For retailers, these are turbulent times ahead. With consumer expectations and technology continually evolving, there is no longer a standard playbook for retailers to rely on to survive and thrive. The one certain fact is – it’s never been more important to understand the motivations and actions of today’s demanding, tech-savvy shopper. Excelling at the fundamentals these very shoppers insist on will be key for retailers to lift their game, remain competitive, and keep customers coming back.

Who knows what’s around the corner? No matter what else is in store, nailing the six essentials listed below will give your website a competitive edge this year. Don’t be left behind.


1. Your customers care more about their product search experience than ever.

Making sure that your customers can find your products online and have a high-quality search experience is essential in 2017 (and every year!). Not only do 70% of consumers want to find, search, and filter for products on your site, 73% of respondents want the ability to find and read good/bad customer reviews before making the purchase.

Other important search aspects that respondents noted are the abilities to zoom in on images, to create an account to store personal information, and to access their cart from a previous session. If you can implement all or some of these tools to your site in 2017, you’re going to impress those savvy shoppers out there.


2. Get that community going with customer-generated content.

The fact of the matter is – your customers want to see content before they make the purchase. From product reviews to videos on YouTube, shoppers are more knowledgeable and careful about their purchases than ever before. For example, let’s take one of your customers, Joe. Joe is on your site, looking at a certain product, but can’t find any reviews of it or pictures uploaded by other customers. What’s he going to do? He’s going to head back to Google and search for the product on another site. On the other hand, let’s say he sees plenty of content on your site for another product. In that case, Joe will be more likely to go for your product.

However, many online companies are not allowing enough user-generated content. That shows with only 57% of shoppers being satisfied with the amount of content or images uploaded by other customers. Ensure that your site has plenty of options for consumers to upload their own content about the product to earn their trust.


3. Put the power in the hands of your consumers.

Today’s shoppers want the power to be in their hands. And this is done through the use of online self-service and web-based tools – tools that allow consumers to find answers to their questions, interact with online customer service reps, and own their shopping experience. Especially when it comes to Millennials, the most desired online customer service option is the Q&A section, where customers can ask and respond to different product questions.

Other options that are highly desirable for these customers are on-site FAQs, call centres, and live chats. If you want to get those customers to make the purchase in 2017, make sure your web-based service tools are up to the challenge.


4. Mastering the art of inventory management and product selection.

Managing the amount of inventory you have on hand is truly an art. It will take you a while to really understand how to properly manage your inventory, but this is crucial if you don’t want to disappoint those last-minute shoppers.

And customers really value you have enough stock for them. It’s been shown that 58% of customers find it important to see your inventory status when making purchases online and 53% view back-in-stock product alerts valuable to them. And if they find out a product is not in stock, 41% of customers will drop their carts altogether.

In addition, no matter where you go in the world (the physical or digital one), your customers want plenty of variety in your inventory. In fact, 74% of those people shopping online rate product selection as the most important aspect of their product search.

This means that you should be offering a variety of products that fit your customers’ needs. Most shoppers will browse various sites to see what the selection looks like. And if they see a better selection on your competitor’s site, you risk losing their business.


5. The power of a product warranty.

Product warranties are one of the most important aspects of running an Ecommerce business. Especially when it comes to big-ticket items like kitchen appliances, customers are much more likely to purchase a warranty plan with them. The top three items that customers are most likely to buy warranties with are computers, major appliances, and mobile phones.

No matter what product you’re selling, online businesses should always provide the option for a warranty to minimise the perceived risk, and to close the sale.


6. Make Returns Painless

Returns represent the next differentiation battlefield when it comes to your Ecommerce business. Online consumers really want a simple and transparent returns process that’s convenient and easy to use; 49% of respondents confirmed that an online merchant’s returns policy had deterred them from making a purchase. And as your business grows, you definitely have to deal with returns – no matter how great your product is. In fact, returns are three times more common in online retailers than with physical retailers and that has led to a lot of dissatisfaction among customers.

You will have to balance between two things: the customer and your business. For example, can you give the customers free returns and still turn a profit? Because returns can get costly for any business, you’ll want to minimise any chances of returns.


Keep the above points in mind when you’re working to improve your website. That way you’re in the best position to keep your customers happy and build a loyal consumer base.


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