5 Atypical Retail and eCommerce Consumer Preferences Global Brands Need to Know About

Viber bojana-dobran
Bojana Dobran
Enterprise Product Marketing Manager at GMS
5 Atypical Retail and eCommerce Consumer Preferences Global Brands Need to Know About

When an average consumer is exposed to a seemingly infinite number of choices, retail and eCommerce brands need to do more than just address people’s everyday needs. They need to shape customer experiences by anticipating and reacting to the changes in purchasing patterns. 

One of the most drastic examples of such changes is the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when 75% of consumers decided to try a new brand, store or a different way of shopping. The imposed lockdown altered buying behaviours, causing online shopping and delivery services to skyrocket. As some of the most affected businesses, eCommerce and retail stores needed to adapt to the different landscape practically overnight. 

While this might be an extreme example, it illustrates the importance of understanding and responding to social and economic market conditions. By closely monitoring changing customer behaviours and identifying emerging preferences, retail and eCommerce brands can stay on top of market needs.  

1. Buyers require more communication options. 

In the era of information overload, listening is a superpower. Brands that prioritise getting feedback from customers can genuinely understand their needs and develop more attractive offers. While social media and review sites are useful resources to gather this type of information, they typically reflect perceptions of only a small portion of your userbase. That’s why you need to enable and encourage all your customers to communicate with you directly. 

In fact, this is something they expect too. As highlighted by G2, a popular software marketplace, 31% of consumers said they want options to communicate when asked about the importance of connecting to a business. Similarly,  research by Google reveals that 68% of respondents are more likely to buy from a business that offers convenient communication options. 

These figures imply that brands should embrace digital channels not only for promotion, but for two-way communications as well. Otherwise, they might be missing out on the most valuable insights about their consumers’ preferences. By opening a dialogue through messaging apps, emails, and chatbots, brands can meet one of their customers’ key communication requirements and gain in-depth understanding of their needs and desires. 

For example, brands can integrate their CRM or CDP systems with Rakuten Viber Business Messages to save conversation history, analyse first-party data, send personalised messages, and collect feedback to improve customer service. Using customer management software, brands can also store addresses, sizes, and preferences so that customers don't have to repeat them every time they contact a service representative.

2. Consumer expectations for discounts increase as the economic context changes. 

Historically, a basic understanding of psychology has helped brands build effective sales and marketing strategies. However, rather than purely relying on established purchasing patterns, successful brands should also consider the context in which their customers live and buy. Eventually, it is our economic conditions that influence our purchasing habits more than our personality traits. 

This has become particularly important in recent months as concerns about economic uncertainties intensify. According to a study by Growth from Knowledge, a data intelligence company, 51% of FMCG consumers are worried that prices will rise and that this will affect their buying behaviour. As a result, they are developing new coping mechanisms that may forever change their purchasing preferences.  

Top shopping strategies by product category

One of the key takeaways from this research is that brands need to “constantly evaluate the shoppers’ living conditions and sentiments, in order to deduce respective challenges and strategies.” In practice, this means they need to consider making their products and services more affordable as this is the number one expectation of their customers. Namely, related research revealed that 43% of consumers want the brands to absorb price increases to show support for their struggles. 

With price clearly becoming the differentiator, eCommerce and retail companies should consider engaging their customers with discounts and special offers. However, this might not be enough to stand out as your competitors are likely to employ similar strategies. To make your offers relevant, you should personalise the experiences based on your customers’ purchase histories. Even more importantly, you need to make sure your offer reaches them exactly when they need it via the channel they use the most. 

By using Rakuten Viber Business Messages, brands can deliver colourful, eye-catching offers to grab consumers’ attention via their preferred communication channel. An apparel shop can send a message with a video showcasing the latest products, encouraging a customer to use the discount. An electronics store can send a message with a product image, link to the store, and CTA to promote a discounted electric heater during winter months. This is also useful for re-engaging consumers who abandoned their shopping cart by sending a catching visual reminder of the product they browsed earlier with an exclusive discount. 

Examples of personalised Business Messages on Rakuten Viber 

3. Tailored interactions are key to personalisation. 

In its most general definition, personalisation refers to tailoring an offer to the needs and demands of an individual. While this is what many consumers expect from brands, it might not be enough to grab their attention – unless communicated in their preferred way. 

This was confirmed by McKinsey & Company, which revealed that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalised interactions and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Brands should therefore not only develop the right offer, but also present it through an adequate medium. And in most cases, a single channel won’t do. 

This leads us back to conversational commerce, which is becoming one of the most important trends for modern marketers. Brands that successfully employ different communication channels throughout multiple touch points are likely to grow the demand for their products faster. By strategically engaging their customers throughout the buyer’s journey with mobile messaging, brands can successfully cross-sell, up-sell, and optimise customer value. AI chatbots and virtual assistants are playing an increasingly important role, complementing business messaging and the traditional email and SMS messaging for improved business outcomes.

Rakuten Viber Chatbots can help automate work, provide answers to common questions, take orders and streamline interaction. Having a simple and intuitive interface, they can increase sales and customer satisfaction for brands.

Conversational commerce via Business Messages and Chatbots on Rakuten Viber 

4. Influencers increasingly factor in buying decisions. 

While direct interactions with consumers can offer invaluable insights into their preferences, external channels still significantly influence their buying decisions. Brand-owned channels such as websites and social media still play a role in informing customers, but influencers and review sites are more likely to be a turning point in the awareness and consideration stages. Before rushing to these channels, marketers need to consider the different audiences these two typically cater for. 

From cosmetic products to tech gear, it is common for online buyers to do research before making a purchase. According to The Independent, 80% of Millennials will do this by reading online reviews, while 44% of Gen Z will make a purchase after listening to influencers. Among the general population, this rate is 26%, meaning it is influential across different age groups. 

Based on these findings, businesses targeting Zoomers are likely to see more success by investing in influencer marketing than in more traditional forms of advertising. Similarly, those targeting Millennials should keep pushing reviews and social proof as a way to influence their primary buyers. Still, rather than assuming your consumers’ preferences, you may choose to collect feedback from your customers via Rakuten Viber Business Messages and get the most valid answers. By using rich content in your messages, like images, videos, buttons, you can make the feedback process fun and easy for your users, increasing their engagement.  

To expand their influencer marketing strategy, businesses can let Instagrammers, TikTokers and Youtubers use mobile messaging for direct communications with customers on their behalf. For example, they can launch a promo campaign where influencers would ask their fans to send an [InfluencerName] promo code via Rakuten Viber to get a discount code for their next purchase at the brand’s online store.

5. Perception of loyalty programmes varies across different consumer segments. 

Loyalty programmes have long been a powerful way for eCommerce and retail brands to increase customer retention. While they still matter to most consumers, there is a significant difference in how Millennials and Zoomers perceive them. 

Considering Oracle’s comprehensive research on the differences in the buying behaviour across generations, each audience group seems to have its own expectations of loyalty programmes. One thing common to all is that they expect reward points for engagements and not just purchases. From walking into a store to completing surveys and writing reviews, consumers want to get something in return. An important insight here is that almost 70% of Gen Z reported they expect to earn points while playing a game, compared to only 35% of millennials. 

By understanding the expectations of your target audiences, you can better adapt your programme to their needs. The vital part in ensuring they remain engaged is to send offers, reminders, and alerts via their preferred messaging app. 

Discover how Rakuten Viber and GMS helped a filling station partner promote its loyalty program


Understanding even the less obvious consumer preferences is a foundation of successful engagement and sales strategies. eCommerce and retail brands that closely monitor their customers’ purchasing patterns using two-way communications can gain genuine knowledge on the behaviours and needs that can shape their business in future. 

With solutions such as Rakuten Viber Business Messages and Rakuten Viber Chatbots and a reliable partner to help you implement it, your brand can anticipate these needs and get better business outcomes. This is why Global Message Services joined forces with Rakuten Viber back in 2016 and continued to grow its partnership offering. Together with Viber, we enabled brands to adopt conversational strategies and leverage two-way messaging capabilities for marketing, sales, and customer support.