The internet has become the destination of choice for shoppers. Since 2016, shoppers are buying more things online than in stores.
According to the UK Card Association, online shoppers in the UK spend more per household than consumers in any other country. Indeed, last year, Brits spent over £154bn on the internet using cards. 66% of internet users in the UK have bought items online in the last 12 months, rising to 81% when account for millennial women only. But online shopping isn’t only big in the UK. According to Forrester Research, last year, 190 million US consumers made purchases online.
To understand better how online shopping is succeeding, we spoke with five millennial women who work at Trustpilot and got their honest perspective on several topics related to online retail in order to get an impression of what works, what doesn’t, and how the online experience is likely to evolve in the near future.
Vicky Brown, 29, is a Senior Recruiter from Kent, England, and likes her kitten Lofty (and designer handbags!)
Rose Worrall, 25, is a Global eLearning Creator from Bournemouth, England, and likes yoga, wine and sausage dogs!
Ffion Thomson, 29, is a Business Development Manager from South Wales, and likes travelling, eating out, and the countryside.
Penelope Faith, 31, is a Senior Business Development Manager from Sussex, England, and likes fitness.
Hayley Livingston, 27, is a Senior Community Advocate from Tapanui, New Zealand, and likes Indie music, and street food.
What’s your general opinion of online shopping compared to other means of shopping?
Vicky Brown: I prefer buying online as I find it’s always cheaper than what you can get in stores. The only thing I don’t like about online shopping is that I find the experience different and not as exciting as it would be to go into the store and purchase the item then have the item straight away. Delivery can always be hit and miss when online shopping. If I buy online I will look into the retailers’ delivery options before I make a buying decision. If it is too expensive, or they use a courier I do not like, then I’ll buy in-store.
Rose Worrall: I buy everything online unless I need something last minute - i.e. the same day! It’s so convenient. I have my go-to sites; ASOS, Amazon, Etefy etc. which I use for most purchases. For anything else, I usually compare prices and reviews on several sites before I make my choice.
Ffion Thomson: I mix it up between online and offline, as I do enjoy the experience of going shopping in-store, and sometimes you need something quickly. I probably spend more online due to the convenience of being able to shop around more. I love how most stores now offer free delivery and returns, which gives peace of mind in case you don’t like the items.
Penelope Faith: I actually prefer online to offline now, mostly for the convenience, and to make sure I am getting the best deal, by using all the great tools now available, such as comparison sites, product & service reviews, voucher codes and tailored offers. Especially when there’s a sale on, I like avoiding the queues and the stress of busy shopping centres and messy sale racks.
Hayley Livingston: I often shop online to avoid the Oxford Street and Westfield shopping centre crowds! You can also shop around for the best price and take advantage of different sales and discounts when you sign up for newsletters, etc. My family lives in New Zealand so I tend to shop direct to NZ stores or stores that have free international delivery and have birthday/christmas gifts delivered directly instead of posting from the UK.
How often do you shop online on average per month, and what is your main purpose?
Vicky: I shop online a minimum of 4 times a month. If there is a sale, I will probably make about 4 purchases a week on average. I buy food, clothes, and household items. Basically if it is cheaper online, then I will buy it. I also use Amazon Prime on a weekly basis because the delivery is so good.
Rose: I probably online shop in one way or another most days - I don’t have a problem, honest! I use it for buying food, clothes and everyday essentials. It’s so convenient, especially when I’m too busy or can’t be bothered to go shopping.
Ffion: I probably shop online about 6 times a month - mainly on ASOS or Amazon for clothes/accessories or household items, though recently went a bit crazy on a few different sites before Christmas and in the sales. It was a great way to benefit from the sales without having to leave the house on Boxing Day!
Penelope: I choose to shop online for convenience usually and around 4 to 5 times per month. Most recently I have started my grocery shops online, again, it’s super convenient choosing a delivery slot, and I can find all my previously ordered items easily to complete a shop in minutes.
Hayley: Maybe 2 or 3 times a month. Usually for clothes, household things, or cards. I send birthday cards mostly from Moonpig and Snapfish and get them delivered without mucking around at a post office. It’s handy getting things delivered to the office and not having to run out after work or at lunch time. Amazon is pretty great for getting every day stuff by the next day!
What do you often browse for or buy online?
Vicky: I buy a massive range of items online. This can be anything from food to household items. Once or twice a year I will also book my holiday online as I find it’s a cheaper way to book rather than to do it through a travel agent. I’m always open to a bargain so it doesn’t really matter what it is, I will buy it.
Rose: Everything, I probably do 80-90% of my shopping online.
Ffion: Clothes, accessories, shoes, household items (e.g. lamps, furniture, electrical accessories), gifts, and holidays.
Penelope: Fashion, supplements, beauty products and gift shopping.
Hayley: Clothes, shoes, gifts, and flights and hotels!
What device do you use the most to shop online, and when?
Vicky: I will usually use a computer to purchase as I find it easier to navigate the website. But if I am being lazy or on my commute home I will purchase using my mobile. If it’s an item I have purchased before I’d usually use my mobile but if I want to research or look at reviews then I will use my computer.
Rose: Mostly my phone, especially as on-click/Apple/ fingerprint pay is so easy on my phone and I don’t need to enter my card details. I can do that at anytime of day, usually on my commute or whilst watching TV. If I’m using my laptop to buy something, it’s usually because I’m already on it, so I tend to purchase on my lunch or if I’m working in the evening.
Ffion: Mixture between mobile and laptop. I prefer shopping on my laptop, but will sometimes shop on my phone on a long train journey!
Penelope: I often start a search on my mobile, and end up completing my purchase on my laptop.
Hayley: I usually search around on my phone while watching TV/commuting, then make the final purchase from my laptop. It’s a little easier to fill in fields and make sure you are getting the right thing from your laptop
Did you know?
While 84% of online shoppers have used a laptop/desktop to buy online, the use of mobile devices is growing, with 48% of Millennials making purchases from their smartphone.
What most common problems do you come across when shopping online? How do online stores help you solve them?
Vicky: It seems I’m plagued with delivery issues. I’ve had items go missing or not turn up at all. Usually the online stores are very good at understanding and will solve the issue. Damaged items can be a problem also, usually the online store wants proof but will replace the item with no problem.
Rose: Delivery of damaged goods is usually the biggest issue which is fairly easy to solve. You can track your item or send photos of damaged items to customer service in order to get reimbursed or to have the items replaced. The only other issue I have is if the check-out process takes too long to complete. Often I don’t have time to deal with entering all my details or it’s just too long and not user-friendly enough. Sometimes this is helped by downloading the app, then it’s one-click pay.
Ffion: Main issues have been delivery related - when I ordered a bed the fixtures didn’t arrive at the same time so it couldn’t be assembled for a week which was very frustrating, I got the delivery for free but I wasn’t impressed. Amazon returns can be pricier than the actual product which is really annoying.
Penelope: Live chat is now common on most sites to quickly answer any product queries for example, otherwise it can be a hassle to wait for email replies. Showing me related products is very helpful.
Hayley: I sometimes have trouble with delivery, as my flat is a little hard to find. It’s usually easier to get it delivered to the office where someone is always around to sign or collect.
How do you identify trustworthy internet retailers?
Vicky: I am open to using brands that I haven’t heard of but to ensure they are trustworthy I will see if they have had any reviews. If they haven’t, I would be cautious to use them. There are lots of small businesses out there that need the consumer support so I enjoy buying from them but I need to know I can trust them. This is where reviews are super helpful!
Rose: I usually stick to my go-to websites, but if I stray from those I’ll always try and get recommendations, or look for reviews, especially if the price seems too good to be true.
Ffion: I mainly shop with well-known brands, companies that I’ve bought from before, or a site that someone has recommended to me.
Penelope: I tend to stick to the known brands, as opposed the new/tiny online retailers, if I do find a seller I’m not familiar with, I always look out for secure sites, with reviews and recommendations as well as secure payment methods, such as Paypal.
Hayley: I usually shop with tried and tested brands, or those that have a good online presence or that friends have used and recommended. Word of mouth is pretty key to get an idea about quality of service so I will also usually run a quick review search, looking for online reviews of the company or the product.
"Since the early days of internet shopping there has been a host of innovations, from digital wallets to one click purchases, which bring enhanced security, choice and convenience for customers and which will lead to continued growth in the sector. The additional protection provided when using a card also gives consumers extra peace of mind when they are shopping online."
- Richard Koch, head of policy at the UK Cards Association
How do you imagine online shopping going forward?
Vicky: I imagine online shops will use more intelligent softwares to work out the buyers’ needs and requirements. ASOS has started recommending the size you should order based on your previous orders. All stores will be doing this soon, making the buying experience easier with fewer returns. Hopefully delivery becomes better and quicker too. Amazon has things right and I imagine all stores are trying to work to their ways to keep their customers happy.
Rose: More one-click/Apple pay-type purchase options, it's just so easy. I love the new ASOS feature where you take a photo of any piece of clothing you like, if they sell that dress it will come up, and if they don’t it will show similar items. I think we will see more things like this going forward. I imagine it will just generally become more intelligent and compliment a busy lifestyle, offering faster delivery i.e. within one or two hours.
Ffion: More companies offering quicker and more efficient delivery services. More companies offering free returns. More companies creating a hybrid online/offline experience - e.g. predominantly online stores with “showrooms” offering customer experiences rather than physical stores. Household goods being ordered automatically by smart home devices. Companies using data analytics to better understand their customers and market to them accordingly.
Penelope: Retailers using purchase and search history to target consumers with tailored products. Higher video content and detail for each product. Same day delivery becoming more common, and try before you buy.
Hayley: It’s getting bigger all the time! I do most of my shopping online and the service is getting better. Most places will offer a next day service if you pay a little extra, or click and collect. I find click and collect to be a really reliable service as you can be sure it’ll arrive safely and you only need to pick it up. No stress about delivery companies leaving it in a bush or with the neighbour!
The market for online shopping is growing at a fast rate. And with technology at the heart of online shopping, millennial women will keep shopping online in 2018 and the coming years.
Overall, online shopping has become the easiest, quickest, and most efficient way to buy. As we saw from our respondents, convenience matters when it comes to online shopping. From food to clothes or even household items, buying online is quickly becoming effortless and accessible to everyone.
Reviews, recommendations, and secure sites are helping consumers make purchase decisions faster, which results in consumers feeling much more confident and comfortable doing their shopping online. With consumers still showing signs of growing interest, and customer confidence increasing massively, this year should be all about seeing what works, stopping what doesn’t, and doing more of what consumers like.
As our respondents noted, delivery can be improved. Amazon or ASOS have already started improving their shipping methods with services like same or next-day delivery. And with digital technology improving by the day, this coming year, online retailers have no excuse not to upgrade their shipping methods and delivery options.
Customer experience will still be one of 2018’s hot topics. How can online retailers deliver the equivalent of an offline customer experience, or better, online? Artificial Intelligence is revolutionising customer service, and services like live chats should improve the overall customer experience, and make websites more user-friendly.
In all, 2018 could be the year of a retail renaissance, and the online retail industry would be wise to respond to the needs of consumers as their buying power never stops growing.