As online shopping soars, the competition between etailers is at an all time high. Consumers now have an infinite number of choices on their fingertips. With the entry of Amazon, the online shopping is going to see some new trends. And with the likes of Flipkart, Myntra, the space is readying for a massive change! So who will be the ultimate winner? The one who provides an integrated shopping experience to the customer. With the increasing use of smart phones and tablet, the consumers are making purchases within their comfort and the shopping has become faster and simpler.  But it has failed to capture the personalized experience that a customer gets in brick and mortar model retail store. So to generate more sales, more revenue and greater conversion, the online shopping experience shall be more integrated.

What are the factors that a customer looks into while shopping online:

  • Better price – Price is one of the main factors in your purchase decision. That is why the comparison websites has increased popularity over the years. Even a single Google search returns the price comparison for you! This Diwali has seen an increase of 65% from the last season which clearly explains that customers are looking for hefty discounts.

Price Comparison for online shopping

  • Return policy – A well planned and clear return policy helps the customers to take risks even if they are reluctant to buy online. Zovi offers 30 day return policy with complete cash back guarantee which prompts you to buy your shirt from Zovi and their option of “try your luck”, the surprise option is a hit among the customers. This is called the customer delight. Give them more than they are expecting.
  • Faster delivery – Promise only what you can deliver. The customers expect their purchased product to reach them safely on the date of delivery and least expecting a delay. Remember customers once lost are lost forever. Studies have shown that an average consumer is willing to wait 7.2 days to receive online purchases. That means if you are not able to deliver it on time, you are going to face some critics!
  • Cash on delivery – COD, hopefully we Indians start relying the internet transactions more. Make your customers aware of the benefits of online transaction and the security measures like you don’t store the card details, PCI compliance etc. Also everyone has to work together to change the ecosystem. If we can make some policy changes, it’s a win – win situation for all the eCommerce players.
  • More choices and deals – Hefty discounts and surprise deals are what we are looking for. If I am getting the same quality product at a physical store, then I will buy from the comforts of physical store  and not the online store. As customers we are looking for more choice. More over I am able to view all brands under one service which provides me with more options.
  • Cash back guarantee – If you want to satisfy your customers, you shall take some risks. And I guess no one has taken that level like zappos. (Free shipping and free returns 365 days a year)

“If you are not 100% satisfied with your purchase, you can return your order to the warehouse for a full refund (Returns must be unworn, in the state you received them, and in the original packaging). We believe that in order to have the best possible online shopping experience, our customers should not have to pay for domestic return shipping. So if for whatever reason you’re not happy with your purchase, just go through our easy self-service return process (via My Account) to print out a free return label – your domestic shipping costs are prepaid. You can return your purchase for up to 365 days from the purchase date. If you purchase on 2/29 of a Leap Year, then you have until 2/29 the following Leap Year to return those orders. That’s four whole years! Woot!”

  • Better customer service – Treat your customers as king. In return you will reap the benefits. Respond to your customers as fast as you can, because they are calling you to raise their concern. If you can’t hear their voice, how can they purchase from you? Use social media channels to respond to the queries as well as emails, which are cost effective communication channels. There should be a customer support strategy to integrate the shopping experience.

What holds your customers back?

  1. Fear of faulty products – Unlike the physical stores, online stores doesn’t have the comfort of touch and feel. This holds back most of the customers, but make them aware of the benefits of using an online store such as cost savings. (in terms of fuel, parking, time lost)
  2. Inability to touch and feel a product before purchase – The length of ownership effect i.e. the ownership of an item has been shown to increase the owner’s valuation and duration of exposure to an item will foster increased pre-ownership attachment to an item. There are many products that it is difficult to buy online without first seeing the product in person. For electronic enthusiasts, it is important to see a TV screen in person to decide which set has the best pictures. This may also be true for laptop computers or even keyboards. Certain clothes are also difficult to buy online. Many people want to feel the fabric and needs to know the fit of the clothing. Bathing suits for women is one example. Of course you could return many products if they are not what you are looking for, but often it is useful to at least see it in person, even if you end up buying it online.
  3. Fear of financial transactions – This is one area where the entire ecosystem has to unite. Because not a single player alone cannot make the customers understand the benefits. RBI has to make sure that financial transactions are secure and the companies are following the rules like PCI compliance. Equally the eCommerce players have to make sure that their websites are safe from phishing and spamming. As a booming sector, eCommerce has been the playground for many cyber criminals. So necessary steps has to make sure that financial transactions are secure which would increase the trust of customers as well.

eBay India’s recent study of key shopping habits of mobile commerce users in India involving over 1,000 eBay users in October 2013 has revealed that 78% shoppers prefer shopping on mobiles to get great deals on purchases and 60% shopped on mobiles to save fuel, parking charges and long queues. The survey reported that Mobile Phones, Home Appliances and Tablets were the three most purchased items online. Around 75 percent of the people surveyed admitted to shopping from home and 45 percent stated that they shopped at night. 48 percent of the people surveyed prefer credit cards as their preferred payment mode. The survey shows just the trend of modern India, but that is not the case for entire India, where the internet penetration is less than 10%.

Despite the slowdown, e-commerce in India will continue to witness a phenomenal growth the coming years and beyond. The considerable rise in the number of internet users, growing acceptability of online payments, the proliferation of internet-enabled devices and favorable demographics are the key factors driving the growth story along with an integrated shopping experience.