A few weeks ago, we released the results of the Shop.org eHoliday Study pre-holiday consumer and retailer surveys. Since there is so much to learn from this research (conducted for us by BIGresearch), I’ll be highlighting a few of the findings each week in November and December.
I’ll start this holiday series with consumer thoughts in response to the question, “When choosing to make holiday purchases from a given online retailer, what is most important to you?”
The number one response (yes, ahead of value or deals, merchant reputation, product selection and myriad other factors): seeing the shopping cart total before starting the checkout process. In other words – “Don’t surprise me, or I’m likely to head elsewhere to buy.” Almost three-quarters of consumers stated that this aspect of their online shopping experience was “very important” to them, while an additional 21% ranked it as “somewhat important.” The good news here: the 2009 State of Retailing Online Merchandising Report (produced with Forrester Research) found that fully two-thirds of retailers surveyed “…would make calculating the loaded cost of an order prior to checkout a priority [this year]”. No doubt shoppers will be pleased to see the results of that work.
Next up: clear product descriptions, cited by over two-thirds of consumers as “very important” and by another quarter as “somewhat important”. If you haven’t recently had someone outside your team give you feedback on your product descriptions, do so immediately, even informally. Whether chatting with your customer service reps (who hear about site issues from customers every single day) or with family, neighbors, your children’s friends, even your grandmother (no joke) over the weekend, you’ll see things with fresh eyes. Next, think about how your best store associates describe the functions and features of a given product – does that come through in the online descriptions? Consumers also are increasingly receptive to additional content such as video as part of the shopping process, and actively seek out consumer reviews and top notch imagery to further round out the picture about a product or service. (Side note: don’t forget to use any negative reviews to update your descriptions as well.)
“Value for money / good deals” strike a chord with 94% of consumers as very or somewhat important – no real surprise there, especially these days. Nine out of ten consumers also ranked as important a broad product selection and knowing that the product was available to ship immediately. Almost as many again noted that free return shipping offers are important. This latter appears something of a blind spot for retailers surveyed, of whom a tiny fraction will actively promote the offer this holiday season and over two-thirds don’t / won’t offer this promotion at all.
Shop.org members can download the full results – also segmented by age, sex, annual income and US census region – from the Shop.org Web site. As always, I welcome any feedback you might have about the eHoliday ’09 study.