While physical stores have reopened across much of the world, consumers seem to be increasingly looking towards a phygital experience, which would combine in-person and online shopping. This requires optimized services that allow them to enjoy a virtual shopping experience that is similar to that found in physical stores. And it’s not an easy thing to accomplish.

Chatbots seem to be of particular importance to shoppers but they feel that their mere presence on an e-commerce site is not enough, they expect more extensive capabilities from these features. More than four out of ten (43%) UK shoppers say chatbots never — or rarely — understand them, and nearly three out of ten (28%) say they will leave a website and seek information elsewhere if the chatbot doesn’t provide answers, according to a study by Lucidworks [1].

Personalization and customer service, the keys to loyalty

Shoppers would also like chatbots to be used for more than just customer service. More than half of the British buyers surveyed would like to also use them to get advice from a brand or store employee, and 45% would like to get help finding specific products. Upstream of a purchase, therefore.

When it comes to e-commerce, recommendations seem to be an essential element for the buyer. This is something that brands must take into account, if only to compensate for the absence of being able to touch or try on products. Recommendations can also help increase the average value of orders. More than three quarters of shoppers in the UK and US say they "interact" with product recommendations all or most of the time, and more than half of Brits surveyed say they regularly, if not always, buy recommended items they hadn’t planned to put in their cart.

More generally, both British and American shoppers consider product quality, personalized recommendations and excellent customer service to be key to brand loyalty.

Physical stores out of favour?

According to this study, it’s in the interest of brands to optimize the online shopping experience because many consumers are not yet totally ready to return to physical stores. More than half of the respondents in the UK and the US plan to avoid shopping in physical stores "as much as possible," or at least to go to stores less often than before the pandemic.

However intentions vary depending on the sector. Clothing stores could suffer much less from these changes, for example, with more than half of British shoppers (59%) waiting for the restrictions to be lifted before shopping in stores. In contrast, only 26% of Britons surveyed plan to buy electronics in stores when health measures are eased.