Today’s consumers have high expectations. They demand speed and convenience. They turn to social media for ideas and inspiration. They’re making more and more transactions on mobile.
As consumer behavior continues to change, retailers must evolve, too, in order to provide shopping experiences that will help them stay competitive, as well as attract new shoppers, and build a loyal customer base.
Bazaarvoice conducted an extensive survey of brands, retailers, and consumers to identify the gaps between what shoppers want and how the industry is responding to their expectations.
Here are 3 trends every retailer should devote some attention to:
1. Digital in-store experiences
“It is imperative for today’s retailers to provide a positive, seamless, end-to-end shopping experience, meaning that the digital and physical realms should be integrated, with a close understanding of the customer at every touchpoint,” says Retail Dive.
But while innovation and developments in virtual and augmented reality continue to generate buzz, blending digital experiences with physical retail can be a challenge.
For example, some retailers offer the ability to virtually try on outfits or visualize furniture in the home. The question is…are consumers actually embracing and appreciating these new functionalities?
Surprisingly, when consumers were asked what they thought about digital in-store experiences, 48% of consumers said that virtual reality features are not important to them.
What consumers do want is technologies that add convenience to and reduce the friction from the shopping experience. In fact, 50% of survey respondents indicated that it’s important for retail stores to offer conveniences such as auto checkout, location-based mobile offers, and online ordering.
Despite this revelation, only about 20% of brands and retailers say they plan to incorporate digital technology in their stores, and 55% aren’t considering it at all. “This signifies a big opportunity for retailers to evaluate where and how they’d like to invest in new in-store technologies long term,” says Bazaarvoice.
2. Personalized experiences
According to Bazaarvoice, 91% of brands and retailers believe that receiving personalized content, offers, and recommendations while shopping online will be significant to the customer experience. Additionally, 81% plan on using customer data to personalize content modules and product recommendations in the next 12 to 18 months.
Shoppers, too, say they appreciate personalized experiences. Fifty-one percent of consumers surveyed reported that website homepages displaying products they are looking for or might be interested in are useful.
But while shoppers and retailers both agree that personalization is a welcome efficiency, the execution is somewhat lacking. In fact, less than 20% of shoppers say the product recommendations they see are relevant. That’s unfortunate because 38% of consumers say they won’t return to a retailer’s website if it recommends products that don’t make sense for them.
“This indicates that brands and retailers have yet to crack the code on how to target their customers effectively,” says Bazaarvoice. “Additionally, retailers must not mistake the need for better personalization with an overabundance of promotions and marketing emails.”
Yes, email can be an effective tool, but brands and retailers should balance their send rates and review personalization strategies to ensure that they are relevant and meaningful to their customers.
3. Integration of social media and e-commerce
Today, shoppers rely on consumer-generated content (CGC) such as ratings, reviews, questions and answers, and visual content to make their purchase decisions. This fact is backed up by Bazaarvoice’s recent study in which 56% of consumers say it’s important to have this content available when shopping.
Currently, 80% of brands and retailers either have a visual CGC program or plan to launch one in the next year, and 60% believe that visual CGC is standard in e-commerce.
“Given the popularity of visual content, social media is starting to emerge as a third shopping channel that bridges in-store and online shopping,” says Bazaarvoice.
Consumers are spending more time scrolling through their social feeds and engaging with brands, with 45% of online shoppers liking or following a brand on social media, and 57% purchasing a product they heard about on social media. Companies, too, are recognizing that social media platforms can be used to connect with their audiences and improve visibility. That’s why 81% of brands and retailers plan to integrate social media and online shopping in the next year.
Interestingly, only 17% of consumers report that being able to discover and buy products directly from social media is important. This may be due to the fact that friction still exists between social media and e-commerce habitats, or perhaps because shoppable social feeds are not yet prevalent enough.
Either way, brands and retailers have some kinks to work out to ensure that the integration of e-commerce and social media will enhance and optimize shopping experiences for consumers.
The retail industry will always need to innovate and evolve in order to stay relevant. But they must make sure they are doing it for the right reasons.
“Rather than replicating what competitors are doing, brands and retailers should pay attention to what consumers are doing. Learning shoppers’ watering holes, the technologies and platforms they’re using, and their social and shopping behaviors is the key to producing convenient customer experiences that revolve around them.”
Remember, the first step to narrowing the gaps between what shoppers want and what the retail industry delivers is listening to consumers, understanding their needs, and engaging them on the channels they most prefer.
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Also published on Medium.