Besides having the right product at the right price, it's equally important for retailers to provide an experience that meets their shoppers' expectations. The retail industry in general has become much more competitive, and even long-standing retailers are having to close down stores or entire businesses. Even a small advantage may be what's needed to help business owners keep their customers coming back. A recent study highlights several ways retailers can meet or exceed the expectations of online shoppers.

The business platform developer Narvar recently released a report titled "Connecting with Shoppers in the Age of Choice". The report analyzed responses from 1,543 U.S. online shoppers and evaluating the ways they preferred to communicate with their favorite brands and their overall expectations for the shopping journey.

The report showed that there are a lot of ways that businesses communicate with consumers that can be just as important as interactions for customer service. A good example can be seen with shipping information. According to the survey, 54 percent of shoppers would give repeat business to a retailer that accurately predicts the date their package will arrive.

How a company handles returns can be even more important. Initially shipping a product out should be done as quickly as possible, but so should returns and replacements. More than three in four (77 percent) of the people surveyed said they would give repeat business to a retailer that resends lost or damaged items with expedited shipping. In a way, getting a returned package is a chance to make a better impression on the customer.

The Narvar research also showed that consumers have little tolerance for any hassles or delays related to returns. Businesses need to communicate the return process in a way that is easy, transparent and flexible for the customer.

This has always been good advice, but the survey responses puts data behind the concepts. For example, three out of four (76 percent) shoppers would give repeat business to a retailer that makes returns and exchanges easy.

One way to make returns easy is to give consumers multiple options for returning an item. In the survey, two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) said they opt to return online purchases through the mail. However, one in four (25 percent) won't buy something if they don't have the option of returning to a physical store.

In their analysis, Narvar pointed out that technology is a good way to meet consumers' expectations on things like communication and returns.

"To deliver customer care at its highest level, brands will need to anticipate customers' wants and needs, using technologies like voice and chatbots to communicate with shoppers at every point of their journey," said Amit Sharma, Founder & CEO of Narvar. "The retailers that succeed in building loyalty with shoppers will be those that connect with people personally and communicate proactively."

A good example of this can be seen by the way companies like eBay and Amazon constantly update shoppers about shipping, returns and refunds. Even if things go right 99 percent of the time, a retailer's reputation often hinges on how business owners handle the 1 percent of returns and exchanges.

For more recent information that can help improve conversions on an ecommerce website, read this article on the types of items consumers buy most online.