Consumer purchasing habits have changed drastically over the COVID-19 pandemic, and consumers are now much more experienced at all stages of digital shopping. This changing buying process presents great opportunities for brands willing to adapt, embrace new technologies, and meet rising consumer expectations.
The growth of e-commerce has encouraged consumers to explore, discover, and buy products in new ways. You can shop on marketplaces, retailer or brand websites, social media platforms, and other channels. In fact, according to a study by channeladvisor, 46% of consumers are shopping online more frequently and 38% of shoppers say they buy more directly from branded websites and non-Amazon marketplaces than they did before the pandemic. In addition, consumers no longer passively wait for the latest trends to be presented to them, but actively search for them. The survey shows that a third of consumers are doing more research before making a purchase than they were before the pandemic.
Technology influences the purchase
The major advances in technology over the last decade changed consumer purchasing habits. Studies show that consumers use multiple channels and devices to learn about products. For example, 60% of all online purchases are already made via mobile phones. These technical developments lead to a new "always-on" mentality – and to a lasting change in purchasing behavior.
The traditional consumer journey generally doesn’t change, despite industry innovations: first the consumer becomes aware of a product, then he considers it and finally he buys. This process remains the same whether it takes someone ten minutes or ten months to purchase a product.
The big shift has been driven by technology that offers consumers more digital touchpoints with the product along the consumer journey. Today's consumers are better informed, more demanding, and often impatient.
In other words, the abundance of information is changing the traditional consumer journey: If consumer needs are not met, this can affect a brand's sales.
Digital contact points are increasing
The rise of digital touchpoints, such as online shops, apps and marketplaces, increases the visibility of products and enable consumers to discover them, regardless of where the items are listed. For example, social media offers great opportunities for brands to reach out to the next generation of consumers. A digital strategy that includes social media will therefore be crucial for future business success.
However, the increase in channels means more competition as brands and retailers now fight for the attention of consumers and their own visibility. This requires new strategies such as shoppable media or the use of social commerce.
Keep consumers engaged
According to a recent survey by channeladvisor, Amazon and search engines are the top channels for consumer research. They search for a specific product across multiple channels, expanding their product knowledge and determining the best price or possible alternatives.
That's why it's so important to keep consumers interested along the consumer journey, since their attention spans are short and choices are plentiful. Brands and retailers can easily lose potential sales and should therefore highlight their content with up-to-date product descriptions, images, blogs, and reviews.
More online and physical channels mean more choices for consumers. Consistent messages on the Internet and in retail are all the more important for brands, because they ensure that consumers are well informed and enable a smoother purchasing process.
Stand out from the crowd
The final stage of the traditional consumer journey is the purchase. How a brand differentiates itself from its competitors and how smooth the journey to purchase is will prove crucial.
Due to the increase in e-commerce, the shopping landscape is more densely populated than ever. Brands that use tactics like buyer discounts, how-to videos, and same-day delivery options often win since they provide the buyer with more information and engage them longer with their offerings.
A seamless checkout also makes a big difference. Shoppers today expect everything to be as easy as Amazon's one-click checkout. Any difficulty on the way to the checkout quickly results in the consumer abandoning their shopping cart and buying from the competition instead.
Positive experience after purchase
In contrast to the traditional one, the modern consumer journey does not end at the checkout. The experiences consumers have with delivery are just as important as the previous three steps: they can turn a consumer from an advocate to a critic.
Brands and retailers are not responsible for every problem themselves. Crises in global supply chains, for example, affect companies of all sizes and sometimes have devastating consequences for sellers. The key for brands and retailers is transparency: consumers want to be informed about where their product is or how long it will take for delivery. In other words, clear communication and on-time delivery strengthen a brand's reputation and keep consumers coming back.
The modern consumer journey has evolved significantly in recent years. For some brands and retailers, this may be daunting but adapting to the new e-commerce era will ensure their success for years to come.