

According to Statista, consumers spent 31% of digital ecommerce dollars on mobile devices. That amounts to 47.8 billion US dollars. Recent online behavior statistics like that can’t be ignored. 

Retailers need to ensure that their mobile channels — both websites and apps — rival that of the traditional desktop experience. The mobile shopping experience should offer convenience by the ease of use. And it should include frictionless touchpoints and positive micro-interactions throughout the buyer’s journey.

Include easy-to-locate product reviews

Consumers want to know the quality of what they’re purchasing, and they don’t want to look far to find out. 38% of consumers feel online reviews are critical when deciding whether or not to make a purchase. (Age also plays a vital role in review expectations, with younger age groups expecting more reviews than older ones.) 

Retailers should display online reviews in easy-to-find locations for as many products as possible. The less searching a customer has to do, the better. If consumers have trouble finding reviews, they’re more likely to move on to another retail site where they can conveniently read reviews before making a purchase.

Offer flexible payment options

If the buying journey’s final steps are complicated and inconvenient, consumers will likely skip making a purchase altogether. In fact, 9 in 10 of respondents surveyed by Linnworks replied they expect flexible payment options when checking out of online shops. 

To meet this expectation, retailers need to offer ”buy now, pay later” options and guest checkouts to make this component of the customer buying journey as convenient as possible.

Get more online consumer shopping insights

Keeping up with online consumer behaviors is an integral part of ecommerce success. Retailers need to understand consumer shopping behavior trends to expand their number of customers, keep customers loyal, and increase revenue. 

To find out more about the recent ecommerce shopping trends generated by the Covid-19 pandemic, read Linnworks’ latest consumer research whitepaper, “The Effortless Economy,” here.

Online consumer behavior FAQs

Are you looking to understand more about customer behavior? Below are some answers to the top questions related to online consumer behavior.

Why are online consumer behaviors important?

Online consumer behaviors are essential because it’s the process by which consumers make decisions about purchasing products. Understanding what drives consumers — their expectations, needs, and influences — allows retailers to develop strategies to increase their customer base and revenue.

How does online shopping affect consumers?

Online shopping affects consumers by offering them a level of convenience like no other experience. The digital age of retail has created an ‘always on’ shopping experience where consumers are almost always open to shopping and finding new products. Online shopping provides consumers with the ability to shop whenever, wherever they want across multiple channels, on various platforms, and devices. 

How does fast shipping affect online consumer behaviors?

Offering fast shipping is an integral part of creating a convenient and better customer experience. Fast, transparent shipping and delivery now drive consumers to complete purchases from online stores. Rather than just a “perk,” fast shipping is expected and necessary for success in ecommerce (and if done consistently, it keeps customers coming back).

How has COVID-19 affected online consumer behaviors?

Initially, COVID019 affected online consumer behavior because ecommerce was essential to making purchases that consumers typically made in person. After the dust began to settle, a new age of retail emerged. Consumers continued to enjoy and even prefer the convenience of an online shopping journey to that of the brick-and-mortar experience. 

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Written By:

Megan Wenzl is the SEO Content Manager at Linnworks, a total commerce solution that connects, manages and automates commerce operations. Megan enjoys creating useful, informative stories to help businesses succeed. When not writing, Megan enjoys spending time with her family. 

Read all posts written by Megan Wenzl