Based on my experience of my teenagers, friends’ comments on social media  (and my own behavior) it is clear to me that today’s consumer is demanding more and more from their online experiences.

We have a shortage of “digital patience.” Physical retail has always been about “instant gratification”, yet now those words apply online, as well. If pages don’t load immediately, if you can’t find what you want in a nanosecond, and if streaming services are buffering, we lose what little patience we had and either get annoyed or give up and move to a site that does perform. I see this all the time – in the case of streaming – cries of “this game is so laggy” often emanate from my son’s bedroom!

With online shopping, if a within site search doesn’t present me with the product I expect, right now, I bounce off and return to Google to answer my needs – and my custom diverts away from the one who wasn’t giving me what I wanted, there and then, to the one that could… chances are my loyalty diverts too – losing a customer to a competitor is bad news!

Now, I accept, that in some cases the problem IS the connection speed – but with that in mind digital businesses need to invest in making sites as fast to load, and as easy to navigate, as possible. However, connection speed is NOT the problem in most cases, and cannot be the excuse for a poor experience either. The issue is firmly with the online business – and it is typically a lack of investment in understanding the uniqueness of the customer.

Customers Demand Understanding

When a consumer arrives at a site, possibly from search, they expect a slick user experience, and, ideally, something tailored to them. Investing in understanding the customer journey, and in building the capability to deliver it more efficiently, is something that online businesses really need to be thinking about right now – if you aren’t, your competitors are. 

Businesses that fail to focus on providing relevant, curated, and slick experiences, are being left behind. The digital journey will be served by those who invest in knowing customers, uniquely, giving each one what THEY want.

What do I mean by this? 

Well, you see, your customer knows that you know them. They are mindful that they have shared a wealth of information about themselves with you, through their various interactions with your brand. They don’t want to be lumped into a “segment” and homogenized with 100s, maybe 1000s, of others – meaning all get a generic experience whilst none get a specific experience. 

They each bring a unique behavioral profile – it is up to you to analyze and utilize that to tailor their experience. They know it can be done too, because customers are even more “mature” online, aware of tech capabilities, and their demands have changed rapidly in recent years.

Pandemic Increases Cost of Not Meeting Customer Expectations 

We all know that the pandemic has impacted consumer behavior – but it was already changing; the pandemic merely accelerated the inevitable. It was a period of unprecedented change – it had taken a decade to reach a stable level of online vs physical retail in the UK, tracking at c. 18.6% (according to the ONS) in January 2020. By April 2020, the ONS reported that online was more than 30% of all retail – in just 3-months, online retail experienced 10-years’ worth of growth. 

The industry was caught out. Some pivoted, rapidly changing in anticipation of continued customer change. Now, as we see light at the end of the tunnel, it will be those who invest in understanding their customer, how they have changed and will continue to change, who will be the winners.

Put simply, modern customers demand speed, convenience, and personalization. In the digital world, businesses must create more relevant and curated customer experiences. You should know the customer as soon as they arrive on your site, and then engage them in a way that proves you understand them. 

This is the digital equivalent of walking into the local butchers and the owner, who of course knows you by name, says: “Hello Miss Bailey! How are you today? I’ve got some fantastic sirloin in – was it your daughter who loves her steak blue? – she’ll love this! 

Oh, I’ve also kept a few bones aside for your little dog….” etc. THAT is what makes shopping in our high streets a great experience. And I am not in any way advocating that online should replace that, rather recreate it, so my brand experiences can be as good in the digital world as they can be in the physical world.

Data and AI Are Way Forward

Investing in technology can enable all of this – utilizing AI, and the wealth of data most businesses have about their customers means businesses can truly curate the online customer experience. 

From personalized ranges to specific prices and promotions, and of course product recommendations – technology means we can now deliver quality, and more importantly, a RELEVANT customer experience that increases sales through loyalty, frequency of visit, and increased basket size per transaction. Quite simply, savvy online businesses can get significant rewards from investing in AI and similar technologies, to personalize the customer experience to their individual needs – the more relevant, the more revenue!

Dig Deeper

What makes a great Ecommerce personalization? Here are the 5 Fundamentals.