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How to Give Your Online Customers What They Want in Times of Uncertainty

By Lauren Zhao, Managing Director, Hong Kong and Macau, UPS

Data from the Census and Statistics Department shows that Hong Kong’s overall retail sales fell 44% in February 2020 compared to the same period last year. This can, of course, be largely attributed to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in January, but even before that, we Hongkongers had already begun changing the way we shop.

According to Statista, e-commerce sales in Hong Kong are expected to achieve year-on-year growth of 11.5% in 2020. And while there will always be a place for the brick and mortar store, e-commerce has become a norm in Hong Kong life and many retailers are investing in expanding into online channels to ensure their visibility in the market. The comparable ease with which anyone can start an online business versus an offline one means there is a lot of competition, so a strong online presence and a reliable delivery service are critical if retailers are to stand out from the crowd and succeed.

These trends in Hong Kong’s online retail scene are also supported by the findings of the recent UPS Pulse Online ShopperTM study which takes a closer look at the online purchasing habits of the world’s e-commerce shoppers. Understanding trends in e-commerce is important for the survival of Hong Kong retailers in 2020 and beyond. The study points out three basic steps online retailers should follow for success in an increasingly competitive e-commerce market.

First, show them what you’ve got

It is not surprising that digital savvy and thrifty Hongkongers do thorough research on the products they want to buy. The study showed that over half of local consumers research and compare prices before clicking the “Buy” button, nearly 60% do their research via search engines, while around 64% said they also consult price comparison websites. But what does this mean?

Retailers need to put sufficient product information and delivery details across their channels as this is often the difference between a buy and a pass. Especially for local consumers, providing more information on your product price and details also make it easier for your products to be picked up by search engines, thus enhancing overall visibility. This is not limited to high-end or luxury products but equally applies to daily necessities as consumers are increasingly aware of the country of origin and the materials used throughout the manufacturing process.

Free shipping and clear return policy are equally important

Another important highlight of the study is that nearly 70% of consumers in the Asia Pacific agree that the returns experience impacts their overall perception of a business, and 40% of online shoppers in the region said they read return policies before purchasing an item. The lesson here is that a clear and easily accessible returns policy can enhance consumer confidence and satisfaction. With UPS Returns®, e-tailers can offer their customers a simple and convenient returns solution.

Needless to say, free shipping also helps. The study shows that free shipping is an important motivation for people considering whether to buy a product with four in ten respondents saying they have abandoned their shopping carts when they discovered that the cost of delivery was higher than anticipated. Thus, while some of these issues are not within the retailers’ control, by simply providing add-on services such as free delivery, they can do enough to ensure customers make the purchase.

Give customers the choice and flexibility to customize their delivery

While free shipping and the right returns service are often the key to consumers choosing to complete a purchase, often just simply providing the service may not be enough. Consumers today expect a greater degree of control over the process, including delivery times, dates and locations. The study shows that customers in Hong Kong view the ability to choose between the shipping prices of various delivery options as critical for making a purchase.

Giving buyers options on how to receive their packages, be it door-to-door delivery or an alternative delivery location such as public lockers, is an important step for retailers to build customer loyalty. With EF Lockers or S.F. Stores, e-tailers can offer customers nearly 500 different collection locations covering major residential and commercial areas across the city. At times like this, the convenience of delivery options has become more important than ever for Hongkongers.

When looking at the popularity and performance of some of the city’s largest online retailers, we can estimate the huge potential for how Hong Kong’s e-commerce market can grow. The next steps now for many Hong Kong e-tailers will be to ensure they understand how to enhance customer loyalty after the product is purchased – through smooth, reliable and accurate delivery services.

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