What Online Shoppers Expect in 2021

The pandemic-induced shift to online shopping is permanent for many consumers. That’s the good news for ecommerce companies. The not-so-good news is those consumers have heightened expectations. Here are seven of them.

7 Expectations of Post-pandemic Shoppers

Easy returns. Flexible return policies remain critical to most online shoppers. Amazon has led the pack on this one, giving customers options to drop off at Amazon Lockers, Kohl’s, or UPS stores. Some merchants allow customers to generate a free shipping label, and a scheduled UPS driver will pick up the return. Find a way to ease the burden of returns and exchanges. It will boost loyalty and reduce chargebacks.

Amazon customers can return goods at Kohl’s, UPS stores, and Amazon Lockers, such as this one in a small town in west Texas. Author image.

Social media buying. Consumers of all ages now embrace shopping on social media platforms. Brands that want to stay current should take advantage of social-integration tools. Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok — all have experienced shopping spikes since early 2020.

Mobile-first. Thanks largely to gaming apps, which realized unprecedented growth, and social media, consumers use their smartphones first. Brands that focus on mobile increase their chances of success. However, don’t dismiss desktops. Cross-device shopping remains popular.

Personalized experiences. A once-trendy feature is now essential to business survival. But there’s a hitch: Online users in 2021 value privacy and security. So find ways to personalize shopping sessions without being creepy. An easy way to do this is via a login, where shoppers access their accounts while browsing and purchasing.

Fast and affordable order fulfillment. Shoppers are willing to wait a few days to receive non-essential items. Nonetheless, the speed of receiving orders affects a customer’s loyalty. According to McKinsey & Company, deliverability is a primary reason for consumers switching brands. Take the time to critique your fulfillment process, from receiving the order to delivery at a customer’s doorstep.

Greener offerings. Consumers increasingly prefer merchants who emphasize environmental sustainability. Take a cue from leading organic brands that offer products with zero-waste or reusable packaging.

Live help anytime. Consumers have questions. The best time to answer is when they are shopping on your site. FAQs and chatbots only help so much. Consider offering live chat 24/7. Otherwise, make it available during business hours and respond to email and social-media queries near instantly.

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