Successful brands are adaptable. They show agility by foreseeing and responding to change, and they demonstrate resilience against even the strongest waves. Some of the changes they face require operational evolution, and others strike at the public-facing side of their brands.
Next to today’s changing consumer expectations, eCommerce brands have had to evolve faster. Not only are consumer expectations shifting, but they’re also rising. The last two decades have come with new consumer demands in speed and frictionless purchasing. Ecommerce brands that are alive today have either found ways to meet those new demands, or they’re so new they haven’t had the chance to fail yet.
From immersive purchase experiences based on augmented reality (AR) to 24/7 customer service, brands have generally had to pick and choose which demands to meet. However, many shifts in consumer requirements can be beneficial for eCommerce brands, depending on how companies look at them.
eCommerce Trends 2021
Keep reading to learn five ways the new consumer expectations can be beneficial for an eCommerce brand.
What Are the New Consumer Expectations?
First, let’s talk in specific terms about today’s eCommerce consumer expectations. Speed, of course, has been a huge competitive edge as brands and marketplaces add faster delivery options. Customer service, too, has changed radically as consumers grow accustomed to contacting brands on multiple selling and social channels.
Here’s an even more complete list of the high-demand consumer expectations today:
- Faster shipping
- Multichannel buying experience (starting with content)
- Greater privacy protection
- Greater variety of options
- Social proof and stellar product reviews
- More detailed product information
- More personalized content and ads
- Direct purchasing from D2C brands
- Content that inspires during the new “discovery shopping” phase
How Are These Trends Good for Ecommerce Brands?
Meeting these expectations will require strategy and investment. However, the gains to your eCommerce brand can be greater than just meeting the new bar consumers have set.
- It forces a revamp of your brand and priorities.
These shifts in consumer expectations have been enormous. Consumers today, especially online, have even moved away from price priorities in favor of direct interactions with brands.
This change allows your brand to reassess your priorities. Businesses that don’t adapt die, and the eCommerce landscape is changing so fast that it’s the perfect time to reinvent what your brand is about. This is particularly feasible for eCommerce brands since rebranding your logo or mission statement on an eCommerce site is easier than remodeling a brick-and-mortar store.
- Provide more detailed product information
Your product listings change over time as part of your overall eCommerce strategy. You constantly update them with new and better product data and weave in new content, guides, and even AR-powered shopping experiences.
Why chase down so many updates to product information? Consumers don’t like surprises, and the expectation today of more and better product information is rising fast. The delivery of this information is what has changed the most. Gone are the days of simple product titles, descriptions, and bullet-points. The new consumer expectation is for enriched photos and product videos, interactive PDF product specifications, AR shopping previews, and more.
This might seem like an awfully high hoop you’re forced to jump, especially when updating thousands of SKUs across multiple marketplaces and sales channels. Fortunately, product information software (PIM) was built to streamline the process for eCommerce brands.
More importantly, better product information is great for eCommerce brands because rich product listings lead to more informed purchases. One of the biggest reasons for online returns is when a product doesn’t fit the description (or what the consumer really wanted), so offering more information at the point of purchase reduces returns and the associated costs.
The icing on the cake is that augmented product information also builds consumer trust in your brand. Consumers see your transparency as a tribute to the quality of your products.
- It incentivizes stronger branding.
Along with a brand “revamp,” it’s also crucial to strengthen your eCommerce brand image to meet today’s consumer expectations. There’s never been a more competitive time selling online. Products can go viral overnight. Consumers have no trouble shifting their loyalty to the next hot thing, so brands need to make memorable and lasting impressions for a higher customer value optimization (CVO) over time.
A brand “personality” is what creates an emotional connection with consumers. Take what your revamped brand is all about and communicate that through visuals and messaging across all channels. Your brand personality has to be as recognizable as a buyer’s best friend.
This trend is beneficial to eCommerce because of the growing consumer preference to buy directly from manufacturers. In fact, 55% of consumers prefer to buy directly from brands, and almost always because of the brand personality they’ve come to know and like. In a world of near-infinite options, buying decisions are just easier when someone you know, like, and trust is making the offer.
Consumers get more efficient service connecting directly with brands, too, which reduces buyer friction. They also get better and more personalized content. After all, the average number of touchpoints a consumer has before hitting that “buy” button today is almost three. Consumers are consuming more content, which translates to sales when there’s a recognizable brand personality behind it.
- You enhance your customer support.
Improved customer support is one of the driving factors in the D2C trend among consumer preferences. The consumer expectation that follows is to have better customer service across multiple channels, which has required major investments for brands and retailers alike. According to Bain & Company research, however, 80% of businesses believe they offer first-class customer service while only 8% of customers currently think.
The gap between these consumer expectations and brands’ real investment is truly abysmal. Yet, this expectation can still be seized as a benefit for eCommerce brands because of eCommerce’s nature.
Consumers today are like crying infants in one regard—when they cry out, they expect mothers to understand and soothe them immediately. Ecommerce brands can deliver on that since they already have multi-channel content and a sales presence where consumers regularly interact with them. Support each of those channels with customer service management, and a brand can stand out incredibly.
Read more about measuring customer satisfaction to know whether your brand is meeting consumer expectations in customer service.
- Can the new consumer expectations—and the required solutions— actually make your brand more scalable?
These new consumer expectations (from customer service back to product data) require eCommerce brands to acquire and integrate new software solutions into their business practices. Not every brand is going to develop their own solutions for every tool they need. Instead, SaaS development has sped along to offer brands an endless stack of new eCommerce solutions.
For example, PIM software developments have been a direct response to the new norm of multichannel eCommerce. Managing product data for multiple sales channels (including marketplaces, eCommerce websites, social selling, brick and mortar retailers, and more) is only feasible with this software solution.
Vetting SaaS options against your brand’s priorities, needs, and budget is a process. Still, once the right choice is made, this shift from consumer expectations offers a fifth and final benefit to eCommerce brands: scalability. Without developing proprietary solutions to support today’s new demands, eCommerce brands are more agile than ever. Just find the perfect software solution, ensure it fits into your software ecosystem, and then you’re off to the races.
The pandemic has changed eCommerce (and all retail) forever, but meeting consumer expectations is still the priority. Each brand’s fundamental goal today is to improve the customer experience. The online consumer’s expectations have given us clear indications of what that means.
From same-day shipping to better customer service and more recognizable brands, eCommerce requires greater innovation and pivoting than ever before. These aren’t just hoops for eCommerce brands to jump; however—they’re opportunities. If your brand sees them that way, it will demonstrate the agility to succeed in today’s market.
The blog was written by guest author Alex Borzo, a content contributor at Amber Engine, a software company passionate about eCommerce. The company’s fast and simple PIM software gets sellers, distributors, and brands to Amazon and other online marketplaces in weeks instead of months and frees up time and resources to allow eCommerce and marketing professionals to create content that inspires modern discovery shoppers.