By Daniel Whytock, Down Your High Street
What consumers value most has changed significantly over the last few year. And with the continued development of technology and ecommerce it is hard for retailers to keep up with changing consumer expectations. Let me share what I see that consumers are valuing the most today and how retailers can respond positively.
Convenience and choice
Ecommerce has spoiled consumers for choice, but delivery has always been a sticking point. A product may be slightly cheaper online but once you add delivery charges, the cost can sometimes end up higher. And since the customer can’t touch or try the product before buying there are far more returns.
However, websites like Amazon have spoiled customers with their free next day delivery and companies like ASOS are dominating fashion with their easy returns policy.
While it is very difficult for smaller brands to compete with free next day delivery, it should still be possible to find a middle ground, where shipping costs are kept to a minimum and arrive within a few days of placing an order.
There are now comparison sites for couriers, for example, dramatically reducing delivery costs and opening more online retailers to competitive delivery options.
Local retailers are in the perfect position as they can offer free in-store returns, as well as allowing customers to touch and feel the product before buying. This can increase trust, reassure customers that they can get support or return items, and opens independent retailers to more click and collect options. The challenge for local retailers is getting found.
One of the main drivers of ecommerce has been the cost benefit to consumers. Not only do ecommerce products often cost less, but consumers can quickly and easily compare prices across multiple brands and websites to find the best deal.
But this puts smaller retailers in a difficult position. They may not be able to offer the same price point, yet don’t want to miss out on being listed on an online marketplace, like Amazon.
One answer is to carefully pick where you list your products. Not all online marketplaces are created equal. Amazon, for example, suffers from an influx of overseas retailers offering sub-quality items for much, much less.
Consumer increasingly have a preference for local goods. Finding a marketplace, like DownYourHighStreet, for more local products means you are being compared to like-for-like products and services, not cheap imported goods.
Another answer is to create your own audience of engaged brand fans using your social channels.
There has been a big trend towards purchasing from local businesses, with Google “near me” searches rising 500% year on year
However, the trend towards local doesn’t excuse local businesses from having an online presence. One solution is the creation of Business Improvement Districts (BIDS), where local businesses get together to create a combined ecommerce presence. For example, on DownYourHighStreet, we have a sub-page for Brighton called Brilliant Brighton.
Local retailers list their shop and products, allowing customers to find and compare products online before coming in-store to complete their purchase. Local retailers gain more business for a lower cost than setting up and managing their own web presence.
Being surprised and delighted
Something customers miss from in-store experiences is the element of surprise and delight. When in a physical shop, there may be videos, imagery or other instructional material. There may be something fun to do or an experience to be had that is almost entirely missing from the online shopping experience.
These experiences connect people to brands and generate customer loyalty. The good news is, online retailers can benefit from surprising and delighting customers just as physical stores can, perhaps even more so.
Customers typically don’t expect much from a delivery. They want it to come on time and in good condition. That’s about it. So, the bar is pretty low. Going one step further and thinking about how to surprise and delight your customers with their deliveries can supplement in-store experiences and generate that same brand loyalty.
It could be something as simple as a small bag of sweets included in the delivery, or a hand-written note thanking the customer for their purchase. Connecting these experiences with your online presence, via your social media pages, for example, is a great way to capitalise on the feel-good factor and keep the connection going.
Understanding and then focusing on and delivering what consumers value most requires some innovation. Small businesses, in particular, can be more flexible, allowing business owner to try different approaches and find what works best for you and your customers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Whytock is CEO of DownYourHighStreet.com – a free to join, low commission online marketplace on a mission to create the world’s longest high street by connecting community with commerce and giving the Great British High Street an online presence. DownYourHighStreet.com hosts thousands of products that were previously unavailable online, from100s of independent retailers, allowing sellers to create or integrate their online presence saving them time and the costs traditionally associated with establishing a visible online presence. www.downyourhighstreet.com