Anyone with an interest in the direction of consumer tastes, customer experience and overall expectations on the retail front these days is best situated in a sidecar, racing alongside a scene that is ever on the move.
Most recently, “Total Retail: Customer Expectations Driving the Next Retail Business Model,” a comprehensive new survey from PwC, has uncovered the news that shoppers are interested in a multifaceted customer experience with retailers. That means they want to be able to shop on line, but also in store, so long as the latter experience comes complete with compelling in-store technology, a real-time appraisal of stock, consistent prices and offerings with other channels, and a broad-based impression that service is available to them 24/7.
Among the key findings of the survey, which polled more than 15,000 online shoppers in 15 different territories last summer, were the following:
• 87% of Canadian consumers shop online at least once a year, and nearly half (49%) do so on at least a monthly basis.
• If their favourite retailer shut down, 42% said they would simply order online.
• 55% said they feel they can find better deals online than in physical stores.
• Respondents acknowledged the benefits of shopping in a brick-and-mortar environment, including the ability to see, touch and try the merchandise, and to have immediate access to products after purchase. But they still want technology to be part of the in-store experience, particularly the ability to quickly check stock in other stores or online (47%), salespeople who can take payment without having to trudge to the cash register (28%) and easy-to-access in-store wifi (27%).
• Mobility is big. Almost a third (29%) of respondents have already used a mobile platform to buy merchandise, 85% have used it to compare prices, 84% to locate a physical store and 87% to research products.
• Concerns about security were cited by 38% of respondents as holding them back from completing transactions by phone; 36% complained that the screens are too small.
“The physical store still offers consumers that tangible aspect that cannot be replaced,” Ilya Bahar, PwC’s national leader, retail consulting, said at the study’s release. “However, online channels enhance the shopping experience; ultimately, it doesn’t matter where or how consumers actually make their purchases, they want technology that provides them with convenience, easy access to information and a transparent, real-time view of the retailer’s inventory.”