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Research: How Retailers Need to Engage Customers in the Digital Age

Study Finds That Service Drives The Future Retail Experience, But Retailers Struggle To Understand Shopper Needs

RetailNext Inc.’s recent study shows that shopper and retailer perceptions and expectations are not aligned and that many retail stores lack the essential technology to measure and apply shopper data across all channels.

Forrester Consulting completed the January 2016 commissioned Real-Time Data Drives the Future of Retail study on behalf of RetailNext, and conducted in-depth surveys with 500 consumers and 150 retail decision-makers in the United States and the United Kingdom to develop the findings. “Today’s shoppers have tremendous information and choice at their fingertips, and with this access to information they are quickly and not-so-quietly reinventing their shopping experiences, and in turn the retail industry,” said Bridget Johns, head of marketing and customer experience at RetailNext.

“This new study not only emphasizes that retailers must rethink what makes for exceptional in-store experiences, but also shows a growing need to blend brand operations cross-channel to better reflect the new shopping journeys on which shoppers now embark.”

Physical retail is alive and persisting – and increasingly influenced by digital.

Today’s new shopping journeys recognize the value of physical retail and its particular set of competitive advantages, such as the ability to experience products and services and interact with sales associates. However, shoppers also require seamless cross-channel experiences, and only 49 percent of consumer respondents feel they receive consistent experiences across all channels.

Retailers don’t understand what matters most to shoppers.

Retailers are experiencing a disconnect between strategy and tactics and what shoppers want most, such as consistent pricing across channels and the ability to make returns regardless of the channel where the initial purchase was made. Seventy-nine percent of consumers reported that having similar prices online and in-store is a critical or important requirement for retail stores. 80% of consumers prioritize the ability to make returns online and in-store, regardless of where or how the initial purchase was made (i.e., omnichannel returns), while just 62% of retail stores agreed that this is an important priority for them.

The role of the sales associate is evolving.

Today’s digitally empowered, smartphone-wielding shoppers expect on-demand sales associates who are facilitators of exceptional shopping experiences. Shoppers don’t want to do the heavy lifting themselves; they want on-demand associates to check inventory, provide product information, and perform tasks in real time. However, just 29 percent of consumer respondents feel sales associates are knowledgeable and helpful.

Retailers are not measuring customer behavior, especially in-store.

Retailers understand and agree that in-store technology drives both operational excellence and the overall digital customer experience. However, retailers overwhelmingly struggle to measure customer behavior, and surprisingly few reported the use of Key Performance Indicator (KPI) metrics in-store, with just 33 percent of retailers reporting they always measure conversion rates.

Responses clearly showed that consumer and retail perceptions are not aligned and that many retail stores lack the technology to measure and harness shopper data across channels. The study also found that the store of the future will be powered by real-time analytics technologies that understand shopper behavior across the entire shopping journey and equip store teams to deliver consistent experiences relevant to the store format and target market.

Source: Jan. 12, 2016 /PRNewswire

Sallie Burnett
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