By Tom Primrose, Brand Strategist, Curious London
For those of us working in a very consumer-focused industry such as marketing or retail, digital acceleration comes naturally. We wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the idea of researching and buying a product online, booking services digitally or jumping on a Zoom call with colleagues or distant friends.
But for many people this behaviour does not come as easily, and the past 18 months has been a steep learning curve as they have been forced to adopt a far more digital lifestyle. For much of 2020 we didn’t know whether to be more stressed about the availability of delivery slots or loo roll, and there are very few people in the country who have not rejoiced when an aged relative has finally got both their microphone and their camera switched on at the same time.
Jokes aside, my flippancy serves to illustrate a point about the extent to which the pandemic has transformed our behaviour. Curious recently partnered with YouGov to conduct a study into The Hybrid Consumer, in which we set out to establish the extent to which people will carry their new digital habits into their post-pandemic lives.
The good news for ecommerce brands was that there is no longer any discrepancy between the numbers of older and younger people shopping online. We asked our respondents if they planned to continue shopping online after the pandemic and only 3% fewer people aged 55 and over said they would, compared to 25-34 year olds. This should be music to the ears of marketers who might have been concerned about how to attract the older generation of shoppers. It turns out the recent lockdowns have laid the groundwork for them.
However, this does not mean brands should take their eye off the ball when it comes to their digital branding and user experience – something that seems to be a recurring issue among many websites and apps.
Our study revealed a staggering 46% of people have had such a poor online experience that they have abandoned their digital shopping baskets before checking out. Purchases that were within moments of being completed were ditched in response to a bad digital platform, whether that’s poor functionality, difficult navigation or unnecessary complexities. Furthermore, many of these people report the issue happening in the past 18 months, suggesting it is very much an ongoing issue.
User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) should be of equal importance for retailers in an online space, but they cannot work in silo. The two elements of digital branding must work together for the good of the overall experience, and must be thoroughly tested by real consumers before going live. Something that looks great on paper can be hard to use if the interface is not up to scratch: top notch UX is about having something that looks great, works smoothly, aligns perfectly with the brand messaging and is tailored to what the user needs.
Web design can be daunting but should not be over complicated; indeed our study found consumers did not necessarily value unique design or originality over functionality. Respondents cited functionality and visual distinction as key drivers for a positive online experience, with as many as 93% agreeing that functionality is important when using a brand’s digital platform, with visual distinction next on the list of priorities, at 73% and just over one in four of those polled (26%) saying a unique experience is also important.
To lose a customer at the end of the marketing funnel because they are frustrated by the experience is completely avoidable if the right approach is taken to the brand’s digital platforms. Marketers should put as much thought into their website and app branding as that of their product or service; with so many more people spending money via ecommerce sites, now is the time to ensure they are delivering the best possible experience.
Harnessing new and existing online consumers with effective, engaging websites that deliver a straightforward, uncomplicated experience should be a number one priority for online retailers. To agonise over the various stages of the marketing funnel only to fall at the final hurdle does not need to happen and, with careful consideration of what consumers actually want – together with thorough testing – can be easily avoided.