A recent study conducted by Oracle in March this year showed Australians still opting and appreciating the in-store experience over their German (57%), French (54%) and US (50%), counterparts.
The study surveyed 5000 individuals from 10 countries around the world on their shopping habits both on and offline. Australians topped the list for their preference to shop in-store. This could be taken as both a positive or a negative – Australians are either consciously opting for a more tangible shopping experience or simply that they are taking their time adapting to the ever growing world of online retail. I’m going to hazard an assumption that it may be both.
Click and Collect
Coles Click and Collect – image courtesy of newsagencyblog.com.au
To assist the Australian shopper leap the online chasm, click and collect could be a suitable option for many retailers. The report revealed that consumers worldwide are more than happy to purchase online and drive to a given location to pick up with click and collect doubling in just one year from 4% to 8%.
Click and collect actually drives in-store purchasing as well with research showing that upon collecting in-store, additional items are often purchased at the same time. US retailer Best Buy announced last year that 20% of those who picked up in-store actually made further purchases. The concept of click and collect creates convenience for both the retailer and customer in addition to boosting sales.
There are many examples of successful click and collect options in the US (Walmart, Target and Saks) and the UK (Selfridges and Halfords to just name a few).
Successful Australian click and collect examples include grocers like Coles and other retailers like JB-HiFi. Online retailer eBay has also partnered with Woolworths for a similar click and collect concept as with Ezybuy with free delivery to Big W or Woolworths.
How does this affect my strategy?
As we’re all aware, the trend is moving towards an omni-channel shopping experience and Australian retailers need to ensure they incorporate both platforms of online and in-store into their strategy. The majority of customers surveyed this year (69%) were after an in-store experience however, the other 31% were a mix of buying goods online and having them delivered, buying goods in-store and having them delivered or buying goods online and collecting in-store.
This number will likely balance out in time so retailers who provide both a positive online and in-store experience combined will win customer loyalty.
What does the customer want most?
Given that Australians in particular prefer the in-store experience, it’s only fair to assume that they also want an exceptional customer service experience. And that assumption is correct. Over half of the people walking into your store say they want in-person interaction and engagement when shopping in-store. In addition, 46% of respondents said that their loyalty is influenced by great service when in-store. This clearly sets the stage for better equipping our customer service and sales staff with both the tools and information they need to satisfy the customer experience.
The report also revealed the importance of transparency for consumers in today’s shopping environment. Whether online or offline, customers want all information clearly accessible and visible.
The ability to simply see how much stock is available and access to product information rated as the highest consumer requirements at 70% and 59% respectively, more than double that of last year.
Fifty four percent (54%) of Australians said that lack of availability disappointed them the most.
So for a customer, whether in-store or online, it is the most disappointing when attempting to order a product that is either unavailable, out of stock or can’t be obtained. Sometimes this can be out of the retailer’s hands but with current technologies, these issues can easily be alleviated. Intelligent reporting is now available in some POS systems which clearly shows the retailer what needs to be replaced, where and when far ahead of time eliminating issues with stock and fulfillment.
Seamless shopping experience
In addition, only 18% of respondents valued a connected approach to the omni channel shopping journey last year however, consumers are now stating that a seamless shopping experience from in-store to online is up there at 42%, more than double that of last year.
How is this relevant to you as a retailer?
The most valuable piece of advice coming from this data is that consumers are now appreciating the investments in technologies that enable stock visibility and seamless shopping experiences.
More than just appreciation, they will be expecting this level of customer service in years to come. To purchase a black dress online and be greeted with personalised options of a matching belt and shoes when in-store will become standard.
Where to now?
We’re now fully aware and bombarded with statistics of omini-channel awareness and expectations of our customers. Online sales now represent around 6.5 per cent of traditional retail spending. Last year, 26% of customers were using their mobile phones to enhance their shopping experience. This year, that figure is over two thirds – using their mobiles to research, purchase and review.
We know that store apps are becoming more and more beneficial. We’ve also seen online specialists like Google, Amazon and eBay spread into the in-store arena – further cementing the necessity of the seamless experience.
Both platforms have their place and their increasing value. The new direction now is to merge the two, allow the customer a truly seamless and connected experience. This is what they’re asking for, it’s what they’re responding positively to, it’s what we will see more and more of.
Those who embrace the technologies that enable this connectivity between online and in-store will most definitely see unbounded success into next year and the future.