In order to succeed, independent retailers need to understand the 21st century shopper in all their guises. Rachel Miller provides a guide to ten key customer types and suggests how to meet their needs
We have seen a seismic shift in the way we shop. These changes go far beyond the simple fact that we buy more online. Sourcing, browsing, recommending, choosing, comparing, checking, ordering, receiving - every aspect of the sales process has been totally transformed by technology. And consumers, in turn, have changed too.
For the independent retailer - whether online, on the high street or both - there are more opportunities than ever. But how we shop remains a very individual business; consumer behaviour may have changed overall, but every shopper is different.
And shopping preferences vary too, which means you need to offer choice when it comes to fulfilment - including online ordering, home delivery and click and collect.
Here are ten key shopper types and some ideas to help you win them over:
1. The pioneer
These shoppers are early adopters and trend-setters who positively enjoy seeking out independent and niche ecommerce retailers online and will be vocal in their support for them. They are often the most prolific reviewers as well. They respond well to brands with personality and are likely to follow favourites on social media.
How to attract pioneers: Keep them posted on your latest developments, engage with them on social media (which they love) and inspire them with your story. These buyers are often influential in their own networks; nurture them and you'll build exposure via word of mouth.
2. The practical purchaser
These people don't love shopping; they just view it as a necessity. But they do appreciate the fact that shopping online saves them time, so they are likely to be internet-savvy. Above all, convenience is key so they will also buy in-store if that is quick and easy. Simple information such as stock availability, opening hours and location is of paramount importance to these practical people.
How to attract practical purchasers: Make sure your ecommerce website loads quickly and is easy to use; streamline your online buying process as these buyers hate filling in forms or registering for anything. Publish your store details on your website and in local directories such as Yell to make visiting easy.
3. The social media fan
Shoppers are increasingly using social media such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram in their purchasing decisions. Certainly, social media drives awareness of brands and also helps build relationships between businesses and customers.
How to attract social media followers: Reach out and engage with customers and prospects on key social media sites. Reward any interest with special offers and give these social media fans an insight into your business by posting content that gives them a behind-the-scene view of your company. Use social media apps to track mentions of your brand; respond to positive endorsements and handle any criticisms politely and promptly.
4. The researcher
Details matter to this group of shoppers. Researchers will scan reviews and ratings, compare and contrast product features and assess the different levels of service that retailers offer. Their research is likely to take place online and in-store. Poor service will see them walk out of the door; lack of information online will send them straight into the arms of your rivals. But if you win them over, they will be back for more.
How to attract researchers: Provide in-depth information about your product range and the service you provide. Publish FAQs, post images and how-to videos on your website and encourage customers to review and rate your service. Be helpful in-store, be available on the phone and responsive on social media and via email - these buyers are most likely to contact you with questions.
5. The smartphone addict
The most prolific smartphone users get their phones out in-store as part of the purchasing process. They might post images of themselves trying on clothes on social media to get feedback from friends. And they often price-check items that they like before they buy.
Have to attract smartphone addicts: First of all, you absolutely must have a mobile-friendly website. Also, make it easy for browsers to find your full range, including all versions, sizes and colours, so that shoppers can quickly order what they want even if they can't find it in-store.
6. The wishlister
Wishlisters taker full advantage of everything the internet has to offer, searching online for products they are interested in and creating shortlists. There are wishlist apps, such as Wishlistr; and many people also use Amazon's wishlist function or simply download images and links onto their phone or laptop. Pinterest is also widely used by wishlisters to get inspiration and save ideas.
How to attract wishlisters: Make sure you use good quality product images on your ecommerce website; make the most of image-based sites like Pinterest; remember that wishlisters may need a nudge to prompt them to buy, such as an offer.
7. The discerning shopper
Some shoppers feel more comfortable shopping on ecommerce websites they know well. These may include a few key brands as well as trusted marketplaces such as Etsy and ASOS. However, independent local stores have as much chance of becoming a favourite for discerning shoppers as big names - as long as both the store and the website live up to expectations.
How to attract the discerning shopper: List your products on trusted marketplaces; get your own ecommerce website up to scratch; offer loyalty schemes that recognise and reward your best customers; keep in touch by email or text.
8. The bargain hunter
Bargain hunters get a kick out of finding great deals, especially online, and are the most likely to make an impulse purchase. In fact, they are most likely to buy something they don't even need if the price is right. They search for voucher codes and price-compare online from the comfort of their sofa and also via their smartphone when they are out shopping. Free shipping is also of paramount importance to these shoppers.
How to attract bargain hunters: Keep an eye on online competitors' prices and run regular special offers in-store, on your ecommerce website and on social media sites; encourage shoppers to sign up to texts or email newsletters so you can target offers at them on a regular basis.
9. The cautious consumer
Not everyone is internet-savvy, and paying online is a big obstacle for many. Cautious consumers are looking for signs that your business is secure and trustworthy. They are most likely to abandon a purchase if they get spooked.
How to attract the cautious consumer: Demonstrate your commitment to payment security by signing up to SSL and taking other security precautions. Display your customer service promises online and in-store. Make it easy for customers to get in touch, and respond promptly. Flag up positive endorsements - including customer testimonials and media reviews. Keep navigation simple on your website and don't bombard these buyers with marketing messages.
10. The online butterfly
Butterflies love browsing online and they flit from one ecommerce website to another. But these shoppers often forget to return and frequently abandon their online baskets.
How to attract butterflies: A website that is optimised for SEO, visually appealing and easy to navigate will attract butterflies. To avoid high bounce rates, keep the buying process simple, promote offers that are hard to resist and send reminder emails when shoppers abandon their baskets.