Are you digitally impatient? New online shopping survey finds we all are

(BPT) – By Lisa Grayston, general manager of commerce, Coveo

What do consumers want from an online shopping experience? What are retailers doing right? What are they getting wrong? For the fourth year, Coveo conducted a study to take the pulse of the industry. In our 2024 Commerce Industry Report, “With Overwhelming Choice, What Really Drives Shopper Purchase Decisions?” we outline our findings. Some of what we discovered might surprise you. Hint: It has to do with digital impatience.

Just a decade ago, digital impatience didn’t exist. We were more than happy to wait a few minutes while our computers fired up and were delighted by the ability to search for things online (no matter how clunky the search was). But today? Everyone has a smartphone. You want something? It’s quite literally in the palm of your hand and can be on your doorstep the same day. Not sure which movie you want to stream this weekend? Netflix has your back with personalized recommendations just for you based on what you’ve previously watched.

That’s what consumers expect today. Not merely having their needs met immediately, but having those needs and wants anticipated. When we don’t get this personalized experience? The result is digital impatience.

It’s important to retailers because, if they’re not delivering a personalized, tailored experience that delivers relevant results quickly, consumers can go elsewhere with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger.

With that in mind, here are the top four shopper issues and trends we found in the 2024 Commerce Industry Report, along with takeaways for retailers.

1. Consumers have high expectations for online experiences but aren’t satisfied. Almost all consumers, 91%, expect online shopping experiences to match or exceed in-store experiences, but almost half, 49%, say they still encounter problems online. They find sites are slow, have too many choices, and are difficult to search or filter down to what they’re looking for. In short, it’s frustrating.

Key takeaway: Shoppers want retailers to rethink product discovery with a healthy dose of AI to streamline their path to purchase: injecting an intelligence layer into a site that provides them with personalized search suggestions, dynamic filters that adjust to each request, and generative AI that gives advice like a good store associate would.

2. Seventy-two percent expect generative AI to enhance their online shopping experience. People want pre-purchase education on products and their attributes and many expect a virtual assistant to help guide them on their product selection journey. They want and expect ChatGPT-like technology as their personal shopper.

Key takeaway: Customers want retailers to showcase their expertise and help summarize and educate them about the products they’re looking for. A way to accomplish this is through a generative answering solution across all of a retailer’s rich content — everything from blogs, articles, how-to guides — to offer expertise and gain the shopper’s trust at the beginning of their shopping journey. Questions such as “what type of paint should I use for a children’s outdoor playground?” can easily be answered by a well-trained and grounded generative AI solution, which can then lead to a more efficient shopping journey, increasing shopper satisfaction and reducing bounce rate and returns.

3. Shoppers are open to sharing data for a more personalized experience … to a point. The survey found 54% of respondents are happy to share personal information if it improves their experience. Even more, 65%, said they will do so for brands they trust, or if they get better deals and offers as a result. That’s a 20 point increase in willingness to share their information from the previous year’s results. But, it’s a bit of a paradox because this year, more people are concerned about how their data is used by online retailers. It’s clear there needs to be a balance.

Key takeaway: Retailers need to focus on collecting only the data that will enhance the consumer experience. Advanced AI personalization techniques that can detect a shopper’s intent as they interact on a site and do not require you to have a profile or login to be effective is a way to accomplish this delicate balance between personalized shopping and data sharing.

4. Post-purchase continues to be a problem and a big opportunity to win customer loyalty and prevent digital impatience. Admit it, when you buy something online and it isn’t right, do you return it or just save yourself the hassle and eat the cost? You’re not alone. Almost half of respondents have experienced a customer service problem when interacting with a business, specifically online with navigation and search issues preventing them from resolving problems or questions.

Key takeaway: This is about creating a better experience for the customer, before, during and after a sale. By using the same AI platform to unify around the customer and identify important commerce touch points, retailers can meet customers where they are at in their journey and create a seamless experience.

In summary, retailers need to up their AI game in order to meet customer expectations. A company’s brand and customer loyalty depend on it.

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