It’s no surprise that the Asia Pacific region has the world’s largest online population. It’s estimated that there are 650 million internet users in the area, and demographically, more than half of that population is under the age of 35. Naturally, this is the demographic marketers have at the front of their collective minds. This sector of consumers, and specifically the ever-active market in China, is the one driving e-commerce growth and outpacing the rest of the world according to recent studies.
But while online commerce participation in Asia Pacific is there in great number, there’s a dearth of gratification that accompanies the process. In fact, Asia ranks the lowest, globally, in overall satisfaction when it comes to online shopping. Only half of Asian shoppers say they’re satisfied, compared to 83% in the U.S. and 78% in Europe. Clearly, brands have been lagging in delivering the modern, integrated commerce experience in the world’s largest market. And experience is everything.
These findings were just part of an exhaustive, joint-effort customer experience study by UPS and comScore Inc. The report, titled UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper, found that there is much room for improvement in the online shopping experience in the Asia Pacific region. Consumers in the region are seeking multiple access channels, a variety of shipping choices and post-purchase convenience. Thus, mobile strategy has become a cornerstone for retailers. By differentiating themselves with consumer-driven supply chain strategies, brands can drive customer loyalty and expand globally.
Shoppers of today are savvy when it comes to online shopping. They’re more discerning with choices and seek a greater control over their purchase experience. This presents brands in Asia with a great opportunity to make a real impact and greatly improve their performance in the digital space in a market that’s seemingly starved for it. The study found that 8 out of 10 online shoppers in Asia prefer to shop using their handheld devices. In a typical three-month period, more than 70% of Asian shoppers used a smartphone to make a purchase; nearly 80% used a tablet. Usership is already firmly in place, but the population is expecting more.
“This shifting behavior in Asia Pacific opens up numerous business opportunities for retailers, giving them an increasing number of online platforms to reach customers,” said Susan Engleson, comScore senior director. “With such a strong customer preference for mobile devices, retailers need to fully understand how and when shoppers are using these devices in order to stay ahead in this competitive global landscape.”
So how can retailers provide a better integrated shopping experience for consumers in Asia Pacific? The study says these are the some of the main areas that retailers can improve:
With Asia’s consumer base so active on their smartphones and tablets, the study suggests brands must concentrate heavily on improving the ability to shop and ultimately purchase directly through an application. Opportunities are abound to significantly enhance the mobile shopping experience, such as providing deals and promotions based on the user’s location. It’s also valuable to offer a variety of payment options.
Shipping and delivery
The results of the study found that shoppers in Asia value convenience, and offering discounted or even free shipping options could be a way to win over shoppers. This is not just a way to lower the risk of losing a sale, but high shipping costs have been proven as a way to kill a sale completely. As for delivery, offering flexible delivery times can help ease the checkout process. And consumers in the marketplace want to be able to track their packages, so providing tracking information right after the purchase is essential. According to the study, 65% of shoppers in the region rate e-mail or text alerts as a the most convenient notification service for tracking their packages.
Consumers want to lower risk for goods they purchase online. While it’s the final stage of the purchase process, nearly two-thirds of consumers in Asia check out a retailer’s online return policy before making a purchase. Creating a hassle-free return policy is likely to lead to recommendations and foster lasting relationships with consumers. Offering the ability to return in-store for free, or providing free shipping back to the retailer without a restocking fee could go a long way.
It goes without saying that this is a very diverse region, so the findings are certainly not be taken as though there aren’t any exceptions or differences between the individual nations. For instance, 85% of those surveyed in China prefer to access retailers online, opposed to just 61% in Australia. But there’s no doubt that things are trending in the digital direction. While in the past retailers have carefully crafted their in-store experiences, it’s now time to integrate digital spaces into the fold. The process of making a purchase can’t simply be, well, a process. To attract and retain loyal, trusting customers, brands have to make online and digital shopping a rewarding and memorable experience.
To read the full report, click here.