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As ecommerce grows, so, too, do shopper expectations that digital retailers will deliver a great experience.
With the promise of innovation that improves on old shopping norms and a slew of ecommerce companies focused on making the whole ordering and delivery process seamless, the bar has been raised.
According to the Relevance Report 2022 for Ecommerce by AI-powered personalization platform Coveo, 93% of 4,000 consumers surveyed expect the online shopping experience to be at least equal to, if not better, than shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. When considering that more shoppers are returning to in-person shops this year as pandemic restrictions lift, the report points out that it becomes even more important to create a digital experience that they’ll want to seek out amid a number of options.
One of the first steps to doing so is answering the proposition that starts many store journeys: Shoppers want to know whether they will be able to find an item they are seeking.
In ecommerce, this starts from the time shoppers open a browser to search for an item. It’s important to keep in mind that this process doesn’t necessarily start at the brand’s homepage. Asked where their search began, more than half of the respondents Coveo surveyed gave more than one answer. Of the 44% of respondents who identified only one source choice, about one-third (32%) said they do so through a search engine, while 30% said they started on Amazon. Only 16% of respondents indicated they begin their search on a specific retailer’s site.
When they do arrive at a site where they are presented with options, they likely want to find the kind of item they are seeking and an experience that’s a fit. If they don’t, they might not be there long.
“Consumers will move very quickly,” Brian McGlynn, General Manager of Commerce at Coveo, told The Current. “They want things that are relevant. They want things that speak to them.”
If they don’t find that relevant experience, they’ll likely bounce off of a site quickly.
The immediacy of shopping on the internet has made one thing clear to consumers: “They’re not going to put up with bad experiences,” McGlynn said.
Indeed, just 6% of respondents to Coveo’s survey said they found online shopping experiences to be “always” relevant to their buying habits and preferences.
Yet they are also willing to pay for one that they know will deliver. Coveo found the following:
- 52% of online shoppers said they would be willing to pay more if they could find what they’re looking for in “just a few clicks”. Among Gen Z respondents, the willingness rose to 60%.
- 48% said they would pay more if they received supporting content that adds value to products
- 69% said they would pay more if they were offered value-add services to elevate the shopper experience.
It all indicates that shoppers want more personalized experiences, and will continue to do so. Technology is evolving to help. Brands are choosing headless commerce solutions that allow for a more customizable frontend to keep improving based on what they hear from customers. They are also opting for AI-powered tools that enhance search and make recommendations, such as what is offered by Coveo.
Technology alone won’t provide the personalized experience that shoppers want. AI requires data to learn a person’s tendencies, and nearly 60% of shoppers said they would choose to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns. Yet 51% said they would be more likely to share personal data with a brand they trust.
The path to personalization is not a one-way street. Shoppers must have a sense of connection with the brand before providing the data that in turn gives the brand a better understanding of what they want. Tradeoffs will likely be necessary on both sides. Those who can figure out both sides of the equation will be more likely to keep customers in the store.
Trending in Shopper Experience
Ask Instacart answers prompts with personalized recommendations.
A pair of recent launches from Instacart highlight how the grocery ecommerce company is integrating two of the key emerging areas of technology into its offerings: Generative AI and marketplaces.
Let’s take a look:
Instacart is seeking to harness generative AI to create a more personalized shopping experience.
A new tool called Ask Instacart that is launching this week is designed to allow customers to type in questions about specific recipes or general recommendations for an occasion. Embedded in the search bar, Ask Instacart also provides personalized questions to be asked by customers. In addition to specific items, it provides information about food preparation, product attributes and dietary considerations.
For those eying how generative AI will play a role in the shopping experience, Ask Instacart shows how search can be transformed into a place for discovery. Instacart is aiming to provide answers to the more open-ended questions that people would naturally ask, not just simply provide info in response to a question that has one answer. It shared the following sample prompts:
- “What fish is similar to salmon?”
- “What can I use in a stir-fry?”
- “What are dairy-free snacks for kids?”
The tool is also showing the way for generative AI to integrate with retail media. Ask Instacart is designed to integrate with a brand's sponsored products campaign, so that the answers to questions that match consumer needs can also provide a way for brands to stand out.
To create the tool, Instacart combined the language understanding of ChatGPT with its own AI models. It added in catalog data from 80,000 retail partner locations around the country, which together have more than one billion shoppable items.
Beyond mission: Ecommerce marketplaces have honed a shopping experience where it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. But if shoppers want to happen upon something they didn’t know they needed, social media or the store is still the best place to visit. Instacart is showing how generative AI can make discovery a marketplace function. It also signals that advertising will come to generative AI by way of retail media. Going forward, the growth of discovery could make retail media more valuable as a tool for advertising that raises brand awareness, not just lower-funnel conversions.
A virtual store
Instacart will power a new virtual convenience store for the grocery chain Aldi.
Aldi Express will feature 2,000 of the most-shopped Aldi items, ranging from prepared food and snacks to grocery staples.
Drawing on 2,100 Aldi locations around the country, items will be delivered as fast as 30 minutes, the companies said.
“Through ALDI Express, we’re making shopping more convenient so you can satisfy a craving or get a missing ingredient in minutes,” said Scott Patton, VP of National Buying at ALDI, in a statement. “Together with Instacart, we’ll continue to find ways to innovate and make the online grocery experience even more effortless and accessible.”
Aldi began offering delivery via Instacart in 2017, and has since expanded services to include pickup as well as alcohol delivery.
Aldi’s marketplace moment? While Aldi previously offered delivery, making the assortment available through a virtual store offers the opportunity to create a marketplace for its goods. With the virtual store, it will more closely resemble DoorDash and Uber Eats, which have been expanding their grocery assortment. With a marketplace, additional revenue opportunities could open up for the grocer, such as advertising through retail media.