We’ve heard it all before – but, as we enter one of the most uncertain economic periods in recent history, rewarding customers for loyalty really is now more important than ever, says Chris Baldwin of Sodexo.

Shoppers are Missing the In-Store Experience and Demand More Convenience from Online Retailers

With all but essential retail currently closed, UK consumers are missing aspects of the in-store shopping experience, according to a new nationwide survey published today by Fresh Relevance – the versatile personalisation and decision engine which optimises the customer experience. The Fresh Relevance Loyalty Report 2021, conducted in collaboration with market research company Censuswide in early January 2021, reveals that 40% of shoppers miss not being able to touch and try products before making a purchase.

The report provides retailers with critical and timely insights into the wants and frustrations of online shoppers in the UK, revealing how consumers want to hear from brands and what communications they want to receive, as well as the incentives they expect in return for their loyalty.

Top customer frustrations when shopping online in 2021

  • Not being able to touch and try products before buying them (40%)
  • Online stores that are difficult to navigate (38%)
  • Seeing exclusive offers aimed at new shoppers (38%)
  • Sold-out items with no information on when the product will be restocked (34%)
  • Having to wait for the order to arrive (20%)
  • Not being able to talk to a salesperson (19%)
  • Mobile sites that don’t function well (15%)

Interestingly, Baby Boomers (55+) are particularly unforgiving when it comes to website frustrations. Almost half (48%) would consider not purchasing if the online store is difficult to navigate. Unsurprisingly, Generation Z (16-24) value a smooth mobile experience, with 22% stating they would abandon a retailer whose mobile site doesn’t function well.

The top customer wants from online retail in 2021

  • Highlight spending thresholds that unlock an incentive (34%)
  • Product ratings and reviews (30%)
  • Highlight important order cut-off dates (28%)
  • Recommend complementary products (24%)
  • Make it easy to discover more products I might like (23%)
  • Make it easy to return to an abandoned web session (23%)
  • Help imagine how the product will look in real life (20%)
  • Click & collect (20%)

The findings show that in particular, younger demographics want to find their ideal products easily. Nearly a third (29%) of customers in the Generation Z group want online retailers to make it easy for them to discover more products they might like, while 27% are keen for e-commerce stores to help them imagine how the product will look in real life.

Mike Austin, CEO & co-founder of Fresh Relevance, comments: “When it comes to fostering customer loyalty, convenience, personalised communications and targeted incentives are key. Consumers want to sail smoothly through the customer journey and are unforgiving when it comes to frustrating online experiences. With a significant proportion of shoppers missing certain aspects of the in-store experience, e-commerce businesses who can bring the strengths of offline shopping online are more likely to encourage loyalty. Tactics such as user-generated photos and product ratings as well as augmented reality features help bring products to life at home. Personalised product recommendations, onsite pop-ups and chatbots can replicate the role of an in-store salesperson, providing guidance along the purchase journey and helping shoppers find the products that will resonate with them easily.”

Austin adds: “When it comes to communications and incentives, relevancy is key. Retailers need to avoid alienating customers with irrelevant offers and incentives by targeting content based on contextual and behavioural customer data as well as the customer lifecycle stage. It also pays to have a solid triggered email programme in place that makes it easy for customers to return to an abandoned cart or be notified that a sold-out product has been restocked. By offering shoppers an online experience that’s customer-centric and helpful, online retailers will be able to keep their customers loyal and win over new ones.”

The online survey of 2000 nationally representative UK consumers was conducted between 04/01/21 and 06/01/21. The Fresh Relevance Loyalty Report 2021 is available to download now