The Consumer 2014
The retail world has changed. An economic downturn and the rise of online shopping have turned shoppers into promiscuous deal-hunters armed with mobile technology that allows them to shop whenever they want, however they want with whomever they want.
Consumers are maximising these new ways to shop, which is revealed through an extensive survey of 2,000 shoppers and in-depth exclusive interviews with a nationally representative sample of UK consumers of all ages, carried out as part of this report.
Among those surveyed, online shopping and value for money are the two most popular answers when asked what has most changed their shopping experience in the past three years. The ability to browse and buy products on a mobile device is ranked third.
High Street Connection
But that doesn’t mean they have all left the high street,content to remain camped on their sofas with smartphones and tablets. Shoppers still have an emotional connection to the in-store shopping experience:
In store, customers have a range of expectations. The most important is price – 85.2% list it in their top five – followed by a range of services that customers value in a store experience, including loyalty cards, product range, store locations and customer service. The quality of staff is falling, according to the consumers interviewed, with those retailers offering good service and plentiful staff standing out.
Customers want their experience to be convenient, so when the respondents are asked what they value most from a retailer when shopping in store, they place the following in their top two priorities:
However, the expectation of customer service diminishes online – when asked what they value most from an online retailer, only 9.1% of respondents rank it in their top two priorities.
Surprisingly few retailers are getting this right, but those that have are seen as ‘amazing’ performers, head and shoulders above the rest. Delivery services are holding many back – customers feel they have low expectations yet have still been left frustrated. When it comes to what deters people from shopping online, only a slow website (49.2%) and the fact they want to experience the product before buying (50.1%) ranks higher than inconvenient delivery times (46.9%) in people’s top five.
With this in mind, asking for extra fees to provide a more convenient service is not something the majority of customers will consider.
The multichannel retailers are finding it particularly difficult to meet customer expectations online. Shoppers are asked for their top five retailers in terms of in-store services from a list of 27 across different categories. Nine retailers are given a top-five placing by 20% or above of shoppers. However, asked to pick their favourite retailer online and only four of those nine manage as many votes. The gap between online and in-store experiences can be wide.
BT Futurologist Nicola Millard Presents the Findings
Whether customers stay loyal to these retailers may depend on their ability to align their online and offline services more closely. Almost a quarter (23.6%) say they would stop using a retailer if they didn’t offer convenient delivery times. Meanwhile, when asked their top five reasons as to what is most likely to make them stay loyal to a retailer, 37.4% say an efficient website and 32.4% say they want retailers to ‘make it easy’.
In a multichannel world where shoppers are keen for the best value it will be hard to maintain loyalty, but not impossible. Of the consumers polled, 72.5% give UK retailers a ‘very good’ or ‘good’ in the experiences they offer. However, just 3.1% say the UK shopping experience is ‘outstanding’. This is the challenge for tomorrow’s retailers.