Earlier this year we commissioned a piece of international consumer research to explore the behaviours and expectations of modern shoppers in our core markets – the UK and Spain. We wanted to understand what consumers value in an online shopping experience, what will drive them away and what will motivate them to buy. We asked about their experiences of online shopping as well as what they wanted to see more, or less, of in the future. You can download the full research report here.

Having released some of the findings over the summer for the UK and the start of September for Spain , showing the huge advance of online shopping in both regions, with 80% of Spaniards shopping more online and over half of UK consumers (51%) admitting they now prefer to shop online than in-store , we’re now going to look at some of the other key aspects and conclusions the research highlighted.

The UK study revealed that, while online sales continue to grow , people still find the digital shopping experience lacking with four-in-ten consumers saying they’re unable to differentiate between one online brand and another . Many believe retailers struggle to build an authentic digital brand identity with 46% of respondents saying retailers still have more of a brand personality in-store than online. What’s more, 48% of consumers felt that online shopping experiences are often more impersonal than when they shop in-store. For online retailers, the pressure is certainly on and differentiating in the sea of brand websites and marketplaces is admittedly more difficult than ever, which is why it’s perhaps unsurprising that 23% of the shoppers surveyed said they didn’t have a favourite brand to shop with online.

The ease of finding the products they were looking for (55%) was cited as the most important aspect of an online experience with good product images (52%) and a nicely designed and displayed website (34%) coming in second and third respectively.

The survey also revealed that people like to visit a retail website on average two to three times before making a purchase, demonstrating that brands need to re-think conversion as a traditional metric for what makes a successful interaction online and instead focus on what makes a good digital experience , and thereby ensure that visitors return. Making online interactions more individual is a big part of creating great online digital experiences. Yet a third (33%) of the consumers we surveyed didn’t think that brands were getting this right. Worryingly, 40% of UK consumers believe personalisation practices to be too ‘big brother-like’ . When looking at the use of consumer data and the impact of GDPR, now six-months since the regulation came into effect, the research also found that only a third of online shoppers (33%) trust brands with their personal data , while 40% don’t believe that the introduction of GDPR has made retailers any more transparent with how they’re using personal data.

Current personalisation techniques and privacy are clearly being questioned by consumers ; while there’s a general acknowledgement that they bring value and enjoyment in shopping there’s a growing awareness that they shouldn’t breach consumer trust or be based on personal data or historic actions. Consumers are clearly worried about how their data is being used, and quite rightly so. Retailers need to start focusing more on shoppers in the moment, abandoning the aspiration to spy and track the past, in a way that’s more open and transparent.

In fact, that’s why we recently launched EmpathyContext , our latest technology innovation that enables retailers to provide search results aligned to individual visitors by uniquely understanding a user’s context and intent, without compromising on privacy . Rather than focusing on historic actions, it focuses on real-time analysis and interactions based on consumers intent and what’s happening now.

This is not only more transparent but it adds more value; wowing shoppers and delivering the kind of service that will drive loyalty and sales. This is about fair play, ethics and creating tailored, individual experiences that are more honest and genuine. Our study clearly showed that retailers who continue to get privacy and personalization wrong will not only lose consumer loyalty and trust but also their business. Over half (59%) of online consumers said they would be more likely to shop with a brand that is open and transparent .

Across the water in Spain, we saw similar trends and behaviours to that of the UK with over half (55%) of respondents believing their online shopping experience to be more impersonal than buying in a physical store . 27% were also of the opinion that brands have lost their authenticity online and it’s become difficult to distinguish between one and another. As we saw in the UK, while creating more personal online shopping experiences is clearly popular for many of Spain’s shoppers, 41% of Spain’s consumers want more tailored recommendations whenever they visit a retailer’s website, one-in-five (20%) Spanish consumers don’t think brands get it right , with over a third (37%) raising concerns that it’s too “big brother-like”. And, while half (50%) of shoppers say they are more likely to shop on a website that offers tailored recommendations only half (50%) of consumers completely trust brands with their personal data. Worryingly 48% do not feel brands are any more transparent with their personal data since the introduction of GDPR .

Importantly, though, Spain’s respondents were clear that the use of their data is not a problem – transparency is the key factor , and should retailers ensure they are open and honest about the way they are using customer data, 55% of consumers would be more likely to shop from that brand. When talking about the online experience, 60% of consumers said that the most important aspect was the ease of finding what they were looking for. And, when choosing where to shop, a site’s search function was among the most important factors considered, selected by 32% of shoppers. What’s more, only 19% of shoppers in Spain know exactly what product they want every time they visit a website. While over half (54%) of Spanish shoppers want to be inspired while they’re browsing and even more (57%) admit they are more likely to make unexpected purchases online than in-store.

It’s clear that creating a connection with a consumer relies on more than just grabbing their attention with product discounts or special offers. It’s about making each person feel like they’re getting a unique, tailored and joyful shopping experience, and one that’s built on trust and transparency.

Brands that make consumers feel special, that really understand and get their customers are able to create an effortless and memorable online experience that leaves shoppers fulfilled, happy and loyal. What’s more, as retailers enter the busiest season of the year it’s never been more important to get this right. 65% of UK consumers said they were more likely to shop online at Christmas than any other period with the figure rising to 75% for Spanish consumers !

For more information on the research and the consumer trends it uncovers, download the full research report here.