Customer Expectations: 18 Things Today’s Shoppers Want
Over the years, customer expectations have changed signficantly. Here are 18 things today’s shoppers want.
Customer expectations are always changing. For example, a mere 15 years ago, consumers were so excited about the ability to purchase items from the comfort of their own home, that they were willing to pay sizable shipping fees. However, now that pretty much every seller offers goods online, free or low-cost delivery has become the norm.
In order to continue making sales in your retail or eCommerce business, you need to stay in the know about these ever-evolving wants and needs. So for this guide, let’s take a look at the latest changes in customer expectations. Here are 18 things that today’s shoppers want brands to offer.
When it comes to contemporary customer expectations, buyers today want simplicity across the board. From easy product access to the ability to contact you if they have a question, shoppers expect brands to make things as convenient as possible.
Just a few factors that can help you give customers a simple shopping experience include:
- Well-organized, searchable online inventory.
- A seamless checkout process.
- An easy-to-find contact page.
- Live chat customer support.
- A social media presence + visible social media links on your website.
Current customer expectations also include value. Today’s consumers have tons of choices when shopping for most products, which gives them the ability to compare prices from several different sellers.
We aren’t saying you should price your products super low. Obviously, your structure needs to allow you to recoup costs and make a profit while still charging a fair rate. However, you should do whatever you can to offer customers the best overall value that you can. This might mean lower shipping fees than your competitors, bundled discounts or some other form of savings or perk for shopping with your brand. To learn more about the best ways to price your products, read through our guide: 23 Pricing Strategies Any eCommerce Seller Can Use to Increase Sales.
Along with simplicity and value, today’s customers expect speed. After all, we live in a fast world that now offers instant gratification in almost every way. Want to know something about…well, anything? Google it. Want to know what the weather is going to be like tomorrow? Ask your smart device.
Thanks to so much readily available information and service, shoppers don’t want to wait long for orders or answers to their questions. Sellers need to do what they can to speed up every facet of their business operations, from their website functionality to order processing to responding to customer inquiries.
And speaking of responding to customer inquiries, the next item on our list of current customer expectations is responsiveness. Just as shoppers don’t want to wait long for service, they also prefer quick answers to questions.
Thanks to the rise of things like live chat customer support, buyers have grown accustomed to receiving a response to messages in seconds or minutes, rather than hours or days. That means, the quicker you can get back to a customer, the better chance you have of closing the sale (and receiving a good review).
Luckily, Replyco can help. Our helpdesk for eCommerce enables multi-channel sellers to centralize all messages into one easy-to-use inbox, while tools such as a live chat widget and smart auto-responders allow you to provide instant responses to shoppers.
5. Mobile-Friendly, Omni-Channel Support
We all spend our days bouncing around from one device to another. I am currently typing this article on a MacBook Air, and my smartphone and tablet are both nearby. For that reason, sellers need to make their sites mobile friendly and offer omni-channel support.
When we say mobile friendly, we simply mean that shoppers need to be able to shop your website from their computer, phone, tablet or any other internet-connected device. Your developer(s) should make sure that your store is easily accessible and shows up properly on all devices, while continuing to function smoothly and correctly.
Omni-channel support is also important. Some customers may prefer to reach out via email, while others will use live chat, phone or even social media. Going back to our previous section on simplicity, it is crucial that you are easy to reach for all of your shoppers or prospective buyers.
6. Lots of Choices
Customer expectations today include the desire for lots of choices. That’s because, as we’ve already touched on, contemporary shoppers can easily compare what various stores have to offer.
Here’s an example: I am only 4ft 10in tall. When I was a teenager back in the *cough, cough* late 90s, I only had a few options for “petite” jeans that were actually short enough to fit me. However, thanks to the fact that there are now a wide variety of brands that cater to all body shapes, sizes and styles, my options are practically limitless.
Because customers no longer have to simply settle for items that don’t quite or just barely fit their needs, you need to offer a range of choices that suit a range of wants, needs and preferences.
7. Self-Serve Options
Here’s a customer expectation that many sellers are quite happy about: today’s savvy shoppers often appreciate the ability to self-serve.
Thanks to the ability to look up or access pretty much anything we want with the click of just a few buttons on our smartphones, we have adapted to taking care of our own needs when given the opportunity to do so. For example, visit a supermarket and you will likely see plenty of people using the self-checkout stands at any given time of day.
By giving customers the chance to serve themselves, you’re making their shopping experience much more convenient. And in addition to that, you’re also increasing the chances of closing a sale by providing them with the answers and tools they need to make a buying decision.
Just a few self-serve options include:
- FAQ pages.
- Website help documentation.
- Call center IVRs (interaction voice response systems).
- Smart auto-responders (messaging tools that pick out specific words in a customer query, such as “return,” and then send an appropriate response until a member of your support team can answer their question personally.)
Keep in mind, customers still enjoy personal service. You shouldn’t use IVRs and auto-responders in place of actual human interaction. But they can be great to act as triage until a member of your customer service team can get back to a customer personally.
Everything today is personalized. Our electronic personal assistants know our names and get to know our likes and dislikes. Marketing emails call us by our first name. Entire businesses exist to create personalized experiences for adventurous travelers.
So it makes sense that customer expectations now include personalization. And thanks to innovative technology available on today’s market, it’s fairly easy to accomplish. From using tags to automatically insert a recipient’s name into an email message to making product recommendations based on a shopper’s past purchases, you can use data to create an ultra-customized experience for your customers.
9. Free or Low-Cost Shipping
We touched on this in the guide’s introduction, but customers today absolutely expect free or low-cost shipping when shopping online.
In the past, the ability to buy products from the comfort of your own home was a bit of a novelty. It represented a brand new form of consumerism, and shoppers were willing to pay extra for the convenience of having orders delivered right to their door.
However, now that the majority of retailers offer goods online, customers are much more likely to buy from you if you offer free or low-cost shipping. After all, why would someone pay $5 for an item and then $10 to have it shipped, when they can get the exact same product from another brand for $5 plus $0 delivery?
Obviously, not every company can offer free shipping. For some brands, the items they sell simply cost too much to package and deliver, so free shipping would cut too far into their profit. Meanwhile, other companies offer worldwide shipping, which can also get pricey for the seller. But it is important to provide your customers with as much value as possible. Do your research, compare courier rates and set your fees accordingly. Also, be transparent with your customers about charges; most will appreciate your honesty.
I may sound like a broken record, but modern consumers have access to information on pretty much anything they could ever want to know about. So, if your website is lacking in information, you’re at risk of missing out on sales.
If you want to satisfy customer expectations, you should give shoppers easy access to the following types of information:
- Product /service descriptions.
- Product / service usage instructions.
- High-quality product images.
- FAQ pages.
- Help docs.
- Company culture.
- Your mission / vision.
- Terms & conditions.
- Return / exchange / refund policy.
- Anything else your customers might want to know that is relevant to your brand.
11. Loyalty Rewards
Shoppers have grown accustomed to getting perks for buying repeatedly from the same store. From supermarket discount cards to points at online retailers, nearly every major brand today has some sort of loyalty rewards strategy.
Look at this approach as a way to say “thank you” to customers for coming back to your shop, as well as a tool for influencing them to do so. Just a few ways that you can offer shoppers rewards for being loyal to your brand include:
- Emails that include a discount code for use on their next purchase.
- Free gifts when they spend a certain dollar amount at your store.
- Free shipping on their next order (or when spending a set dollar amount).
- Points earned on every dollar spent, that can then be used toward purchases.
- Birthday discounts / rewards.
12. Shared Values
Today’s customers also prefer to shop with brands whose values align with their own. For example, customers who are passionate about helping animals are more likely to buy from a company that donates a portion of their profits to related causes.
If your brand is involved in any sort of charitable or outreach programs, let your customers know about it. You can also participate in endeavors that are relevant to what you sell. For instance, the sock company Bombas donates one pair of socks to the homeless community for every pair sold.
13. Unique Customer Experience
Customer expectations now also include a unique and memorable experience. After all, we’ve already covered the fact that shoppers today have more choices than ever before. So offering your customers some sort of unique experience can help you to stand out from the crowd and keep people coming back to your store.
Providing a great customer experience starts with understanding your audience and focusing on each individual shoppers’ wants and needs. You want to make sure that everyone who visits your store or website feels valued and appreciated. Another important step to take is to collect feedback and let it influence your future strategies. To learn more about how to create the best customer experience, check out our 27 pro tips on the subject.
In addition to a great experience, customers want to shop with companies that have strong branding. This is yet another way for you to stand out among your competitors.
Look at companies with the most passionate and loyal customer fanbases. Apple, for instance, has developed a brand that users are proud to align with. If you know anyone who uses an iPhone, chances are good that they are adamant about only buying Apple devices. That’s because the company has cultivated a branding tone that is synonymous with high quality and cutting-edge technology.
Conduct your own research into your industry to determine the best branding strategy for you. What kind of message do you want to convey to shoppers? Is yours a fun, stylish, quirky company? Or maybe you want to be seen as a chic, minimalistic and upscale brand. Do what makes sense for you and the customers you want to attract, and utilize things like A / B split testing and feedback to inform your approach.
15. More than Products
Again, customer expectations involve a desire for more than just great products. Yes, it is important that you offer high-quality goods and services. However, it is also crucial that your customers enjoy some other perk for shopping with you whenever possible.
This goes back to several other sections. Maybe you can provide some of the best loyalty rewards in your industry. Or possibly you should offer free shipping, heartwarming values or exciting branding. The point is, find the strategies that compel contemporary shoppers to engage passionately with your brand and you’ll be setting yourself up for growth in the modern marketplace.
When it comes to today’s customer expectations, efficiency is the name of the game. Yes, we’ve already talked about factors such as speedy checkout and simple website navigation, but now we’re discussing your team’s efficiency.
Because of the information available in our modern world, contemporary shoppers expect companies to have access to the data necessary to answer any question on the spot. This is why you need to make sure your customer service representatives are knowledgeable about the products / services you sell and well-trained in how to handle interactions.
You also need to keep good records of everything from customer information to order data (what items were ordered, when orders shipped, etc.). This is another area in which a helpdesk tool like Replyco can assist. Our innovative dashboard, easy access to customer and order data, clickable tracking numbers and more enable sellers to answer customer questions quickly, without having to search around.
17. Comprehensive Customer Service
Comprehensive customer service is one of the most obvious current customer expectations. Today’s shoppers want and deserve accurate, quick and helpful answers to their questions or resolutions to any issues.
When hiring customer service staff, be sure to ask relevant questions in order to determine whether they have the right demeanor and aptitude for the job. Your reps should be friendly, knowledgeable, customer-focused and quick to respond.
Once you’ve hired your staff, make sure they’re well-trained. Implement thorough and organized customer service protocols, and document them so every employee understands what’s expected of them and how to handle specific situations.
Finally, once again, respond to messages quickly. Don’t leave your customers hanging or let any inquiries fall through the cracks.
18. 24/7 Support
Lastly, on the same topic of customer service, today’s customers expect 24/7 support. However, that doesn’t mean you and your staff have to work around the clock.
Use tools such as the aforementioned live chat and auto-responders to perform a sort of virtual triage. Auto-replies via these methods can offer customers answers to shoppers’ most commonly asked questions until someone on your staff can take the time to personally respond to them and address their needs.
If you’d like to take control of your inbox and gain access to a variety of the tools mentioned in this guide, start your free trial with Replyco today. Have questions? Reach out to us any time! We’re always happy to help.