Online shopping: What customers want

by Jeremy Maggs: A writer and broadcaster who has covered the ad and marketing industry for over 20 years. Editor in Chief of The Red Zone.
More local shoppers are opting to spend their money online, research shows, but closing a sale still depends on how satisfied customers are with their experience of the sites they visit.

In a windfall for fast-moving consumer brands, SA’s ecommerce market has increased substantially since the start of the pandemic, but its potential to double to 5.6% of the total retail market can be reached if e-tailers fix issues with their customers’ online experience.

This is the key finding of the third annual SA Digital Customer Experience Report. Customer experience refers to, among other things, e-tailers’ trustworthiness, ease of use, security, delivery and after-sales support.

Collectively, these factors are estimated to cost e-tailers R11.95bn in lost sales. The report shows that, coupled with a R20.4bn loss because of frequent cart abandonment, more than R30bn is being left on the table, coincidentally the same rand value as the entire ecommerce sector. Ninety-six percent of the 2,000 respondents said they would spend more online if they had a better experience with e-tailers.

Charlie Stewart, CEO of online marketing agency Rogerwilco, says: "The opportunity cost is pretty clear; consumers expect a higher level of experience from brands that they buy from online. This could in part be because they have become used to the customer experience of an Amazon or Takealot. These brands have set a high bar and local e-tailers need to up their online game if they are to convert the huge appetite among consumers for online shopping into rands and cents."

Rogerwilco, CX Professional Julia Ahlfeldt and software and research company ovatoyou compile the annual report. It shows that a full 82% of respondents have made at least one online purchase. Three-quarters of those with a monthly household income of less than R10,000 shop online.

The entrance of a whole new cohort of shoppers, coupled with an increase in the number of categories people are buying from, takes online shopping out of the niche it was, says ovatoyou founding director Amanda Reekie.

Significantly, 32% said they’ve increased the number of online stores they buy from, and 31% have made online shopping a part of their shopping routine, while 20% report to be shopping more through social media.

The big question, then, is how brands can capitalise on this online boom. The report says many need to address issues of cart abandonment, given that 76% of shoppers said they failed to conclude their purchases (up from 71% in the 2019 report). More than half of those polled (51%) indicated that high shipping fees were to blame, and 32% said lengthy delivery timelines were a deterrent.

A further third complained that there were too many steps in the purchase process — brands would do well to emulate Amazon’s famous one-click checkout — with slow websites and a lack of support cited as other reasons for cart abandonment.

Payment issues, either a complete failure in the processing of the transaction (cited by 26%) or an issue with a discount code (20%), continue to be significant impediments to closing a sale.

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The Red Zone is a marketing and media website featuring breaking news from the industry as well as insightful opinion pieces and up to the minute event coverage.
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