Study: Retailers Must Deliver a ‘Total Retail’ Experience

NEW YORK -- Retailers have historically used a “multichannel” approach to reach consumers, but changing expectations and behaviors among today's shoppers demand a new approach.

According to a new study by professional services firm PwC, a rapidly growing focus on the consumer and integrated, customer-focused technology have paved the way for a “Total Retail” experience.

The study, entitled Achieving Total Retail: Consumer Expectations Driving the Next Retail Business Model, is based on a survey of more than 15,000 online shoppers globally. Based on its research, PwC identified eight key consumer expectations that support the move to a "Total Retail" approach.

“Consumers now view multichannel shopping as a given, and the costs and complexities of managing a multichannel model are too great and offer too few rewards to benefit the customer experience,” said Steven Barr, PwC’s U.S. retail and consumer practice leader.

“Today’s non-stop shoppers have taken things into their own hands, becoming more tech-savvy than retailers. Consumers have the tools at their fingertips to immerse themselves into the retail brand. Our report finds that consumers have strict expectations that challenge today’s shopping experience and in response, retailers should embrace what we at PwC are calling 'Total Retail.'”

The eight key consumer expectations include:

A compelling brand story that promises a distinctive experience

Retailers should better establish a strong brand promise that solidifies a core of loyal customers. A high percentage of survey respondents were attracted to brands that tell a story in an engaging manner. Seventy-nine percent of U.S. shoppers said they shop at their favorite retailers/brands because they trust the brand.

Customized offers based on protected personal information

Big data and predictive analytics will help retailers use customer data to increase marketing and sales effectiveness through customizing digital coupons, exclusive content and social media promotions. However, 37 percent of U.S. shoppers said they do not use their smartphone for shopping because they are worried about security. Retailers should better safeguard data, by either building their capabilities step by step or adding proper capabilities through acquisitions.

An enhanced and consistent experience across all devices

Of the U.S. shoppers who do not use their mobile phones or smartphones for shopping, 32 percent said they do not own a mobile/smartphone, while 33 percent said device screens are too small. However, as screen sizes get bigger and more consumers obtain newer mobile devices, mobile shopping is likely to accelerate. To prepare for this growth, retailers will need to have the technical agility to provide one seamless experience via PC, tablet, mobile phone, mobile app or web browser.

Real-time transparency into a retailer’s inventory

When asked which in-store technologies would make for a better shopping experience, 45 percent of U.S. survey respondents chose the ability to quickly check the stock at other stores or online. Consumers are looking for actionable inventory information from retailers, pushing retailers to upgrade technology on their supply chain and how products are tracked, warehoused and distributed.

Favorite retailers are everywhere

When asked what they would do if their favorite retailer shut down its local store, 53 percent indicated they would locate the next nearest physical store, and 40 percent said they would increase ordering from the retailer's website. Shoppers today assume retailers are everywhere and always connected like themselves. Therefore, retailers need to look at store portfolio management more strategically.

Both store apps and mobile sites must improve

PwC’s survey found shoppers do not have a strong preference regarding using an app or browser for mobile shopping. When asked how often they use an app or mobile browser for shopping, respondents said 22 percent and 28 percent weekly, respectively, with mobile browsers faring a bit higher due to convenience (53 percent prefer a mobile browser because of convenience). Retailers should take note to ensure their mobile site is optimized, while also ramping up apps to improve the experience.

Two-way social media engagement

Enthusiasm for social media by retailers and brands is driving consumers to engage, comment and even affect change. When asked what attracted them to a particular brand’s social media site, 61 percent of U.S. shoppers cited attractive deals and promotions; 38 percent said new product offerings; and 28 percent said because they shop with the retailer. Retailers should better listen to customers on social media, transforming commentary into actionable data for new ideas and an improved experience.

If brands act like retailers, we’ll treat them that way

The gray area of overlap is growing between brands and retailers, and 44 percent of U.S. survey respondents noted that lower price is the main reason they buy from a brand’s website. Retailers today are partnering with brands/manufacturers to share consumer insights and collaborate on category management to drive more success for both.

Click here to access the full PwC report.

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