As a consumer, you’ve probably done your fair share of deal-hunting, moving from one eCommerce shop to another, trying to find the best offer available; and as an eCommerce business owner you’re probably not a huge fan of comparison shoppers. In a global market, business owners sometimes take the ostrich-approach, sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring the problem altogether. Unsurprisingly, these folks’ businesses don’t survive for very long. Others tend to get hung up on pricing as the decisive factor of a customer’s decision to purchase from one shop as opposed to another. The approach isn’t entirely wrong but it can make you lose sight of other, essential factors that can motivate a purchase because, after all, there’s a limit to much you can chop your prices. So how can you satisfy the comparison shopper without going bankrupt?
Comparison Shopping Then and Now
Online shoppers didn’t invent the concept of comparison shopping, it’s been an essential component of commerce since the first merchant managed to make a sale by convincing customers his product was better than the rest. The idea of getting the most bang for your buck isn’t that novel either and its origins can be found in a concept as old as time – gaining the biggest advantage possible with the least amount of effort or resources. Say Hello to profitability. So what’s really changed in terms of shopping these days? Access.
50 years ago, your neighborhood bakery was likely the only bakery around, which meant those who fancied their products and either lived or worked nearby quickly became its patrons. Even if there was another bakery on the block, getting ahead of the competition was a matter of being better than a single other merchant. Today’s eCommerce shops can’t play the proximity card, since the Internet has not only made their products available worldwide but has also placed merchants in a global competitor market. Strong competition doesn’t mean you should pack it in and pick a new line of business. It does, however, mean you’ll have to keep an eye on your competitors, create and maintain a competitive advantage for your business.
Figure out what your assets are and make creating awareness around them the focus of all your marketing efforts. Do you have the easiest return policy among all you competitors, does your store sell exclusive products or do you offer periodic discounts? Make sure every single potential customer knows and appreciates the advantages of doing business with you. I do have to stress that, in this case, raising awareness has to be the focus of a marketing campaign, not the heart and soul of your eCommerce store. When it comes to the shop itself, the product has to be the most prominent element, with branding, USPs and CTAs playing second-fiddle.
Positioning Won’t Save You
To avoid tackling the challenges posed by comparison shopping, business owners often use their positioning as a trump card, saying things like Our audience doesn’t care about money or Our shoppers care about the service value not the money they spend. All valid points, if there’s even the slightest added value to the product or service with the higher price. Otherwise, there’s absolutely no reason to pay a higher price for exactly the same product and no matter how wealthy your audience is and regardless of how much money they throw left and right, they are well-aware of this.
The truth is almost everyone is into comparison shopping, regardless how much money they have and how much retailers despise the practice. It’s an integral part of the pre-purchase research process and it doesn’t have as much to do with budgets as it does with comparing the value of the retailer itself. Whether consciously or not, consumers try to determine which store is the most trustworthy, has the highest-quality product, fastest shipping, easiest returns and, yes, at some point, which one has the best prices. Does this make the 59% of consumers who choose to shop online citing the convenience of price comparisons as a motivation, cheap? Not even a little. It does, however, make them smart.
Understanding that the majority of eCommerce consumers are intelligent people who won’t fall head over heels in love with anything as long as you slap a deal sticker on it, means you can now focus on finding and improving what really matters to them. For instance, if your product is highly technical and you find your audience is having difficulties understanding all the technical aspects behind it, you might consider putting together an effective customer support team to answer their questions and guide them to the products that fulfill their needs. Will the cost of you product go up? Perhaps. But if your high cart abandonment rate is caused by lack of technical understanding, lowering your prices won’t do the trick. Addressing the issue and offering your customers a viable solution, however, most certainly will.
Embrace The Challenge
Instead of treating the problem like a seasonal cold and waiting for it to just go away, step up and help your customers accomplish their goals. Are they among the 61% likely to cancel their purchase if you don’t offer free shipping? Consider putting together a Free Shipping policy and decide on a spend minimum that won’t blow a hole in your wallet. Are they moving from one product to another and back again, trying to compare products? Make it easier on them and add a product comparison feature.
An often ignored but essential online shopping component is the shopping experience itself. eCommerce shops are busy littering their websites with flashy and redundant features instead of focusing on a handful of things that have the potential to massively improve the consumer’s experience and lead to more purchases. Virtual dressing rooms, features that allow customers to combine wardrobe pieces with accessories to create outfit bundles, interactive demo products not unlike the hands-on experience brick and mortar shops provide can vastly improve the user’s experience and provide a powerful incentive to buy.
The Bottom Line
Comparison shopping is not a fad but a natural consequence of shoppers having massive amounts of information readily available at any given time through mobile devices. And people don’t just research and compare products while shopping online, research shows that 66% of smartphone shoppers check prices while in retail showrooms, emphasizing just how much of the shopping experience, both online and offline, involves online research.
While some might disagree, I believe it to be a healthy progression from convenience shopping to intelligent shopping, a leap that extends to both shoppers and eCommerce stores, as they can no longer rely on rather superficial advantages – like simply being on the shopper’s route – but now have to develop specific, tangible advantages for their potential customers.