It’s no secret that e-commerce is an ever-growing segment of American retail. Over the last decade, online sales have increased at a remarkably steady rate; more and more, if it’s for sale, it’s for sale online.
Improving the experience for online shoppers – making checkout quicker and easier, for instance – helps businesses in myriad ways: customers come back for more shopping trips, refer their friends, and, in turn, the business increases their online revenue. Recently, a client asked us to conduct a short flash survey of female panelists to learn more about this already large (yet constantly growing!) demographic of online shoppers.
We wrote up a short survey about online shopping habits, chose 500 female panelists at random, and sent it off on a Friday afternoon, when we knew our panelists would be winding down from their work week and have a little spare time. When we returned to the office on Monday, we found that an impressive 211 women – more than 42 percent! – had responded over the weekend.
How Often & Where They Buy
The panelists who responded were a shopping-savvy group with a significant amount of buying power. These women engage in a noteworthy amount of online shopping. Nearly a quarter of them – 22% – shop online multiple times per week, and a full two-thirds shop online multiple times per month.
Their answers pointed to an Internet economy dominated by mass merchandisers like Amazon, Overstock, and eBay. A full 77 percent of panelists said they shop at online-only destinations like these “often” or “most often,” by far the largest total.
The rise to prominence of deal-of-the-day sites such as Groupon has been a major storyline over the last few years, and these types of retailers were also well-represented, checking in as the second-most-popular type of online shopping destination, just ahead of discount department stores such as Walmart, Target, and Costco.
How They Make Buying Decisions
While lots of factors enter into decision-making when shopping online, there’s no denying that cash is still king. Item prices and shipping costs were easily our panelists’ greatest concerns, reflecting the bargain-hunting nature of shopping online. More than 75% of panelists said they “often” or “always” compare prices at multiple websites before buying, and more than 60% search for discount codes before checking out, strongly suggesting that competitive pricing remains crucial to generating business online.
However, price wasn’t the only factor concerning our panelists. Return policy and ease of returns were the third- and fourth-most-important factors, and the speed of free-shipping options and availability of tracking information also ranked highly.
A majority of panelists said they make choices based on previous experiences with sellers as well as their reputations, indicating that retailers should prioritize great service and ensure that customers associate their brands with quality and reliability. Finally, the availability of detailed item specifications and trustworthy customer reviews factored strongly into panelists’ purchase decisions.
What Stops Them from Buying
Our survey-takers enjoyed the convenience, time-saving, gas-saving and crowd-avoidance possibilities of online shopping. However, a many of the women – almost 29% of panelists – said that checking out online can be so long, so complicated, and require so much information that it can cause them to abandon their shopping carts, suggesting there is still more to be done to streamline the checkout process.
Panelists also noted that not being able to see, feel, and try items remains a significant drawback of shopping online, and several voiced concerns with account security – a constant battle being fought by companies that collect personal information.
But, as several panelists noted, it’s all worth it when you can shop in your favorite slippers.
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