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Eloise Freygang | 04 July 2016

Why shop online: from price to convenience, and back again

Why shop online: from price to convenience, and back again
More and more people say they prefer online shopping over going to physical stores, citing an increasing number of advantages. Although online shopping has become undeniably popular, if you are an online retailer it is important to understand the psyche of the online shopper, to get them flocking to your online store. According to a number of studies, three of the most important reasons for shopping online are the convenience of shopping wherever whenever, the possibility to get the best price, and greater product selection.

Shopping in your pajamas

Convenience is the number one reason cited by those who prefer shopping online versus visiting brick-and-mortar stores. The benefits of shopping online when it comes to convenience are pretty clear-cut: where else can you do your shopping after midnight, wearing your pj‘s? Plus, when you are shopping online, you can avoid crowds as well as the annoyance (and waste of time) of waiting in a line – benefits I thought about last time I was shopping at H&M for my kids. By buying online you can do your shopping in minutes even if you are busy, as you can fit it in your spare time, for example the commute to work. The time-saving perk of online shopping is, however, dependent on external factors: shoppers need to have a reliable and fast internet connection, and online retailers need to ensure website performance, for example reducing the number of large, hard-to-load images, designing a responsive website that works on various devices, and so on.

Striking a bargain

According to Adobe’s newly-conceived Digital Price Index, which tracked the movement of around 1.7 million online transactions, the prices of a range of items on the Web have fallen when compared to the Consumer Price Index, the traditional measure of price change for a basket of goods. Although the price fall occurred mostly for items in the computer and electronics category, this is still illuminating data, showing that online shopping can, indeed, save you a pretty penny. And online consumers do gravitate towards low-priced items, as the surprising success of Hollar, the first online dollar store, confirmed. The startup, which opened to general skepticism as regards the viability of an online dollar store, has reached $1 million a month in online sales just six months after opening its virtual doors. Big online retailers like Amazon are famous for hugely discounting their most popular products to attract customers and create the perception of being an inexpensive store – while charging more, and making money on less popular products.

More colors, more sizes, more variety

Many websites – think Amazon, or – offer several brands and products from different sellers in one place. Thus, you can get in on the latest international trends without spending money on travel; you can shop from retailers in other parts of the country or even the world, without being limited by geographic area. Also, because there are fewer storage issues, online stores can offer a far greater product selection than you will find in a local store. And if you find that the product you need is out of stock in a specific online store, you can always shop from another online retailer, with little effort required. We could therefore also state that a diverse product selection could be one of the factors that make online shopping more convenient.

Convenience or price? A complex interplay of factors

What drives more shoppers to your website, convenience (which you could leverage by offering flexible delivery and a large variety of items) or bargain prices? Unfortunately, there is no simple, straightforward answer. Many factors weigh into people’s shopping decisions, including:
  • what retail items they are purchasing
  • where items are being shipped from and to (location, country)
  • how fast the products can be delivered
and more. It must also be noted that pricing can be a very complex matter. While some online stores are highly transparent with their pricing, others require customers to do the math, calculating for example the impact of shipping costs, promotions, coupons and/or loyalty rewards. In these cases, what initially appeared to be a bargain can end up as an expensive buy – which possibly explains why seven out of ten online buyers abandon their shopping carts before completing the purchase. Forward-thinking retailers have already started playing with analytics and dynamic pricing in a bid to offer the appropriate perk for each customer. In the future, we will probably see differentiated offerings in the very same online store, depending on the customer – as the price will vary depending on his or her shopping history, the device they use for browsing, their ZIP code, and more. For now, if they want to stay competitive and attract customers, webstores who are not playing the analytics game are left with the complex task of juggling attractive pricing, great service and a large product selection.
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