The Generation Gap Is Real
It likely doesn’t surprise you to read that the digitally native younger generations are more frequent online shoppers: 50% of respondents under the age of 55 say they shop online at least once a week.
Gen Z and Millennials Are More Comfortable Shopping Online
People in the Gen X and baby boomer generations, however, still enjoy their in-store purchases — only 35% say they shop online at least once a week, with 42% reporting they shop online once a month.
Gen X and Boomers Shop Online and In-Store
Younger Generations Expect More Personalization With Brands
“When you create online shopping paths or experiences based on past customer behavior, you're developing a relationship with the customer. They feel like they’re getting a recommendation from a friend who cares about them.”
Gen Z and millennials have been raised in highly personalized environments, particularly online. The technology that’s a marvel to older generations is the only experience younger generations know.
As such, personalization has become an expectation: When asked what elements would keep them shopping online instead of in-store, 18% of respondents under the age of 24 and 17% of 25-39 year-olds said, “Featured items picked just for me based on my shopping habits.” Without those features, ecommerce retailers run the risk of missing out on the nearly $3 trillion in spending power between the two generations.
Older generations, on the other hand, are less interested in these features — the appeal drops with every age group until we see that only 11% of shoppers aged 65 and up are interested in that kind of data-driven curation.
These older shoppers are also more interested in knowing that their information is secure, which may contribute to their reluctance. Many of the data permissions required by personalization features go against every safety and security warning the 50+ crowd have been reading about the internet since it was first introduced.
For online merchants, this poses a huge challenge. How do you keep pace with the younger generations without alienating your older generations of consumers?
“Ecommerce merchants truly need to understand their consumers. Who are they? What are their expectations? They must think about how each generation makes purchases and what their motivators are for buying, and then design their websites accordingly.”
Mobile Wallets/Alternative Payment Options Are a Global Phenomenon
When Ryan O’Leary from SONA was featured on our podcast Gateway to Ecommerce, he pointed out that the biggest trend in the payments space is a move to contactless payments, even after social distancing restrictions have been removed. SONA is finding that online merchants are now looking for solutions that provide contactless payments, especially when those merchants are shifting from brick-and-mortar to online businesses.
That trend was reinforced in our research. More than 70% of customers prefer to use digital wallets — PayPal, AmazonPay, ApplePay and other contactless payments — over credit cards at least some of the time.
Demand for Digital Wallets Is Growing
How often, if available, will you use a digital wallet (PayPal, AmazonPay, ApplePay, Google Pay, etc.) rather than entering your credit card information directly into the site?
To understand why mobile wallets are so popular, we can look at what consumers told us about their online buying habits. This is where the generation gap is, once again, present.
When we compare baby boomers and Gen X to millennials and Gen Z, the older generations are more likely to have their credit cards handy (even though 36% of baby boomers are still reluctant to use credit cards for fear of identity theft).
Older Generations Default to Credit Card Payments
We also found that one-quarter of respondents older than 55 never have their mobile phone in hand while shopping — versus only 8% of younger respondents.
Younger Generations Default to Mobile Payments
We can assume that this disparity is due to the younger generations being more open to mobile wallets and older generations still relying on laptops and desktops for online purchases.
Expect More Hybrid Payment Solutions From Brands of All Sizes
While we don’t see credit cards becoming obsolete, cloud computing, software as a service, open-source technology and decentralization have enabled flexibility and on-demand technology, which paves the way for fintech as a service.
Credit cards will still be the standard payment options for most countries in the world, especially thanks to Visa and Mastercard creating a global point-of-sale and online payment ecosystem. Plus, their cards are accepted by more than 40 million merchants globally.
However, online merchants should be prepared to offer hybrid solutions, like Buy Now, Pay Later, using a credit card and other frictionless solutions that ultimately benefit the consumer.
“Look at who your customers are and who you want to target. What barriers to payment can you overcome by offering different payment options? Digital wallets, BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up in Store) and BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) are gaining massive popularity, especially among younger consumers.”
Online merchants also need to consider how various payment solutions impact the checkout process — one of the biggest sources of cart abandonment.
Customize Checkout Experience Based on Payment Method
In the Russian market, where cash on delivery is still a popular payment method, the website and checkout flow should be different from when a customer selects to pay via digital wallet. In the Asian markets, which are dominated by local players, merchant websites will require specific customizations as well.
It gets even more interesting for cross-border ecommerce merchants who sell into multiple countries. That’s where translation options, multiple languages based on the predominant customer base and international call centers will be necessary to make sure customers have everything they need to follow through with their purchases.
Start and End With Customer Experience
If you get nothing else from this report, remember this: The customer may not always be right, but their perception and experience are what matter most to them. So, it’s important to know the needs, wants and fears that are shaping their behavior — and then make certain your ecommerce experience gives them exactly what they’re looking for.
Less Friction + Great Customer Experience = Thriving Business
And one way to improve CX for every shopper is by reducing friction — the additional steps or actions the customer needs to take to complete the purchase.
One smart way to reduce friction is through a live chat option (ideally multilingual), with a library of answers to questions that consumers may ask. A nonintrusive but easily accessible chatbot can make it much easier for customers to get the answers they need in the moment. Alternatively, simple-to-use knowledge base is a great alternative for those who don’t have the bandwidth or budget to manage a chat.
Granted, consumers should anticipate a reasonable level of friction. For example, for some purchases, additional security is needed to verify identity. And most customers are more than OK with that: For instance, a full 80% of our respondents approve or understand when fraud prevention technology necessitates the ecommerce merchant contacting the consumer to verify information.
Consumers Expect Ecommerce Businesses to Help Protect Them From Fraud
In regard to a merchant's responsibility for fraud prevention, to what extent do you agree with the following statements?
The key is to make sure the friction is proportional to the need. There should be no unnecessary friction, and the friction that is necessary should respect the consumer’s privacy and preserve trust between the merchant and the customer.
Don’t Let Branding Interfere With the Customer’s Experience
Yes, your website needs to be engaging … but it shouldn’t be exhausting. Make sure your branding is strong and omnipresent. Include social proof and solid customer reviews. Give customers the information they need to make a purchase.
However, if your brand tends toward poetic item descriptions or artistic-but-enigmatic navigation labels, you may be damaging your CX. If your customer is looking for a green sweater but your item colors have names that sound like paint samples (“Misty November” or “Joyful”), the customer will struggle to find the right item to add to their cart — and may give up altogether.
Excellent CX Builds Customer Confidence
A significant part of CX is confidence. Consumers need to feel comfortable and safe navigating and shopping. Some best practices for merchants include:
- Include certifications and ratings in the footer of the website.
- Test and review all pages regularly to find broken links, errors, misspellings or any other technical glitches.
- Avoid surprise costs or fees.
- Use filters instead of second- and third-level dropdown menus so consumers can easily find their way back and forth through your site.
- Include autofill functionality and guest checkout.
- Suggest additional products when customers are first filling their shopping carts.
- Perform UX and CX testing regularly to anticipate and troubleshoot problems.
“Make sure you're doing frequent user acceptance testing. Just because you released your website doesn’t mean your testing should stop. Customer behavior changes, and your best indicator to understand how much is to regularly conduct UAT.”
Understand Customer Reluctance to Share Data
There is a give and take to the personalized customer experience.
Customers have to share enough data about themselves for the experience to be truly personal. But many consumers, especially older generations, are less willing to part with that type of information. Last year, when we spoke with Neil McHugh, Former Senior Principal Product Manager of Oracle, he highlighted that the generation gap plays a role in the distinction between who will and will not share their personal information, making it truly difficult for merchants.
“Millenials and Gen Z, they don’t care as much about sharing” — it feels a little too harsh as it stands, and I think we could get backlash from it, because it’s not really true”
We found that among the reasons consumers would abandon a purchase, 36% of consumers cited not trusting the site with their credit card information. It’s very possible that the number of data breaches and information hacks have made consumers a little warier than in days past.
Why customers abandon purchases