Online shoppers say delivery costs, customer service drive brand loyalty

Older online shopper
Consumer expectations when shopping online have evolved in the wake of Covid-19 lockdowns.

The Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped consumer expectations of online shopping according to new research from Emarsys. 

A survey of 1000 Australian online shoppers has found that 42 per cent of them spend longer considering their purchases since lockdowns began, and about 28 per cent say they are more loyal to brands that they have enjoyed a good experience with online. 

That’s the good news; on the flip side, more than half of shoppers say they are turned off a brand due to a poor customer-service experience as more than one in five shoppers say the pandemic has made them care more about receiving good customer service online.

While the survey focused on Australian shoppers, given the nature and extent of the lockdowns on both sides of the Tasman, the findings are likely to be reflective of attitudes in New Zealand.

Unsurprisingly, almost one third of consumers polled said they were spending more time online during lockdowns than they normally would, as well as going online more often. That leaves them more open to seeing commercial messages and promotions from brands and engaging with them in social media. 

Another finding is that more than half those polled said they were looking for loyalty program benefits – or more of them – and about one in four said they expect a more personalised online experience. 

Delivery pain points

The survey also questioned consumers about their expectations surrounding the delivery and return of purchases made online. 

Free delivery and free returns were the top-rated motivation for shopping online, favoured by 64 per cent of respondents, followed by speed of delivery from order (cited by 42 per cent), with ease of check out (30 per cent) ranking fourth. 

Having to pay for delivery is the biggest turn off for online shoppers, and 56 per cent said they would shop elsewhere if they had to pay for returns. 

“Since consumers have been cooped up at home over the past few months making more purchases than ever online, expectations around online customer service have naturally heightened,” said Adam Ioakim, MD, Apac at Emarsys. “As the research shows, if retailers are unable to provide an outstanding experience throughout the entire customer journey from browsing to post-purchase, then consumers are more than willing to switch to a competitor.”

Offering a seamless and personalised online customer experience is the best way to build customer loyalty, he said. 

“While price is still a major purchasing influence, nothing compares to a loyalty program in attracting and retaining customers. Loyalty programs enable retailers to identify who their customer is, what they’re buying and how often and then use this information to engage with consumers in a highly personalised way,” said Ioakim.  

Other findings from the survey included that about 27 per cent of people are looking for innovative technologies such as virtual try-on options and AR changing rooms, as well as more interactivity in their online shopping experience. 

And cost remains the biggest influence on consumer purchasing decisions, with more than three in four respondents saying cost was the biggest factor in their choice of one retailer over another. 

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