Do you remember the early days of the web? They were filled with static links, primitive web forms, flaky payment processors, poor security, unreliable credit card processing…and so on.
Fast forward twenty years—Now we have dynamic links, slick and context-specific auto-fill web forms, stable payment processors with enhanced security, online real-time chat and VOIP (voice over IP) support, and so on. But this is just the beginning.
Today’s consumer shopping platforms are characterized by the following features, which are now so ingrained in our psyche we don’t remember how we ever lived without them.
It used to be that because of the difficulty of putting together an e-Shopping site, most sites only had a few products online. In particular, in-stock products that they expected to be top sellers. Today’s merchants serve the long tail. They put their full catalogues online, along with products not currently in stock, allowing customers to backorder or pre-order upcoming products that will be shipped the same day the products hit the warehouse.
Not only does the search mechanism scan the entire product catalogue, it is capable of searching product name, manufacturer, publisher, description, and review fields. Moreover, the shopper can decide what fields to search. In addition, spell check and similar word suggestion are integrated and automatically kick-in if no products are found, always giving the user the nearest result at the very least.
Integrated Reviews and User Rankings
Beyond quickly find the product(s) of interest with the powerful integrated search capability, the shopper can also see reviews from previous buyers and amalgamated rankings, and get an informed crowd-sourced product review.
Along with powerful search, integrated spell check with auto-complete suggestions, and a similarity search that automatically kicks in if there are no results, the platforms also automatically recommends similar products that the shopper might like. These suggestions are based upon reviews and purchases by shoppers who have viewed and bought similar products in the past, and weighted upon an individual shopper’s search and purchase history.
Today’s secure platforms support the creation of user accounts that can be prepopulated with billing addresses, shipping addresses, confirmed payment methods, and other defaults. By selecting these defaults, a user can add items to a cart and checkout with just one click.
Complete Order History
Most early platforms did not support accounts, and if there was order lookup, it was one by one on the order identifier. Today’s e-shopping platforms feature extensive account profiles that maintain a user’s complete profile and order history, allowing a user to track all of their activity over time. This also facilitates returns, repairs, and replacements.
Today’s consumer shopping platforms contain functionality that goes well beyond what first generation platforms could offer. Consumers now have unparalleled opportunities to find and purchase the products they want anywhere and anytime.
How does this affect the B2B online shopping experience? Check in next week to find out.