It’s no secret that ecommerce is surging. In fact, according to our original research, since the pandemic started, over half of Americans (51%) say they’re shopping online more than they did pre-pandemic.
Even more promising for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands: 42% noted that they plan to keep most of their shopping online after the pandemic ends.
Because spending will continue online post-pandemic and competition is fierce, there's no better time to optimize and differentiate your DTC store experience — especially as some consumers indicate DTCs are a primary offender of shopping deal breakers.
We recently surveyed 2,000 U.S.-based adults who had purchased something online within the past six months. We had shoppers rate aspects of their experience on a scale from one (not at all annoying) to five (a deal breaker — I would no longer shop on that brand's website). Then, we dove into comparisons between shopping with major retailers versus directly from a brand.
Based on the data, we’ve isolated several improvements you should prioritize for your online store.
Slow Sites and Poor Mobile Experience Among Factors Aggravating Shoppers Most
According to the data we observed, many direct-to-consumer brands’ websites — and their digital marketing practices — need work.
Overwhelmingly, shoppers cited some of the simplest things as the biggest turn-offs, such as “sketchy” or not-secure-looking sites, unkept promises from ads-to-site, slow site load times, bad mobile experiences, and email spamming.
Across all annoyances, each of these issues were consistently more frustrating for baby boomers than for younger consumers.
For example, 47% of boomers (aged 56-74) said it’s a deal breaker if a website or app looks sketchy or unsafe (they’ll no longer shop on this brand’s website), compared to Gen X (30%), Gen Z (29%), and millennials (20%).
Further, slow page load continues to be a big deal, with a quarter of Americans expecting pages to load in a blazingly fast two seconds or less when shopping online. And the older you get, the more of an issue speed becomes: 45% of boomers responded that it’s a deal breaker or very annoying for them if a website or app is slow to load, compared to Gen X (44%), millennials (40%), and Gen Z (38%).
Are DTC Brands Blamed for Poor Experiences More Often Than Major Retailers?
Rather than simply uncovering the main commerce grievances, we wanted to find out where consumers were encountering them most often.
Our research confirms that the majority of Americans experience shopping annoyances equally, whether shopping with major online retailers (think Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and similar sites) or when buying directly from a brand.
But notably, all deal-breaker issues were cited as more likely to appear when purchasing directly from a brand’s own website or app compared to from a major online retailer.
For example, of those who said slow load times are “very annoying” or a “deal breaker,” 26% said they typically encounter this issue when buying direct while only 14% attributed this issue primarily to major retailers, with 60% saying they encounter the issue equally between the two experiences.
Steal Online Inspiration from In-Store Experiences
While a brand’s online presence is the new storefront in many ways, DTC brands can look to what consumers are missing from the brick-and-mortar shopping experience due to COVID-19. In fact, according to our survey, an astonishing 83% of Americans say they’d risk contracting the virus to purchase something in-person rather than online, even when the product’s available online and price and quality are equal.
What’s causing them to take the risk? Really, it’s often as simple as just seeing the product in person first.
Of those who said they would risk their health for the in-person experience, over half (52%) said that touching and examining products in person is what they enjoy and miss the most, followed by walking around and browsing (49%), and trying on clothes (44%). Possibly a sign of the times, nearly one in five (18%) say that they enjoy and miss interactions with staff and other shoppers. And for many, they miss a variety of the multi-sensory aspects.
Here’s the full breakdown:
Over two-thirds (69%) of boomers said that touching and examining products in person is what they enjoy and miss most when shopping online, compared to Gen X (53%), millennials (41%), and Gen Z (44%). Women miss trying on clothes more than men do, with 50% of women stating it’s what they enjoy and miss most compared to only 39% of men.
Prioritize Speeding up Your Store Load Times
Ultimately, our survey results reveal several good, even low-hanging-fruit fixes for your brand to prioritize. Such as:
- Have your checkout remember customers’ information,
- Ensure SSL certificates or secure HTTPS site delivery,
- Showcase adequate reviews,
- Make sure your website is smooth to navigate on mobile,
- Make product listings as robust as possible (include reviews, rich merchandising, and a selection of high-quality photos with each product), and
- Stay in touch with customers with relevant offers, but watch you aren’t spamming them.
However, amid all possible fixes, it’s notable that 60% (the highest percentage) of respondents attributed poor site speed to both major retailers and DTCs. Shoppers continue to notice site speed as a major detractor, so page-to-page load time is something your DTC brand may want to optimize for right away. With a quarter of shoppers expecting load times of two seconds or fewer, this deal breaker isn’t one you’ll want to sleep on.
Speed and site performance is a challenge brands are increasingly turning to headless commerce progressive web apps (PWAs) to solve for. Largely because just a one-second delay can result in a 7% decrease in conversions.
Nomad Goods recently solved its need for speed by implementing a headless PWA. By addressing site speed alone (the brand didn’t change any other aspect of the experience), the retailer increased ecommerce conversion rates by 25%.
Bring In-Person Shopping Elements Online
You’ll also want to consider other, possibly non-traditional, elements you can incorporate into the online shopping experience. Taking note of what people like about the in-person experience and trying to emulate those elements through your digital storefront.
For example, because people miss trying on clothes in stores, some brands are using augmented reality (AR) functionality that mimics that experience (like Warby Parker’s virtual try-on experience), or are including more photos and videos so shoppers get a better feel for their products.
Shopify has a video editor that allows brands to make their videos more informational, and new platforms like Bambuser make the whole shopping experience more personal through interactive live video.
Retailer Peach was able to use live interaction to give an in-store feel within an online experience. Debuting the winter collection in this way helped the fashion brand secure a 14.8% add-to-cart rate and revenue of nearly $27,000 during the 45-minute live stream.
Overall, these customer insights around deal breakers (and what consumers miss about in-store experience) reveal ways you can optimize to better meet expectations as a scaling DTC brand. As ecommerce continues to surge, keeping your storefront focused on the details can make all the difference to your conversion rates.
About the research
Shogun conducted this research using an online survey prepared by Method Research and distributed by Dynata among n=2,000 adults in the United States who have purchased something online within the past six months. The sample was balanced across age, gender, and geography to be nationally representative of the U.S. population. Data was collected from December 23 to December 30, 2020.