As many as 73% of consumers want the ability to start and end their shopping journey on any platform they see fit, yet only 7% of retailers currently offer a completely unified commerce experience. According to a new report from BRP, 50% of retailers said they are planning to implement the ability to start a sale anywhere and finish a sale anywhere in the next three years.
But in the meantime, the report solidifies that retailers are struggling to keep up with consumers' omnichannel demands.
Five key findings came out of the report. First, consumers educate themselves on a brand before making a choice. In fact, 62% of consumers said they check the reviews and ratings before visiting a store and 61% of retailers offer consumer product reviews for research.
Second, the ability of a retailer to identify the customer early and create a personalized interaction is a critical step in the selling process. In the survey, 64% of respondents said that they are fine with retailers saving purchase history and personal preferences to help with personalization. And 61% of retailers make in-store and online shopping history available to associates.
Third, meeting customers' expectations through the right technology is imperative to the shopping experience.
Fourth, gathering feedback on customers' likes can enhance the customer experience. About half of consumers will stop shopping at a retailer after one or two poor in-store shopping experiences.
And finally, delivering a personalized experience by enabling the right technology and network is key to retailer survival. For example, 68% of consumers are more likely to choose a store that offers automated returns, yet only 13% of retailers offer this process.
Perry Kramer, senior VP and practice lead at BRP, says there are several reasons why retailers seem to be scrambling to keep up with customer expectations regarding the shopping journey. In part, many retailers have yet to assess the new customer journey and address what is required to deliver the seamless experience that these shoppers expect.
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"A good first step is to begin with the concept of building blocks that can be leveraged as part of a holistic customer journey," Kramer told FierceRetail. "This approach allows a retailer to focus on the areas that are most impactful to the consumer, which varies greatly based on each retail segment. Additionally, this approach allows a retailer to flex and adapt with the rapidly changing set of customer expectations while leveraging past development as opposed to constantly starting over again."
Kramer says that another challenge to meeting consumer expectations is that retailers are too focused on putting out fires; in other words, dealing with immediate demands from the marketing department or store operations because they failed to plan and develop a comprehensive customer journey. Kramer notes that this reactive approach "results in quick fixes that often cannot be leveraged in the long-term architecture for a holistic customer journey."
For retailers looking to smooth out the customer journey, Kramer says that the first step is to define a vision. From there, the company can hone in on marketing and loyalty propositions, technology and other ways to invest in the experience.
"The areas of customer experience, customer journey and unified commerce are all moving very fast and morphing like a piece of playdough. If a retailer starts chasing today’s norm without the ability to flex and rapidly change, they will be behind the competition by the time they implement their changes," Kramer said. "A key guiding principle should be 'quality needs to exceed quantity.' This should not be confused with not experimenting, taking risks and learning from misses. The important message is to learn from your misses and do not miss because of quality—miss because you dared to challenge the norm and were willing to learn from it."