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Survey suggests that fluctuating consumer behaviour is reshaping the world of retail
Digital technology can enable a retailer to connect directly to any consumer in the world. However, the diversity of communication and shopping channels also brings significant challenges - as a recent IBM report suggests.
A new IBM survey of 26,000 global consumers suggests that shoppers are becoming shrewder, more opportunistic and sophisticated in the way they research and purchase products. In addition, their choice of shopping channel is increasingly varied depending on their needs or situation at the time of purchase.
What is clear is that for a large segment of consumers the decision on whether to buy online or in store is no longer predetermined by their previous behaviours. For example, while more than 80% of shoppers chose the store to make their last non-grocery purchase, only half are committed to returning there next time they buy. In addition, 35% are unsure whether they would next shop at a store or online with only 9% stating that they are ready to commit to making future purchases online.
The growth of "showrooming"
One particular trend highlighted in the report was the growing adoption of "showrooming", the practise of consumers researching in store and then buying online. Significantly, nearly a quarter of these online shoppers intended to buy their item in the store, but subsequently purchased online – primarily due to price and convenience. However, only a third of these purchases are with "pure play" online retailers, suggesting an opportunity in-store if the right strategy is adopted.
The report provides further evidence that consumers are in a state of transition where they are balancing and experimenting with the pros and cons of different shopping channels. Undoubtedly consumers are weighing up the advantages of price, convenience and product choice for online verses the immediacy and experiential advantages of in-store shopping. "Showrooming" is an example of a shopper extracting maximum value from using both channels to satisfy their specific needs.
The evidence suggests that a consumer’s choice of shopping channel is going to vary markedly from day to day depending on their particular personal circumstances, preferences and needs. Their chosen solution will involve a complex mix of elements such as price, delivery schedule, product selection, research requirement, convenience and desire for an in-store experience; whatever is relevant to them at a particular moment in time.
Strategies for success
To win, in this new dynamic and multi-dimensional retail environment, retailers will need to be closer to their customers than ever before. The defining competence will be an ability to understand customer preferences to better connect their store and online offer. For instance, in confronting "showrooming", bricks and mortar retailers can reduce the effects of this behaviour by understanding the product preferences of "value oriented" customers and pricing these items more competitively.
On the other hand, multi-channel retailers could improve their proposition for customers that prefer the immediacy of researching online and then buying in store through the use of "click and collect".
Matthew Green, Managing Director emnos USA, comments:
"In order to survive in this changing new world, retailers first need to understand the different customer preferences that drive the observed online and offline behaviours. In many ways, multi-channel retailers are best set-up to do this since they have data from both offline and online shopping behaviour, although gaining a significant advantage from this complex data often requires specialist skills."