Online retail challenges threaten post-COVID sales recovery—here’s what brands must do

by | Oct 13, 2020 | Public Relations

With the 2020 holiday shopping season expected to largely happen online, it’s never been more critical for brands and retailers to make sure their websites are in tip-top shape to handle the amount of traffic they expect (and hope) to attract, and to make the customer journey as seamless as possible. And if the state of brand sites now is any indication, much work needs to be done.

New research from digital guidance solutions firm goMoxie finds that 40 percent of consumers struggle to complete basic tasks on retail websites—and that most are more likely to abandon the experience or switch to a competitor rather than seek assistance. The findings are especially concerning given the challenges many retailers already face as a result of the COVID crisis. As a critical holiday shopping season approaches, the firm’s new survey signals a need for a more proactive approach to ensure customer success and maximize e-commerce revenue.

Online retail challenges threaten post-COVID sales recovery—here’s what brands must do

The survey was fielded during a time when COVID-19 has driven increased retail activity into online channels. According to eMarketer, in 2020, e-commerce sales will climb by 18 percent to reach $709.78 billion, representing 14.5 percent of total U.S. retail sales. While this increased volume suggests expanded opportunities for online retailers, the high levels of struggle and abandonment indicate that many of these businesses are failing to realize their full sales potential.

Online retail challenges threaten post-COVID sales recovery—here’s what brands must do

“Consumers should not have to struggle to do business online. Unfortunately, many do and they end up leaving,” said Rebecca Ward, goMoxie CEO, in a news release. “We’ve already seen retail customer interaction volumes more than double year-over-year in advance of the peak holiday shopping season. Retailers should be taking steps now to guide every customer to success in order to increase transactions, strengthen satisfaction and make the most of the sales opportunities over the 2020 holiday season and beyond.”

Online retail challenges threaten post-COVID sales recovery—here’s what brands must do

Key findings from the survey:

Online shoppers face myriad basic obstacles—including not being able to complete a transaction

The most common forms of struggle come down to easily avoidable failures. Consumers could greatly benefit from retailers guiding them with proactive and relevant information throughout the purchase path. Guide customers when they arrive to the site, through product selection and check out as well as when they return for service and support. When consumers reported struggling online, they encounter the following:

  • 43 percent of consumers struggled with insufficient, incorrect or confusing information via mobile
  • 43 percent reported difficulties in site navigation
  • 42 percent were unable to complete a transaction
  • 36 percent encountered an error message
  • 22 percent reported password / login challenges

Online retail challenges threaten post-COVID sales recovery—here’s what brands must do

Consumer struggle costs retailers business

E-commerce websites make support channels available. Unfortunately, shoppers are far more likely to give up and leave—making it essential to take a proactive approach to guidance. When encountering a struggle online:

  • 62 percent abandoned the shopping experience
  • 52 percent shopped with a competitor
  • Only 26 percent contacted customer service

Online retail challenges threaten post-COVID sales recovery—here’s what brands must do

While phone is slightly preferred, retailers that are looking to keep customers in the digital channel should focus on interacting via email and live chat versus text messaging and chatbots

Some businesses have turned to text messaging and chatbots / virtual assistants, but consumers don’t prefer these means of interaction. When asked which channel they prefer to use when contacting a retailer:

  • 33 percent chose telephone
  • 26 percent chose email
  • 25 percent chose live chat with an agent
  • 13 percent chose self-service portal
  • 12 percent chose text / SMS message
  • 8 percent chose chatbot / virtual assistant

Online retail challenges threaten post-COVID sales recovery—here’s what brands must do

The significant shift to online in such a short period of time presents an opportunity for many retailers

With less than two months to go until the holiday shopping season kicks off in earnest, retailers have limited time to take advantage of these findings and implement digital guidance to reduce customer friction and churn and deliver better business outcomes.

Download the full report here.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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