A number of trends that were already out there were catalyzed by the Pandemic. The social distancing and the lockdowns forced a number of businesses, that were traditionally selling their products in brick-and-mortar stores, had to find solutions to keep selling at the same time that they fully complied with the sanitary restrictions. The eCommerce becomes a natural and obvious solution. The eCommerce, however, is not a new solution, but it’s broad use across all types of product lines is something unprecedented. Millions of reluctant Customers were forced into the eCommerce arena, simply because of a lack of choice.
For the sake of this discussion, there are 3 fundamental types of consumers. The first are the ones that love purchasing stuff online. On average these consumers do not care much about the clothing perfect fit, or they don’t care about the look and feel of the computers, as they buy the configuration, or they highly value the convenience of finding what they need by the click of a button and not having to visit 5 physical stores to find what they want. Those people typically feel that there is a gap of convenience between the 2 worlds (physical and online).
The second type are the ones that like the online Experience, but they miss the interaction with the products before they buy. They enjoy fitting the clothes, experimenting the electronic devices, browsing the books, touching the fruit or tasting and smelling the cheese they buy. Those Customers are the ones that will likely use Best Buy as Amazon’s showcase, so they find what they want at Amazon, then they go to the store to touch and feel the product, than go back home to purchase, for the price, and many other conveniences. Those are the ones that don’t see a gap, but they believe the 2 worlds complement each other.
The third are the ones that never liked and still don’t like the online Experience. Those are the ones that like to ask questions, touch things, use before they buy. Those are the ones that want to “dress” their cars, to “connect” with the clothes, to be “immersed” in their gadgets. They want the real-life Experience before they commit. Those are the Customers that perceive a gap on the eCommerce modality of purchase.
For this third type of Customer, some eCommerce platforms are doing their best to reduce this perceived gap. They work to make easier for the Customer to commit to the purchase using various techniques, such as neuromarketing or simply making it easier for the Customer to do business.
For example, Amazon uses the social pressure, to get Customers to purchase, through the rating stars, as well as the number of people that can validate your choices, with comments. They also have very flexible return policies, which represents a safety cushion to the Customer that can buy, try and if it doesn’t work, or is not enjoyable enough, or simply doesn’t fit, all they have to do is return the product, no questions asked. They also provide a lot of pictures of the products, which you can zoom in to see the details. They also allow you to “Look Inside” the books before you buy, so you are not buying a lottery ticket by seeing only the cover. The Free shipping offered to Prime Customers is also a way to cover a gap, as you don’t have to pay for shipping when you buy your article at a physical store. They even give you the choice to purchase an used item, at a lower price, which physical stores cannot do. Some supermarkets advertise that fruit experts will choose the fruit you order by hand, one-by-one, as you would do if you were at the store. Some subscription retail businesses send you clothes in different sizes, so you can choose the one that fits best.
In all cases, the idea is to understand the perceived gap by your Customer and try to emulate the real-life solutions digitally, so you can get the Customer to feel the online Experience as close as possible to the physical setup.
With the end of the pandemic, a number of Customers will go back to the good old way of purchasing stuff, visiting the stores to have a physical Experience, however, those Customers will never be the same. After trying the new digital way of doing things, they will likely demand more from the Experience they have during the purchase, both on the physical and eCommerce environments. Most businesses will never be able to “go back to normal”. They will have to expand their offering to keep delivering the good old way and will have to continue with the new way, that offers a lot more convenience, but they will not be able to take that leap half way. Customers will expect more and will demand more, always trying by themselves to reduce the perceived gap between the eCommerce and the Real-World Experiences. Be prepared.