More Than Two Years into the Pandemic, What's Different in Ecommerce?

Retailers know the pandemic transformed ecommerce with a flood of orders from existing customers, brand-new online shoppers, and consumers from other countries. Of course, order volume and customer profiles aren’t the only ecommerce changes since March 2020. Understanding the nuances of those changes is critical for online retail success now.

To get a clearer picture of the digital shift’s impact, ClearSale compared the findings of its second-annual consumer research report, State of Consumer Attitudes on Ecommerce, Fraud & CX 2021, with data from our 2020 report. Each report covers online surveys of more than 1,000 ecommerce shoppers each in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, the U.K., and Australia. The 2021 survey covered March 2020 (the start of pandemic lockdowns in much of the world) through March 2021, while the 2020 survey covered March 2019 through March 2020.

Comparing the data from the two reports revealed three key changes in online shoppers’ habits and expectations that retailers can use to enhance their ecommerce experiences.

Consumers Rely on Ecommerce Convenience

From March 2019 through March 2020, only 26 percent of consumers shopped online at least once a week. Over the next 12 months, 45 percent of consumers shopped online that often. Also, from March 2020 through March 2021, 13 percent of survey participants who had never shopped online started making ecommerce purchases.

Consumers weren’t simply shopping online more frequently once the pandemic began. Forty-three percent also spent more online, while only 15 percent cut their online spending. Shoppers have also branched out in terms of what they purchased online since March 2020, with 53 percent making online purchases in new categories. Home goods, clothing, and electronics were the top three new categories for online consumers.

Now, with brick-and-mortar stores open again, 61 percent of consumers said that convenience was an important factor in their decision to keep shopping online instead of in-store. Fast shipping and delivery options were a deciding factor for 65 percent of shoppers, as well.

Retailers that focus on optimizing their online customer experience for convenience and fast delivery — both for returning customers and novice ecommerce shoppers — are likely to keep the customers they’ve won since March 2020 and grow their customer base.

Consumers Are More Security Conscious

As more consumers are shopping online, they’re increasingly concerned with fraud and the security of their payment information. In last year’s survey, 51 percent said fraud protection mattered more to them than keeping their data private. In this year’s survey, 67 percent agree with this statement — and 24 percent fewer consumers in the latest survey said that getting a good deal mattered more than website security.

These changes in attitude aren’t surprising, because 15 percent of this year’s survey respondents said they’d had a payment fraud experience online in the previous 12 months. Among the fraud victims, 62 percent said they experienced more online payment fraud in 2020 than in 2019. Among all of this year’s survey participants, 84 percent agreed they would never shop again at a website that was the victim of credit card fraud.

Retailers that assure customers that their data is secure and have a robust fraud prevention program can earn more sales and build loyalty. Offering alternative payment options can also help, as 71 percent of this year’s surveyed customers always or sometimes pay with a digital wallet to avoid entering their card number on a website.

Online Shoppers Are Fed Up With False Declines

False declines cost businesses more than just the lost profit on those orders. Often, customers feel insulted, with 40 percent saying they will boycott a retailer after a decline. That means those businesses also lose the potential lifetime value of those customers, along with the marketing budget they spent to attract them to their website in the first place.

Increasingly, declined customers are also willing to share those bad experiences with their social networks, which can extend the losses for businesses. The number of consumers who said they would post a negative comment about a retailer after a decline jumped by 21 percent from last year to this year (28 percent in 2020 to 34 percent in 2021). This kind of word-of-mouth can damage brands and make it more expensive and difficult to acquire new customers.

Retailers that focus on reducing false declines can avoid these losses, increase customer lifetime value, and protect their brands. The most practical approach is to avoid rejecting flagged orders and instead use expert manual review to sort fraud from unusual but valid behavior, like a brand-new ecommerce shopper or overseas customer making data entry errors at checkout.

Providing convenient, safe, frustration-free shopping experiences is the key to keeping ecommerce customers now. It’s clear from the data that many consumers would prefer to keep shopping online, but they also insist on protection from fraud and recognition as good customers.


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