A new report from Episerver has revealed eCommerce marketing insights from more than 4,500 consumers about the current state of online shopping and how marketers need to adapt to the latest trends. Its findings confirm a few things widely known in the industry, but there are also a few surprising revelations about consumer expectations that eCommerce marketers should pay attention to.

Key findings from the report

You can download your own copy of the Episerver report here if you want to read it in full, but here’s a quick summary of the key findings:

  • Consumers want guidance: Only one-in-five shoppers say their online purchases are pre-planned.
  • Shipping matters: Consumers want free shipping (67%), shipping tracking (61%), and information about returns (52%).
  • Personalisation vs privacy: 88% of online shoppers say personalisation is important but 93% say companies need to respect their anonymity.
  • Simplicity sells: 46% of consumers say they have failed to make a purchase because there were too many options to choose from.
  • Content woes: 98% of online shoppers say incorrect or incomplete content on a brand’s website/app has stopped them from completing a purchase.
  • Social influence: 52% of consumers who use social media have clicked on an influencer’s post and 31% of those have made a purchase directly from the posts.
  • Marketplaces dominate: 46% of consumers who know what they want to buy head straight to marketplaces like Amazon. While 39% of shoppers who don’t know what they’re after still start their eCommerce journey on marketplaces.
  • The Amazon standard: 87% of online shoppers compare what they find on brand/retailer websites with Amazon.
  • Voice search vs shopping: While voice search is becoming more popular, people aren’t yet using the technology to buy products in great numbers.

As you can see, these insights touch on some of the most pressing issues in eCommerce marketing right now – personalisation vs privacy, the constant presence of Amazon and the true role of voice search in online shopping.

These are worth exploring in more detail.

What do these insights mean for eCommerce marketing?

With the average eCommerce conversion rates sitting at around 2.86% (Incespcro, 2018), there’s still a lot of scope to increase the number of visitors who become paying customers. Luckily, the findings above offer up some solid clues about how to go about this in 2019.

80% of online shoppers need buying advice

The fact that 80% of online shoppers know they need help with making purchase decisions should be encouraging for eCommerce marketers. Consumers are open to marketing messages that genuinely help them buy the right products. The challenge for marketers is identifying which kind of messages consumers are open to, influenced by and where to deliver them.

Search results for Which camera should I buy?
Most consumers look for buying advice before making purchases

Know the problems your target audiences face when comparing and buying your products because this is where the search process starts. Plenty of studies suggest UK shoppers prefer to research online but then go on to buy in store (85%, according to data from ONS), which means retailers need to bridge the online-offline divide.

Google’s local inventory ads are a great way to show people in your area that you have the item they’re interested in, ready for a live demo.

This doesn’t mean eCommerce marketing should focus purely on in-store traffic or that online-only retailers should be discouraged. Other studies indicate more UK shoppers are buying online every year and some even put online purchases ahead. EmpathyBroker found 51% of UK shoppers actually prefer to buy online. Make sure to do your research and understand how your target customers prefer to buy.

Consumers are overwhelmed by too many options

Episerver says almost half of online shoppers (46%) say they’ve failed to make a purchase due to being overwhelmed by too many options. This only reinforces the fact that people need help when it comes to making purchases, which should influence the kind of content, messages and experiences you create.

The more varied or complex your range of products, the more important it is you help shoppers make choices without feeling overwhelmed.

However, it’s not only product options consumers say they’re confused by. Today’s constant barrage of marketing messages is also getting in the way of sales, according to Episerver.

“To mitigate the risk of overwhelming customers online, brands and retailers must intentionally decide how and when they reach out to shoppers… they must take care to avoid inundating customers with brand communications.”

Today’s eCommerce brands need to understand how consumer needs change, before and between purchases. The frequency of messages and content they’re going to respond to varies greatly along the way. Generically blasting shoppers with special deals doesn’t cut it anymore.

Content makes the difference

One of the most telling stats in the Episerver study is that 98% of consumers say incorrect or incomplete content has stopped them from buying products in the past. This is particularly important as today’s shoppers move across different devices and search on various platforms before making a purchase.

“Regardless of where shoppers choose to engage a company, they should be able to trust the accuracy and completeness of the information they find… Disjointed content experiences result in major financial consequences.”

Screen shots from eason website and social media channels showing content

Consistent messaging across platforms is crucial so users can pick up the consumer journey where they left off from the previous session. Make sure your campaign messages, special offers and featured products users have seen on one device are still there on others. These are what bring a lot of top-funnel visitors back to your website, social profile or Amazon page.

Visitors further down the sales funnel must be able to get to the parts of your site that matter most. Navigation couldn’t be more important here, especially for users who don’t have an account or aren’t logged in.

Things are a little easier with repeat visitors who stay logged in. You can personalise the experience with the products they’ve most recently viewed and product recommendations based on the items they’ve previously engaged with and/or purchased.

Example of recommended for you on eCommerce website

At the very end of the sales funnel, accurate and complete product information is what matters most – and again, this needs to be consistent across every platform/touch point. The same thing goes for shipping details, information about returns and honest transparent pricing.

Reasons for abandonment during checkout

Additional costs are the top reason shopping carts are abandoned (Baymard Institute, 2018)

Users are conflicted about personalisation vs privacy

One of the biggest challenges in eCommerce marketing today is the conundrum of personalisation vs privacy. As Episerver’s study shows, consumers want a personalised experience but they’re understandably concerned about privacy issues.

Poll about ecommerce personalisation and anonymity

If consumers want a personalised shopping experience, they need to hand over personal data and eCommerce brands have to prove to users that the exchange is beneficial to them. Sadly, GDPR has done little to improve this relationship in its first year – in fact, most reports suggest it has only added to the confusion and frustration for all parties involved.

The common implementations of consent simply aren’t working. Online retailers need to innovate their own solutions for GDPR compliance without adding friction to the shopping experience.

It’s all about Amazon, not Alexa

Episerver’s findings on marketplaces like Amazon probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but they’re emphatic regardless. Almost half (46%) of all consumers who know what they want to buy head straight to marketplaces and 39% of those who haven’t decided still go to marketplaces to browse first.

Even more telling is that 87% of online shoppers compare what they find on brand/retailer websites with Amazon.

There’s not much point in trying to fight against Amazon. If you haven’t already, get your brand established on the marketplace and turn it into an eCommerce marketing channel. Amazon’s ad platform is growing faster than both Google and Facebook’s (even if the top two still dominate) but it all comes down to being where your target audience is – and they’re almost certainly on Amazon.

As for Alexa and voice eCommerce in general, more consumer journeys are starting with voice search but only 17% of shoppers are making regular purchases with the technology, according to Episerver.