The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes, including customer expectations. As a result of the pandemic, more people are shopping online. A survey found that 36% of consumers shop online instead of going to physical stores. And 21% are buying food from restaurants online as well.
This shift from brick-and-mortar stores to the digital experience illustrates a huge shift in customer behavior and expectations. And businesses must meet these expectations to attract customers and keep them coming back.
A Wide Variety of Communication Channels
Many consumers expect to reach out to online stores using different platforms, including social media accounts, a customer service outline, and email. Thus, online stores must do their best to be accessible to their customers on these platforms.
In e-commerce, instant gratification is one of the consumers’ greatest demands. Many can be quite impatient with their orders. So they choose priority shipping to receive their orders in one to two days.
Instant gratification is much more important during the pandemic. Before, when consumers could still go out freely without worrying about the virus, they can immediately get what they want when they do in-store shopping. Consumers want this same experience with online shopping.
If an online store can’t meet this demand, consumers will potentially change brands or stores. Thus, retailers need to do what they can to provide fast shipping to keep their returning customers loyal and attract new customers.
One survey found that 95% of respondents track their orders online. This is not surprising. Along with fast shipping, consumers want to see where their parcels are and whether their orders will arrive ahead of time or on time. This feature gives customers peace of mind regarding their orders.
Given the importance of real-time tracking, all online stores must offer it to satisfy their customers. For online retail stores, real-time tracking usually consists of a timeline for each stage of the delivery (e.g., packaging, movement from one facility to another, etc.). As for restaurant deliveries, real-time tracking uses a GPS where the customer can track the delivery person’s location.
Though online shopping does have its advantages, it has drawbacks too. For example, consumers can’t talk to sales specialists about products they’re interested in. Customers can’t try on clothes or shoes before buying them. As for gadgets, consumers can’t experience using them first to determine if it’s the one they want.
Because of these disadvantages, consumers expect a hassle-free return policy from online stores. Thus, online retail stores must have an effective reverse logistics process that includes easy returns management. Stores must be easy to contact regarding returns and should provide customers with clear instructions. Customers also dislike paying for returns, so offering free returns will be very attractive to them.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Even in the middle of the pandemic, environmental activists continue to push for green solutions in all industries, especially the e-commerce industry.
There is a notion that the e-commerce industry produces a lower carbon footprint than in-store shopping. But the e-commerce industry still does contribute to the problem significantly through deliveries, whether domestic or international, plastic packaging of products, and so on.
For eco-friendly consumers, they expect retailers to do their part in reducing their carbon footprint. Consumers are more likely to support brands that promote sustainability and use eco-friendly options (e.g., recycled packaging materials). Some consumers will switch brands if they find that they don’t have eco-friendly practices.
The pandemic has affected consumers’ expectations in e-commerce in many ways. And businesses must do their best to please their customers by considering these expectations and making necessary changes in their processes. This way, they can attract customers and increase their revenue in the long run.