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We’ve all read the reports on how COVID has changed purchasing behavior. Much has been impacted, everything from a greater focus on sustainable living to more shoppers purchasing groceries online, some for the first time, has shaped the way we now shop. These changes have come in rapid-fire for brands, and most are still trying to determine the best way forward. Nonetheless, one thing is for sure, providing consumers with the right e-commerce experience is increasingly important.
Tried and true measures like frictionless shopping experiences still sit at the top of the must-have list, but something even more pronounced has emerged. The customer is looking for a personalized experience that meets their needs. Now more than in the past, the customer is looking for answers to relevant questions such as: Which product is a fit for my specific needs right now? Which product supports my contemporary values? In today’s unfolding real-time environment, is it any wonder that health and wellness brands have experienced significant spikes in sales during the pandemic? Consumers are looking to improve their lives during a time when an illness is top of mind.
Despite this truth, we still see many brands relying on the same attributes as in the past. Generic terms such as “organic” and non-GMO dominate product descriptions when the customer has become more much educated and discerning in their needs. They are seeking nuanced information on a multitude of factors, such as the brand’s sustainability efforts, supply chain traceability, fair trade, and whether the brand is doing good in the world.
A Nielsen sustainability study examined this consumer trend in greater detail. The top three growing sustainability claims include grass-fed (24% growth), free-range (22% growth) and B-Corporation status (19% growth) whereas more generic claims such as recyclable remain flat (0%). The same trend applies to the beauty industry, with claims of “natural” being seem as too vague in the eyes of the consumer, while claims such as “paraben-free cosmetics” grew. The general sentiment is that consumers want brands to be more specific because consumers increasingly know what they are seeking. This is especially true in an e-commerce environment where reading labels and comparing brands is just one click away. This was already the case prior to the pandemic, but this reality has become more prominent as consumers spend more time online researching products prior to purchasing.
The Power of Personalization
Blame it on a sea of products that look and feel remarkably similar in the eyes of the consumer, but brands need to allocate more resources to truly understanding the wants and needs of modern customers. That is why personalization is critical to differentiating your brand from the competition. Brands such as Vital Protein understand this, boasting a website that not only has effective navigation, content, and resources but also has a personalization tool front and center. This tool creates customized product recommendations for Vital Protein shoppers. While the tool is basic, it provides assurance to the user that their unique needs are being addressed.
An online store is a perfect application for creating personalized recommendations. Integrating zero-party, consumer opt-in surveys and questionnaires puts the control in the hands of your customers while also being transparent about your brand’s data collection efforts. The good news is that study after study has confirmed that consumers are willing to share their information with brands if it results in a better experience with the brand. A recent Accenture study found that 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience. These efforts also result in driving revenues. According to a recent AdWeek article, personalization can increase revenues by 15%.
At the end of the day, consumer purchasing behaviors continue to shift toward more customized experiences with brands, and nowhere is that more pronounced than online. Consumers’ e-commerce expectations will perpetually increase. The sooner brands understand and begin curating product offerings and incentives to speak to the specific needs of their customers the better.