Article

Tim Pike
Tim Pike 18 January 2016
Categories Content, Mobile, Technology

Online Consumer Expectations For 2016

Some current trends resulting in the heightened expectations of today's online consumer that all e-commerce brands need to address.

The Ebola outbreak, the Scots denied independence, Tesco’s business model starting to unravel, and an Oklahoman man was arrested after giving his father a ‘wedgie’ so severe that he died from suffocating in his underwear. What do all these events have in common?

These were all ‘big moments’ in 2014. Some events clearly bigger than others. But why am I talking about 2014, you ask?

Well, it just so happens that back then, we wrote on a similar subject to this very blog post, titled “What do UK customers expect from fashion retailers?” which turned out to be a hit with our regular readers, so I thought it was time to revisit the theme for a 2016 revision.

In 2014, it was seen that consumers’ expectations of brands rose by 30% as technology advances and e-commerce became more accessible and saturated. However within the same year, it was noted that there was a 6% increase in brands’ ability to meet said expectations, which sounded a little concerning back in 2014.

I’ve discussed the main factors below that have resulted in the heightened expectations of today’s online consumer, that all e-commerce brands should be addressing:

1.Mobile

It’s not fresh news that in retail, customer journeys (both offline/online) are not straight forward and in many cases, both can be extremely complex. It’s now common for today’s consumer to use cross-platform devices in order to research, enquire, and book a product or service, whether that’s simultaneously across TV, desktop/laptop/tablet and mobile.

With the surge of users using mobile to research for products/services (often within the Micro-moment), this has only accelerated expectations for mobile sites.

The number of global users from mobile have taken over the volume of global users opposed to desktop, as illustrated in the graph below:


Source: Morgan Stanley Research

Tom Etherington pointed out in his Micro-moments post on the Silverbean blog in Spring 2015, that it’s key your mobile site is optimised and content is relevant to pick up these real-time, intent driven searches so your product or service can be researched quickly & deemed useful by a visitor. You may find that if your product/service is particularly a considered purchase, the visitor will make a note to contact you if interested in the future through a more trusted device or when they have a little more time to make their actual purchase decision, as they move further down the buyer funnel.

In order to keep up with the rising expectations around mobile, it’s key to build a nice looking, easy navigational mobile site that screams trust and can be used easily.

So many retailers often forget the essence of mobile browsing – its nature is ‘on the go’ – and have their users jumping through hoops and following endless links to get the information they need.

Mobile sites that have really caught our attention this year, for good reason, are: Fortnum & Mason, ScS, ASOS, & DPD:


If I start naming and shaming some of the culprits who are providing a bad user experience, I need to look at my personal experience first. Bad experiences on mobile sites that I have encountered recently are Argos (don’t get me started about my struggle to buy Christmas lights in mid-December!) and Topshop, which the girls in the office mutually agree is “mostly OK” but noted the mobile website scrolls too slowly and the buttons are too small.

In addition, I’d also not advise purchasing any fancy crystals from the Swarovski mobile site and tracking the order via UKMail on your mobile device. Both are currently a UX nightmare!

As you can imagine, it’s key that your mobile and desktop site are continuously worked on to improve usability and functionality.

Consumer expectation related to mobile support is always growing, with many influencers suggesting there will be improvements in mobile payment provider support. James Abbott, Director of Digital Strategy and Optimisation at A Hume notes in Econsultancy that he would like to see Apple Pay or PayPal launch a mobile app that would offer less friction and barriers to purchase.

He further notes that the input process for billing details and shipping address can be handled more efficiently using enabled pin code verification/fingerprint scan authorisation for online purchases.

While I feel this technology might be a year or two away, it’s clear that many companies are being pushed to provide more mobile friendly technology that promotes convenience to help manage online consumer behaviour and help create a more fluid customer journey. After all, fewer barriers like these would undoubtedly result in easier conversions for online retailers.

2.Delivery

In this day and age, delivery is becoming more aligned with convenience and technology than ever, with next day delivery until 10pm in some cases, click and collect, as well as speedy returns. The difference between this year and last is that many consumers do not expect to pay over the odds for these premium services and consumers don’t want any complications. With the expectation of delivery so high, even UPS are advising retailers to fine tune supply chains for maximum efficiency and integration.

Examples of speedy delivery include Amazon Prime Now or Shutl, (you can have a parcel delivered within 2 hours of ordering) that now exist for online consumers in the UK. In addition, same day delivery services being more frequently offered to meet younger consumer demands which means this expectation will continue as these consumers grow older.

I feel consumer expectations around delivery are becoming so demanding that next year I may well be writing about the fact that brands MUST to adopt technology akin to Amazon Prime Air, to deliver items via drone technology! Yep, that really is a thing.

Many retailers are making a name for themselves by differentiating their brand by offering creative delivery technologies and in some cases, turning their delivery process into a marketing promotion. For example, Uber has been known to extend their taxi service into many different product areas, such as delivering Christmas trees in early December, which saved consumers messing their car up with needles, making life just that little bit easier at the busiest time of the year.

3. Content

We talk about content a lot. As any self-respecting marketer knows, it’s an intrinsic aspect of all marketing, not just digital.

Rich experiences through website content and clear/cemented online journeys are expected from consumers as the norm now. Consumers now expect this from many different types of websites online – not just the typical luxury brand and fashion sites who were the first to employ the rich experience online.

Today’s online consumer expects detailed descriptions, trusted reviews, lovely high quality images, a well-structured navigational site, and overall a rich experience, no matter whether the product is a considered or not so considered purchase. This means that unfortunately for many retailers, the old generic presentation of a product with an average photo and description just won’t do and certainly won’t attract the limited attention of your prospected buyer.

However, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. First and foremost, content from retailers must be primarily, useful to the customer. Before they are even thinking about their purchase decision, they’re doing research, and like I mentioned earlier, you need to address that moment.

It was noted in Razorfish 2015 Digital Dopamine Global Digital Marketing Report that 79% of people voted that they “prefer brands that are useful over brands that are interesting”. Online consumers want to know what’s in it for them and are more inclined to trust the brands that meet their requirements there and then.

In short, they want to be wooed. And if you aren’t already, you need to start wooing them.

An awesome example of useful content comes from Berghaus, in the form of this review of Breckenridge ski resort, which also shows you how to make a waterproof dog coat, and offers the user a freebie in the shape of a desktop calendar:

4. Site Speed

Don’t be the brand that is responsible for customers punching their fist through their desktop computer screen or throwing their smartphone to the floor with disgust because your website simply won’t load quickly enough.

While a slow loading site can be an annoyance and turn off- which will result in many potential buyers leaving your site to buy elsewhere, Google is aware that the current experience on mobile and tablets is still a somewhat clunky and frustrating experience. Kissmetrics note that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, plus 79% went on to say that if they were dissatisfied with website performance, they were less likely to buy from the same site again.

If you can get your site to load in 1.7 seconds, according to Moz your website will be faster than approximately 75% of the web.

I can almost hear you all picking up the phone to call your developer…

To battle consumer expectations around loading speeds, Google is helping publishers and brands create mobile optimised content and have it load instantly, everywhere, through Accelerated Mobile Pages, so many online retailers will have no excuse other than laziness if site speed is still atrocious mid 2016.

For example, Ebay UK has an excellent desktop loading speed of 89/100 but a slower expected mobile loading speed of 66/100. However, comparing these results (recorded on Google Page Insights) to a smaller eCommerce site Bathstore, the difference in numbers between desktop and mobile is more noticeable – from a good score for desktop (67/100) to a much slower load speed in mobile at 56/100. Both retailers will need to improve these scores over the course of the coming months if they’re to meet the demands of users.


It’s clear that AMP pages would make a big difference in making up lost device speed between desktop and mobile pages. Despite mobile friendly websites being constantly worked on and engineered to work better, a big gap in speed and aesthetic still exists in comparison to desktop sites.

With this Google creation and the noticeable increase of mobile browsing, hopefully this will combat the online consumer’s expectations around trust, functionality and usability, in relation to site speed.

To conclude, being aware of changing online consumer behaviour and catering for the rise in expectations within marketing strategy is essential for any brand to survive in the online battleground in 2016 – and beyond.

As a digital marketing agency we’ve experienced first-hand that online consumers are driven by how useful a brand can be to solve their problems and expect to be reimbursed/compensated if a retailer doesn’t meet the expectations that were originally promised to them during purchase.

To simplify this: customers’ attention is limited and they expect more of brands than ever. Brands must deliver value through marketing and innovation. It will certainly be interesting to see which brands can adapt to changing online consumer expectations and the ones that fall short in 2016.

Do you work in e-commerce and have your own predictions for the year ahead? With diverse user needs across sectors, we’d love to hear your thoughts on what your customers expect in 2016 and what you’re doing to address them.

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