No one can deny that along with the changes in technology, culture and modes of communication, consumer behavior has also evolved to reflect the needs and options available to us. Consumers are now looking for speed, convenience and efficiency in the products and services they utilize. At the same time, they want to have the freedom to choose when, where and how to conduct transactions with their chosen brands.
Needless to say, customers want to be the center of attention and they expect businesses to come up with solutions to fulfill all of their demands. As a business owner, you have to know current trends and what is on the horizon. This will help you navigate the continuously evolving market and at the same time provide a satisfying customer shopping experience for your customers.
Here are five customer shopping trends that have changed the way people shop for products and services. These will help you determine whether your business is keeping up with the times, or if you have some tweaking to do.
1. Choice of payment
Advancements in technology have affected not only customer shopping behavior but also the way we pay for products and services.
We now have contactless payment methods in the form of apps on our mobile devices. Many stores now accept payments using money secured digitally in users’ smartphones, making it possible to bring only your phone to conduct transactions.
Google, Apple and Samsung are already using this payment method and they continue to explore even newer technologies that will further improve the ease of completing transactions. Big retailers are also making sure to meet the expectations of tech-savvy customers for a seamless transaction both online and in-store.
In the past, people purchased goods by lining up at the counter and using cash or a credit card to pay for the transaction. Now, people can order and pay online and have the item picked up at the store or delivered right to their doorsteps.
The traditional customer shopping trends we are used to are being revolutionized by internet technology. The assumption is that contactless payment will become more popular in high-frequency, low-value transactions. In other words, quick shopping in the convenience store to buy water, food and other necessities will benefit the most from this payment method.
Stores are not yet forced to ditch the old payment methods though, since many consumers still prefer cash and credit cards for their daily transactions. However, businesses should – and are expected to – provide support for the growing array of payment options available to consumers.
2. Multi-channel shopping
Online stores have become a top destination for consumers due to their speed, convenience, service and the overall customer shopping experience delivered. They have managed to gain a strong foothold in the industry and continue to bring innovations to the table, causing progressive shifts in customer shopping habits.
Social media sites like Instagram and Facebook have also joined the fray by allowing in-app purchases on their platforms. They are even allowing users to buy items they saw in a friend’s post without ever leaving the apps!
People now have a variety of options to choose from when deciding where to buy what they need. They can now purchase in-store or online, with the latter offering several subsets like websites, mobile apps and social media platforms. The internet has changed the customers’ expectations and now the multi-channel approach has become the new standard.
This landscape is shifting again with the introduction of the omni-channel customer experience. It is still in its infancy, with only a few companies able to fully implement it successfully thus far.
The omni-channel approach stitches together various platforms found in the multi-channel system into one big, transparent structure. This allows transactions and communication from one channel to be transitioned seamlessly into a different channel with little to no loss of information.
For example, a user is able to ask about an item in-store and then decide to continue the discussion on social media before finally making a purchase on the website. Information is carried over during the transitions and customers are given the freedom to choose which channel is the most convenient for them to complete the transaction.
The concept is challenging to implement especially for large, established organizations. However, the effort to make this happen will absolutely be worth it since this is undoubtedly where the next customer shopping trend is headed.
3. User reviews
Today’s consumers do their research before making a purchase. Part of this is reading customer reviews found online.
People seem to have more confidence in customer reviews than in any other content describing a product or service. The majority of consumers, especially the tech-savvy ones, don’t automatically believe the offers shared in ads or TV commercials. Word of mouth from people who have actually used the product is still considered to be the most reliable since it comes from an organic and genuine user who can attest to their experience in dealing with the brand.
Studies say that 90% of consumers are influenced in their purchasing decisions by the reviews they read online. This is to be expected since we rely on the internet for so many things in our daily lives.
Reviews can be found on social media sites, websites and forums, and most likely they will remain there for quite a long time, enabling more people to read them. This is one of the reasons why organizations are becoming more careful in dealing with their customers. Positive feedback can be as effective as negative feedback, as both affect a consumer’s perception of the brand.
Associated with user reviews are the ‘star ratings’ that seem to summarize the quality of a product or service based on the satisfaction level of those who have interacted with it. A quick glance at this rating can instantly entice or deter a potential customer from taking a second look.
The speed and reach brought about by today’s technology have provided a way for individual opinions to be collected and shared in the form of star ratings and user reviews. These tools have made it possible for people to quantify their customer experiences and use the experiences of others in their decisions to interact with a brand.
4. Curated and personalized offers
Consumers are becoming more willing to share their personal information with organizations, with the assumption that they will receive more personalized offers in return. Businesses should maximize this wealth of information in order to create targeted email messages with relevant offers to specific customers. Generic marketing ads and promotional email blasts are often disregarded by busy consumers.
A number of retailers who run brick-and-mortar stores are opening smaller shops with curated products targeting a specific market. These specialty stores don’t carry a full inventory, but rather they have a handful of items within a certain theme. In addition, the management usually hires highly knowledgeable staff who can assist customers in getting the right product, ensuring the delivery of a great customer shopping experience.
Consumers like to have a wide variety of options on hand, yet also want to have a narrower subset that contains their preferred items. The most effective combination seems to be calling out the top 10 recommendations according to recent purchases and still offering many other items to choose from, if ever they decide to branch out.
5. Focus on customer experience
In addition to product quality, a satisfying customer shopping experience plays an important role in promoting brand loyalty. People are now willing to pay more for a great customer shopping experience, and in addition, that great experience has a long-lasting effect.
Improving customer experience should not be confused with promotional gimmicks. Today’s consumers want straightforward and authentic experiences and not cheap marketing ploys that lure them into a transaction that they will later regret.
Organizations are shifting their focus to becoming more customer-centric businesses that listen to what consumers have to say rather than selling products they want people to buy.
Customer shopping trends have advanced from the traditional methods we know and this movement will continue to progress in the future. Technology has played a significant role in this development and has shaped new customer shopping habits. Organizations should focus on offering a great customer shopping experience no matter the channel.
Are you having a hard time determining what your business needs to provide a satisfying customer experience? SeeLevel HX can help identify gaps in your operation and share actionable insights you can use to improve the level of customer service you deliver.