The challenges of selling technological products online: how to solve them with conversational marketing?

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By Margot Bonhomme, Marketing Manager @Botfuel

January 04, 2021

The market for technological products and household appliances is firmly anchored in purchasing habits. 98% of households have a refrigerator, 96% a washing machine, and 91% a microwave. What market opportunities are there left? We are only seeing a decline in sales (-0.9%) on large technological products. That of the little ones continues to grow, among other things thanks to e-commerce. A new challenge that confronts e-merchants with the many doubts of visitors. How to solve them? This is what we will see together in this article.

E-commerce for technological products and household appliances: a market that is reaching its limit

E-commerce is gaining market share in each industry. Online sales of technology products continued to grow in France. Marketplaces saw an increase in turnover in these categories of 11% in 2019. E-commerce of small and large household appliances increased by 6.2%, reaching 5.1 billion euros (against 4,8 billion in 2018).

This growth is mainly driven by Marketplaces, according to Gfk. They alone represent around 30% of total sales in France. This figure remains below European and global trends.

A flagship e-commerce event also carries the technological products and household appliances sector: Black Friday. High-tech is one of the most affected sectors, with 15% of French people saying they are waiting for this event to make their purchase. Besides, daily routines have been turned upside down in 2020. This is reflected in the buying trend. According to Taboola, the words “laptop” have seen a 78% search increase since July. The same goes for “printer” which had an increase in page views of 447%.

Brands have understood this because many of them sell off their products during Black Friday. Dyson, for example, slashes prices on its most popular devices like the vacuum cleaner brush that may experience reductions in a hundred euros.

Even though the market is boosted by special events and a life change that calls for more technological products, some still resist the soft appeal of e-commerce. Why?

What are the doubts of visitors?

There are different types of purchase when it comes to technological products.

On one hand, we have high-tech and telephony products, on which the buyer is prepared to put a certain price. It is often about pleasure. The customer can succumb to the "wow" effect or proceed by impulse. For these types of products, the trend and novelty are also buying criteria: the latest smartphone, the latest camera, or video game console. The consumer wants to be at the forefront of novelties.

On the other side, there are household appliances. The reflection phase is longer and the discovery phase will be more complex. This is often a necessary purchase, in which the buyer is looking for the best value for money. He wants to be reassured. He wants to feel like he's getting a good deal, that he's not being fooled. This is why the consumer will make more comparisons and will be able to switch more easily from one brand to another. Note that 73% of consumers believe that shopping online is riskier than shopping offline.

Lack of advice and support

In both cases, these purchases require reflection and upstream research on the part of the customer. The first restraint for purchase is expressed here: according to the GfK FutureBuy survey, 62% of consumers surveyed believe that there are too many choices. They, therefore, admit to preferring “brands that can provide them advice online or in their stores when they have it”. Darty has, for example, 675 washing machine models and over 1930 camera models for sale on its e-commerce site.

How to search? Let us stick to the example of the washing machine. The criteria, very specific, can be difficult to decipher: the class, the capacity, the Kwh/year, the Kwh/year/kg... In stores, the sales advisor will rather ask for the size of the household, the lifestyle, the number of laundries done per day or week ... He will then advise to turn to 2 or 3 machines, then enter the sales pitch for each.

It is possible to do the same online. By setting up a conversational strategy on your e-commerce site, thanks to a shopping assistant, you offer a deep conversational customer experience and flexible dialogue paths, reproducing as much as possible the experience offered by a human advisor. How does it work? Upstream, you have connected your product catalog to your shopping assistant so that it knows all your products. It can therefore offer the right product according to the customer's needs. Then, you will be able to create human conversational scenarios that reproduce the exchange that your customers have in store. For example, instead of asking your visitors for the kilogram capacity of the washing machine they are looking for, ask them the size of their household. Instead of asking for the annual cycles, demand for the number of laundries done per week. You will first have fulfilled the match criteria. For example, a machine with a capacity of 9 kg will be offered to people checking the household box of 4-5 people.

Example of a shopping assistant

The need for advice and support is also felt during the comparison phase. The visitor, after having carried out his research, stops on different models. Usually very similar and in equivalent price ranges. He needs to know which one best suits his habits and needs. He then wants an expert product opinion.

The difficulty of delivery

For fear of unpleasant surprises and additional costs, many visitors abandon their basket at this stage. 95% of Internet users want delivery information to be communicated earlier, according to the Star Service study for IFOP. Another objection relates to understanding the terms of delivery: 11% abandon their carts because they do not understand the details of the shipment. (1)

Delivery is a source of stress for the French. Using their mobile,80% have already tracked the delivery of their order. According to FEVAD, they are even 64% to do it regularly. But why? Afraid of getting it late? Consumers are especially afraid of breakages during transport.

To answer this, an alternative stands out: click & collect. According to the Nielsen study institute, this delivery format was chosen at 10% during the first containment. A study by Gfk also reveals that Click & Collect makes it possible to support a winning strategy: omnichannel. “Over the last four years, sales of technological goods by omnichannel distributors (physical and online) have increased by more than + 60% while sales by pure-players have posted + 25%” explains Olympe Krima, retail consultant at GfK.

Online payment for large amounts

In 2019, the average basket is €63.6. French people buying a television or laptop are therefore at the top of the basket.

It is partly the high prices of technological products that are holding back online shoppers. They fear the scam. Therefore, they turn to sites known for their security. 83% of consumers demand more assurance on the security of their information. (1) Olympe Krima, retail consultant for GfK adds that “almost half of shoppers who paid in-store for a click-and-collect purchase (41%) did so for security reasons.”

To reduce the barriers to purchase during payment, campaigns can be set up. A campaign, for this type of product, works very well: the payment in three installments without charge. “60% of French people say they use it at least once a year, and 19% at least once a month,” says Corinne Hochart, CEO of Oney.

You can do this by tracking the behavior of visitors to your site. When the basket reaches the minimum amount you have set, offer payment in 3 installments as the first solution.

New possibilities thanks to the second-hand market

One of the main doubts remains the price. Most products are a big investment that buyers don't want to be wrong. This is why many still go to the store to be advised and reassured about their choices.

For several years, we have also seen the second-hand market develop. Out of ecological awareness and lower prices, the French are turning to this alternative. Witness the dazzling success of Back Market, which has just raised 110 million euros, which has seen its sales doubled since the start of 2020. The start-up sells reconditioned smartphones but also household appliances and high-tech products and sometimes offered at -70%.

Would be the trend of e-commerce technological products and household appliances the second hand? For Antoine Jouteau, CEO of LeBonCoin, this is a certainty: “I am convinced that the second-hand market, in many areas, will overtake the new one. It's a matter of a few years. I also observe that all large companies are questioning their vocation. Those who do not take the turn of sustainable development will have difficulties.”

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