Today’s consumers have an abundance of options when it comes to purchasing products. In the past decade, the number of online shoppers has increased tremendously and almost half (45%) of consumers now browse Amazon first when looking for a specific product according to a recent survey by inRiver.
Although that is good news for many retailers, there is another side to this equation; the rate at which consumers are returning online purchases has increased as well, causing loss in margins for brands and a poor customer experience for shoppers.
Given the data around the significant numbers of online browsers and buyers, what can retailers do to reduce staggering number of returns that are impacting margins?
Fast Access to Product Information:
Online shoppers want information fast. Consumers are easily discouraged when seeking to purchase if the product information they require is not found quickly or available at all.
How fast do shoppers want their information? In 10 seconds or less. The good news is that 41% of online shoppers won’t consult another online store if all the information they need is provided in the first shop they visit.
But one third (31%) of shoppers will move to another website within 10 seconds if general product information is lacking. The most commonly searched for information is price comparisons (74%), general product information like fabric or ingredients (41%) and reviews (58%).
Knowing your customer preferences is the key starting point when marketing products correctly online. One third (33%) of study respondents say videos that show products in different contexts are most helpful in their buying decision. Additionally, almost one fifth (18%) of respondents want to see products demonstrated by influencers.
Creating videos to showcase product information is helpful, but brands need to know what platforms are preferred by their shoppers too, otherwise, they miss the mark. According to the study, YouTube and Facebook were ranked as two of the most trusted platforms that provide video information about products.
Providing product information across a variety of formats like reviews, descriptions, or videos is important in turning browsers into buyers. While this is great news for brands that shoppers appreciate multiple sources of information, it makes it challenging to deliver consistent, omnichannel product information without a product information management (PIM) solution. Marketing, product, and merchandising teams struggle to create and maintain relevant product information in one channel or format, let alone multiple channels and formats.
Reducing Return Rates
Product data needs to be accurate, detailed, and consistent. That’s not an insignificant task. How to best do this? Make sure to align your product information with your customers’ expectations. Products that do not meet customer expectations are often returned. In fact, 22% of consumers say the products that they buy online rarely meet their expectations, and nearly half usually or always return items (48%).
Providing products with limited pictures and videos does not make the online shopping experience exciting or engaging. What are shoppers looking for in terms of product information? Details, zoom capabilities to see close up, 360-degree views of products, dimensions, ingredients, and context of how the product or item can be used or bundled. If you are not doing that today, it is likely that product gets returned for not meeting expectations and that impacts the customer experience.
When return rates reach a critical mass, it impacts margins and reduces overall revenues. How much do returns impact business? For some of the UK’s largest retailers, the cost of servicing returns has spiraled to almost £60bn a year. That is never a good thing for even the most customer-focused brands. Revenue matters.
To ensure you deliver the types of product information and content browsers seek before becoming buyers, find out what is most important to them. Learn how to create compelling and consistent product that your shoppers can easily find and what it takes to avoid the margin-draining returns via the Turning Browsers into Buyers report here.
A few weeks ago, we published a blog about how to improve your product rankings on Amazon.com. As we mentioned, a large percentage of shoppers—online and offline—start their product search on Amazon. However, we all know that not all shoppers have the same shopping habits. Not only do you need to pay attention to how your product stories are rendering on Amazon, but also you need to monitor your product information on other sites and search engines—and one of these, of course, is Google. A survey by PowerReviews earlier this year concluded that while Amazon, at 38% of respondents, is the preferred online search vehicle for product search, Google is a close second, at 35%.
Many shoppers, especially those that are Amazon Prime Members who enjoy free shipping on many items on the Amazon site, find shopping on Amazon to be convenient. Many products have multiple reviews and there are frequently multiple sellers for a given product, enabling price and shipping comparisons.
However, Amazon may not actually boast the best product or price options, especially for those shoppers without Prime membership. Likewise, product information found on Amazon.com may be inconsistent and limited by keyword search terms. In contrast, Google’s keyword and algorithmic power can provide shoppers with product options from a variety of retailers—a selection that rivals what is found on Amazon. When shoppers limit themselves to just one shopping site, they may be limiting their product knowledge and options.
When shoppers search on Google, they can find the best products and prices more quickly. For example, when shopping for an “ugly Christmas sweater” for my husband, I searched on Amazon and found this one for $29.99:
However, when I searched for this same sweater on Google, I found the same item for $24.50 on another site. Normally, I wouldn’t be so price-sensitive, but in this case, since I was purchasing a “gag” item, I wanted to spend as little as possible!
Not only may Google provide you with lower price options for your product search, but also Google provides local inventory listings from retailers that are physically located near you. Considering that most retail transactions still take place in a physical store, this information is very useful to shoppers. For last minute gift-buying, this information could be a deciding factor.
Another benefit for shoppers is the better product information they will likely find on Google. Since Google Shopping is a “pay to play” service, requiring retailers to purchase Product Listing Ads (PLAs), retailers may be more inclined to ensure that up-to-date and accurate product information—in terms of imagery, pricing, and product descriptions—is being presented. For manufacturers that participate in Google Manufacturer Center, better product information is pretty much guaranteed due to the tools and analysis that Google provides.
The take-away here is that shoppers can be unpredictable with respect to how and when they conduct a product search. We can provide you with behavioral data and statistics all day long, but to reach the individual shopper, you need to monitor all the channels where your products can be found so that you can meet those personalized needs as they arise. Each individual shopper has unique habits and preferences—where they begin their product search (Google versus Amazon versus retailer), what their criteria are (price versus convenience, for example), and what their timeline and delivery preferences are. Therefore, you need to have accurate, complete, and compelling product information available on every channel to ensure that you can be found and considered, each and every time a shopper searches for your product.
As we embark on 2017, check back with inRiver for more on this topic. We will have additional blogs and webinars to help you create great product stories, raise the visibility of your products and your brand, and stay abreast of your competition and the latest tools and trends. In addition, we will share information about our relationship with Google Manufacturer Center and our connector to that helpful portal.
Watch our webinar 2017 Trends to Expect for Retail eCommerce!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager North America, inRiver