Lucidworks, provider of the Connected Experience Cloud, shared results from a survey of 800 respondents about shopper behaviour and preferences in the U.K. and U.S.
The survey outlines how shoppers interact with chatbots, product and content recommendations, where they prefer to do research, and plans for future in-store shopping. Shoppers are ready for an experience that’s as multifaceted as they are; this includes expanded chatbot capabilities, diverse recommendations that incorporate content, and personalised experiences that understand who they are and what they like.
Shoppers Want Expanded Chatbot Capabilities and Enhanced Understanding
Although chatbots are primarily used for customer service, more than half of U.K. shoppers want to also use chatbots to connect with an employee for advice and 45% want support finding specific products. Chatbot use is fairly widespread, with two-fifths of U.K. shoppers saying they use a site’s chatbot often or at every visit. Unfortunately, frequent usage does not translate into satisfaction with over 40% of respondents saying chatbots understand them rarely or never.
Simply providing a chatbot is not sufficient, and a below-par experience can actually do more harm than good. Brands need to up their game, and invest in machine learning and natural language processing to extend a chatbot’s functionality so shoppers can ask questions in a natural way and get immediate, relevant and contextual answers.
Consumers Seek Recommendations for Content from Brands
Product recommendations are a proven approach to adding value to consumers’ shopping experiences, as well as increasing average order value for brands. The overwhelming majority of shoppers (78%) across the U.K. and U.S. interact with product recommendations always or often, and 58% of U.K. shoppers say every visit or often they buy recommended items they didn’t initially plan on buying.
However, shoppers also signaled that suggested content, including how-to and DIY guides, expert recommendations, and product videos, are useful, particularly during the research phase of a customer journey. Almost two-thirds of U.K. shoppers do research always or often before making a purchase. Reviews from other customers were most popular, and roughly a quarter of respondents reviewed branded content on the website before purchasing. Although recommending this type of unstructured content is more difficult for legacy commerce technology environments, surfacing relevant content builds trust with shoppers and keeps them on site longer.
Shopper Loyalty Hinges on Product Quality, Personalisation, and Customer Service
Many of the shopping behaviours adapted over the past year will continue even once restrictions are lifted. For example, 39% of U.K. shoppers plan to visit in-person stores less often than before COVID. Willingness to return to stores in-person varied across verticals.
Apparel appears more resilient than other industries. Although today, two-thirds of U.K. shoppers buy apparel or clothing online to have it delivered, as restrictions lift more than half of shoppers (59%) plan to primarily purchase apparel or clothing in person. This differs from electronics, where only 26% of U.K. respondents plan to purchase electronics primarily in person once COVID restrictions are lifted. Brands must continue to invest in digital experiences to help replace or augment foot traffic and re-capture consumer loyalty.
Loyalty poses a challenge when customers have limitless options online. Shoppers across the U.K. and U.S. agree that high product quality, personalised recommendations, and excellent customer service are the top three reasons that they’re loyal to brands. Brands must create a connective tissue across all channels and deliver customer insights to employees in real-time so they can improve the customer experience, including site experience, product quality, and customer support to engage shoppers for the long haul. Additionally, more comprehensive customer insights empower more productive employees and better connect the customer experience with the employee experience to enhance the total brand experience.
“The survey confirms what we already know as consumers; shoppers come to a website with a variety of intentions, whether they’re browsing to buy for themselves or their 10-year old, looking for support on a return, or seeking expert advice on a DIY project," said Peter Curran, general manager of digital commerce, Lucidworks. "The shopper inhabits multiple personas. To create a great customer experience you have to understand the consumer's goal in the moment. The ability to harness first-party data and in-session inferences are the keys to delivering a great experience. Brands must connect the dots between all of the actions a shopper takes to understand their goal and deliver the most relevant experience from research, to purchase, to support, and back."
Other key findings from the survey include:
• 44% of U.K. shoppers use a website’s chatbot for help finding a product
• 64% of U.K. shoppers always or often click on a relevant post or ad on social media for recommended products
• The majority U.K. shoppers are most likely to subscribe to email and social media channels for their favorite brands and are least likely to subscribe to text or video streaming channels
• 60% of respondents across the U.K. and U.S. interact with recommended products on the product page of the website, half do so on the home page, and 38% do so on the shopping cart page
• Shoppers in the U.S. and the U.K. prefer to keep stores the same post-COVID, but retain some COVID protocols, including physically distanced queues and contactless payments
The Lucidworks survey was conducted in May of this year using Pollfish, a self-serve survey tool, and limited to respondents who shop online at least once a week. 400 respondents located in the U.K. and 400 respondents located in the U.S. participated.