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Why online retailers must embrace innovation to capture the ‘almost customer’

British retail habits are shifting. The well-documented trend towards online shopping, as evidenced by the demise of bricks-and-mortar brands and the rise and rise of digital challengers such as ASOS, has seen us become a nation of click-happy shoppers. From fast fashion to furniture, we turn to e-commerce outlets to service an ever-expanding gamut of consumer needs.

Yet a lesser discussed trend is the growing role of ‘almost shopping’. The practice of browsing online, adding items to your basket, heading to the payment page, then just… stopping there. A staggering 96.7% of visits to e-commerce sites end before purchase, creating a headache for retailers and breeding a nation of basket-drop-aholics.

Are we simply mirroring habits played out in physical stores? The practice of selecting a range of items, trying them for size, then deciding against it. Does the dopamine hit of adding items to the digital card provide enough of a kick to satisfy our consumer urges?

Or, perhaps, it’s a symptom of what our retail market has become.

The practice of almost but not quite buying things online seems to strongly reflect the modern consumer’s sheer wealth of options. No longer do you have the choice between a handful of high-street stores or a trip to the local retail park to get that special outfit or replace your knackered lawnmower. Instead, we’re today confronted by choice upon choice of item. From independent retailers and vintage offerings, to massive brands and international outlets.

The world of retail now offers an almost paralysing amount of choice. You may head online searching for a new laptop case and add a suitable looking one to your basket. But then you spot another that looks nice. You scroll through the reviews to see if they will help you decide; they’re mixed. Time for a quick Google to see if the laptop case has been reviewed by any newspapers, or been featured in a ‘top ten’ article. There’s too much information, it’s too hard to make the choice. Close browser.

Whilst our multifaceted e-commerce market has much an unprecedented amount of choice and information at the hands of the consumer, it’s also bred a sea of indecision when it comes to purchasing. Nearly 20% of online shoppers give up when sites don’t allow them to easily browse via multiple tabs or compare products. It’s up to individual retailers to try and quell this trend, holding onto customers until the sale has gone through.

It’s therefore no surprise that an increasing number of retailers are exploring new forms of technology and innovation in an attempt to improve the shopping experience. This includes reducing friction at the payment point, helping enhance the process for the 18.6% of people who find this element too complicated to bother with.

Similarly, more personalised shopping experiences are being brought into e-commerce operations. These include style tips from your own online ‘stylist’ based on your hair colour and tastes, or using algorithms to predict what additional items a consumer might want or need. VR and AR are being experimented with too, particularly amongst homeware and furniture brands, with companies such as Ikea allowing you to visualise what that bookcase would look like in that corner of your living room.

In a retail market where we literally have the world at our fingertips, it’s incumbent upon retailers to get savvier when it comes to providing the personal touch in the digital sphere. Using innovative marketing strategies to get shoppers onto their sites is one thing, but converting them into customers is another feat entirely.

And, for consumers, perhaps retailers upping their game with save us from ourselves; allowing us to ditch our addition to maybe-shopping, and instead leave with what we came for.  

Ryan Farley is CEO of Judopay. Judopay offers safe, seamless and simple payment processes for e-commerce businesses across mobile, web and in-app payments.

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