A surprising two in three British shoppers feel like retailers don’t know them or understand their needs. While the old adage that the customer is king may still ring true for retailers, those who make it through the thin trading months tend to understand the nuances of today’s changing retail landscape. It’s not about thinking of the customer as king but thinking of them as individuals with very personal needs and preferences.
This according to a new report from Salesforce that looks at the concept of shopper-first retailing.
Here are the biggest trends you need to know about today.
Marketplaces are more appealing to shoppers than direct retailers
“You’re making a purchase through a brand, retailer, or marketplace. If the price is the same everywhere, why do you choose each channel?” This question was posed to 6,000 consumers worldwide as part of this research. While consumers still prefer retailers for their strong customer service, marketplaces and brands beat retailers in every other consumer preference category.
Marketplaces received top scores when it comes to price, product variety, product availability, and inspiration. Brands win shoppers’ preference when it comes to product quality, innovation, and uniqueness. Retailers must lean into their service strengths by modernising tactics through emerging tools like video chat or always-on chatbots. They should also aim to improve shoppers’ perception of product quality and availability.
Marketplaces are winning the second purchase and shopper loyalty
Growing loyalty and sustaining a long-term shopper relationship (and revenue stream) is the goal of every retailer and brand. Researchers asked consumers, “Imagine you want to buy something you’ve never bought before. Where are you most likely to go?” Between the choice of retailers, brands, and marketplaces like Amazon, consumers said they made 50% of first-time purchases from retailers, followed by marketplaces (31%) and brands themselves (19%).
When it comes to repeating purchases, here’s where the story changes. 47% of repeat purchases made on marketplaces, followed by retailers (34%) and brands (20%).
The second purchase is today’s battleground. Agility, loyalty, and personalisation are imperative for retailers and brands to differentiate and win the second purchase. Unforgettable experiences and products can’t be commoditised.
Shoppers use mobile in-stores at an unprecedented rate — but mobile store experiences lag behind
The brick-and-mortar store is far from passé: 46% of shoppers still prefer to buy in a physical store, vs. 35% for laptops, and 18% for mobile phones.
Additionally, 71% of shoppers say they’re now using their mobile devices in-stores (83% for shoppers aged 18 to 44) — up from 62% in 2017. Shopper activities while using mobile in-stores are diverse, from purchasing to reading reviews.
At the same time, in the report’s mystery shopping study, which held in-person assessments in 70 stores in London, New York and San Francisco, the average mobile score across all stores was just 1.74 out of 5. With a few exceptions, the stores they studied severely lacked mobile call to action (which encourages users to actually check out their items), apps with relevant omnichannel functionalities, and mobile personalisation.
Shoppers prefer retailers that can move at their speed
Fast fashion only tells part of the story. The Salesforce research found that meeting shoppers’ expectations is now about fast retail — offering shopping journeys, transactions, and experiences that move at the speed of the shopper: 69% of consumers say it’s important or very important to see new merchandise each time they visit a store or shopping site.
Additionally, three in four consumers’ site search queries are brand new each month, showing just how fast consumers are discovering new product types, brands, and features.
Within the top 5% of best-selling products on ecommerce sites, the majority of them (59%) change monthly. That means retailers and brands can’t sleep on analysing shopper searches and delivering the ever-changing items they seek in real time.
On the product side, 59% of shoppers say they’re more likely to buy from brands that offer customised products. Our mystery shopping study noted brands like American Girl, Adidas, and Lacoste offering exclusive personalisation that went far beyond the monogram to make shoppers part of the creative process.
Lead with values, personalisation, and service
Shoppers reward brands that go beyond transactions, dollar signs, and orders to bring relevance and resonance to the relationship. How do these brands do it? Through values, personalisation, and service.
Values: 45% of shoppers are more likely to buy if the retailer or brand gives a charitable donation with their purchase. Additionally, nine of the top-rated 10 brands in the mystery shopping study had above-average scores in creating an emotional connection. Brands like Lush, Everlane, and Life Is Good lead with values — and shoppers are following.
Personalisation: 6% of ecommerce visits that include engagement with AI-powered recommendations drive an outsized 37% of revenue. In a landscape where 64% of shoppers say they feel retailers don’t truly know them, AI-driven personalisation is a critical tool.
Service: During Cyber Week 2017, shoppers logged five cases for every one knowledge-base view. As Christmas approaches, shoppers seek direct support, but knowledge bases and self-serve options (like forums and chatbots) are increasingly preferred by customers. Empower customers to find their own answers — they’ll take advantage of it.
Ultimately, retailers have to put aside what they think they know to listen to what shoppers actually want. Understanding today’s empowered, connected shopper’s wants and needs should be multifaceted. Watch this space for more practical advice on how you can refine your retail strategies in the lead-up to Christmas.
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