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The Modern Buyer: Evolving Buyer Expectations and How Sellers Can Meet Them

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Verified Blogger
Last Edited 03:27:34 PM

The shopping experience buyers are looking for has changed significantly from what it was 20 years ago.  New technology makes shopping faster, easier, and more convenient. Updating our business processes will help attract more of these buyers, convert more sales, and remain competitive in this evolving world of ecommerce.


In this four-part series, “The Modern Buyer,” we’ll dive deep into what type of shopping experience today’s buyer expects, how this varies by generation, and how eBay sellers can meet these evolving expectations to remain competitive.


Ecommerce continues to change


Today’s buyers can start browsing and saving items on one device and complete their purchase on another. They can buy with one click and receive the items the next day. They can look up items by image and even shop simply by using their voice.


As technology has advanced, buyers have begun to expect that they can get what they want, when they want it—and they will search across multiple retailers until they do. The expectations of millennials, in particular, have helped advance ecommerce technology. Millennials were the first generation to grow up in the digital world and they have high expectations for immediacy and ease.


As Google’s VP of Americas Marketing puts it:


“People can’t remember what it was like to not be able to learn, do, or buy things when the need struck by reaching for the device in their pocket. People take for granted that information is at their fingertips and tailored to their specific needs. But the thing about human beings is they never stop wanting that little bit extra. It’s becoming evident that they’ll keep raising the bar, wanting more useful information, more personalization, more immediacy.”


What experience are buyers looking for, and how can eBay sellers deliver it?


Buyer behaviors vary by generation, and we’ll dive more deeply into what each group wants in future installments of the series, but in general, modern buyers expect:


  1. Fast and free shipping.  

Think about your own buying habits. If all other factors (such as price and quality) were the same, would you be more likely to buy from the seller that offered free shipping? If so, you wouldn’t be alone.


76% of respondents to a UPS survey said they have added more to their carts to qualify for free shipping. And, according to another study, one retailer who implemented a free shipping policy saw average spending per customer increase by $620 over two years.


Modern buyers also expect to be able to get what they want, how and when they want it. In fact, 63% of respondents to the MetaPack 2017 State of eCommerce Delivery Consumer Research Report said that the ability to select which carrier delivers their online purchase is becoming a top consideration. And, 48% of respondents to a 2016 UPS survey said the ability to see guaranteed delivery dates are an important part of the buying process.


Nearly half of buyers say that fast delivery is among their top priorities—and they have abandoned a cart because the shipping time was too long.  


What eBay sellers can do: Offer free shipping to make your listings more enticing. To attract even more buyers who are concerned about when they’ll receive their items, consider opting in to eBay Guaranteed Delivery so that your items appear when buyers search for items that can be delivered quickly.


  1. Easy returns.

Return policies are a top concern for today’s buyers. The same 2016 UPS study found that 88% of online shoppers reviewed a retailer’s returns policy, and 60% of shoppers said free returns (seller pays for return shipping) are part of a great return policy.


eBay’s own research has shown that moving to a 30-day free return policy (from a no-returns policy) can increase conversions up to 17%. And a ShopRunner survey showed that 81% of customers are less likely to make purchases from stores that charge for return shipping.


What eBay sellers can do: Offering free returns and a longer return window can increase buyer trust and boost your sales. And, eBay research shows that the number of returns does not significantly increase when you raise your return window from 30 days to 60 days—but it does increase conversions.

  1. An easy shopping experience and lots of professional-looking images.

A Big Commerce survey of American buyers found that 21% say an unattractive or hard-to-navigate website is frustrating when buying online. As noted above, modern buyers expect immediate results, and that translates to being able to easily search and find the items they want.


Additionally, today’s buyers look for photos that help bring the product to life. The same survey found that 78% of online shoppers want more images from ecommerce sites. They don’t just want any images though; they want crisp, clear images that inspire trust in the product and the seller.


What eBay sellers can do: Make sure your listings show up in search and on product pages by using the right keywords, adding structured data, and optimizing your listings for mobile users. Include lots of bright, high-quality photos, and use a white background so that your items will show up when buyers use the Find It On eBay and Image Search functions.


Why should eBay sellers care about evolving buyer expectations?


As an eBay seller, you aren’t just competing against other eBay sellers selling similar items. You’re competing against every other retailer—both online and brick-and-mortar—that sells that item.


As the CMO of CarMax says, “People don't evaluate their experiences by vertical anymore. It used to be, ‘I'll compare CarMax against all other used car dealers,’ or ‘I'll compare Nordstrom against all other clothing retailers.’  Now customers are taking the best experiences from one industry and demanding a similar or better experience in others. At CarMax, this means we’re not competing against the best experience consumers have ever had buying a car, we’re competing against the best experience they’ve ever had—period.”


Buyers look for a great experience, and they evaluate that experience based on your shipping options, return policy, and the quality of your listing.


As mentioned above, buyers are much more likely to purchase from retailers who offer free shipping and easy returns. As CNBC put it, retailers who don’t offer returns make sure they aren’t taken advantage of by buyers, but they also make sure they miss out on future sales.


The ecommerce landscape has changed significantly as buyers become more mobile, connected, more informed, and more impatient than ever. With nearly endless choices, buyers have the luxury of shopping where their needs are best met, and the sellers who meet these needs will be the most successful in the modern marketplace.  


In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving deeper into the evolving modern buying experience, and how different generations of buyers shop. Up next, a look at Generation X and the baby boomers.


For more, watch the eBay for Business broadcast below.