The Future of Online Retail in 2014

Technology has changed rapidly within the last 20 years, paving the way for ecommerce stores to succeed at an increasing rate.  As we near the tipping point where ecommerce will soon account for more sales than brick-and-mortar, it is increasingly important for businesses to take into account the evolving consumer trends.  By understanding the consumer expectations of online shopping, ecommerce businesses will be better equipped to adjust their competitive strategies to compete in the vast online world.

Walker Sands surveyed over 1,000 US consumers in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the future of retail.

Here are some of the best takeaways from the 2014 Future of Retail study:

More Consumers are Shopping Online

How frequently do you shop online?

Retail is reaching a pivotal tipping point, where more and more consumers are shopping online than ever before.  In fact, less then 1% of consumers have never shopped online.  62% of consumers shop online at least once every month.  Soon, the majority of sales will be online, and it is important for businesses to be aware of this.

Consumers Are Becoming More Virtual

What items have you purchased online this year?

Consumer electronics, books, and clothing retailers are seeing more than half of their customers shop online.  However, it is still a very important time for businesses in other sectors to get online and learned from the seasoned pros.

Retailers Can Compete with Amazon By Offering Something Different

Which of the following items would you never purchase on Amazon?

There’s no denying that if businesses sell online, their biggest competitor will probably be 95% of consumers have purchased something from Amazon in the last year.  There aren’t many products that consumers wouldn’t buy from Amazon.  In fact, 40% would buy anything from Amazon.  In order to compete, ecommerce retailers need to offer added value for consumers, such as fast shipping, free shipping and returns, and exceptional customer service.

Free Shipping is the #1 Driver of Online Spending

What factors influence you to purchase products online?

There are several offerings that influence the consumer’s purchasing decision.  Free returns and exchanges are almost as important as offering free shipping.

Although free and fast delivery/returns can be costly for online retailers, the return on investment could be well worth it.  Businesses offering free shipping and returns actually see a higher percentage of consumers who will spend over $500.  1 in 10 consumers are willing to spend more than $1,000 online, as long as free shipping and returns are included.

Consumers Prefer a Personalized Shopping Experience

44% of consumers “strongly agree” or “agree that they would prefer to see product recommendations during their online shopping experience based on past purchases.

There are many different ways to personalize a customer’s shopping experience other than product recommendations.  Retargeting and shopping cart abandonment emails are proven to be the most successful tactics according to e-retailers.

3 in 5 Consumers Interact with Brands on Social Media

As consumers are increasingly interacting with brands on social media, it becomes more important than ever for online businesses to have an active omni-channel strategy.

YouTube videos have influenced a purchase at least once for 53 percent of consumers.

In addition, 78% of consumers interacted with brands on Facebook and Twitter in order to acquire coupons and other offers.

In 2014, Walker Sands predicts that retailers who include social as part of their commerce strategy will see big returns.

It is obvious that as retail technology is moving forward at an incredibly fast pace and consumers are quickly moving toward predominantly shopping online.  Ecommerce business strategies will move to incorporate more of the factors discussed in this study, in order to motivate more customers to shop online.  As shoppers increase online, it is vital for online businesses to ensure an easy and enjoyable path to purchase on every channel.