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Retailers are not meeting customer expectations and, in many cases, are missing on the fundamentals, according to a new global consumer study by Oracle Retail. Case in point, retailers and consumers dramatically disagree on how easy it is to return purchases. While 57 percent of the 210 retailers surveyed noted that returning products is “very easy,” the same share of consumers rate the return process as a “complete hassle” or “could be easier.”
Shoppers and retailers are also split on what constitutes their most important in-store experiences. More than half (56 percent) of consumers rate convenience, such as having their size in stock, as the top priority, while only 34 percent of retailers noted it as such. Consumers also rank discovery, as in space to experiment and try new products (36 percent) and expert advice (22 percent) as important when shopping in-store. This was much higher than retailers who indicated these attributes at merely 18 and 6 percent, respectively.
However, retailers and consumers do agree on the topic of faster shipping. Retailers said that this was the most important way they are trying to meet customer needs, and 92 percent of consumers said they would like “free one-day delivery by whatever means is most expedient—drone, driverless car, messenger, etc.” This represents a significant increase in positive sentiment toward new delivery models as compared to previous research. The one caveat is that products better get to customers when expected. The price for late deliveries according to 13 percent of consumers is they would never order from that retailer again.
“Consumer expectations are perpetually in flux, with each positive experience setting a new bar for success in retail,” says Mike Webster, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Oracle Retail. “No matter if they’re enjoying the convenience of ridesharing, browsing through a seamless in-app experience or walking into a brick-and-mortar storefront, customers expect the same caliber of service in all interactions, upping the stakes for retailers as they compete with rival brands and new business models.”
Another notable research finding is that today’s shoppers don’t view online and in-store as discrete channels and expect the same level of “perceived convenience” no matter where they shop. In fact, 51 percent of consumers associate convenience with a great shopping journey, regardless of channel. In North America, convenience has been raised to new levels, with 57 percent of respondents in the region valuing convenience above all else, compared to 50 percent in Europe.
Consumers are definitely open to new technologies to help improve the convenience of their shopping experiences. More than half (54 percent) of respondents love the idea of “online technology that allows you to view a digital version of yourself to try on products (e.g. sunglasses, clothes).” In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the appetite for this is even higher at 67 percent. UAE similarly leads the EMEA region in interest in VR technologies, with 68 percent saying they would embrace VR to “browse a virtual closet online and pick out items like you would in a store,” compared to 53 percent of global respondents. A further 41 percent of global respondents would be interested in “online subscription fashion services that automatically send you items in your style and you return the ones you don’t like,” with North America and EMEA trailing other regions at 29 and 31 percent, respectively.
Consumers ealso value choice, with the majority (86 percent) agreeing that retailers should offer the ability to choose the most convenient delivery option at the time of ordering. While 87 percent of retailers recognize choice is important to consumers, the need is not yet being met, with 47 percent of consumers reporting that the delivery option they want is “sometimes, rarely, or never” available.
Online-only retailers are winning on this front as 61 percent of consumers feel that “the delivery option they want is always available” compared to 52 percent for traditional retailers and 46 percent for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. When asked if “items always arrive when they say they will,” 52 percent of respondents say this is the case with online-only retailers, compared to 49 percent for traditional and DTC brands. Although online-only retailers are currently in pole position, traditional retailers and DTC brands aren’t far behind, signifying progress and opportunity.
The Oracle Retail study also shows that creating personalized experiences is no longer just about dynamic content or special offers. Consumers are seeking preferential treatment based on their relationship with the brand. Roughly half (48 percent) say that offers or discounts that are better than what anyone else can get based on their loyalty to that retailer are “absolutely essential.” Loyalty also relies on transparency to succeed: roughly half (52 percent) of consumers have greater trust in retailers who respond immediately in the event of an issue or recall, and 47 percent are more likely to trust emerging brands with if they are “honest and authentic.”
While honesty from retailers is highly valued, consumers say it can be hard to come by. Just one in five (21 percent) Generation Z and millennial consumers completely trust what retailers tell them. When issues arise with products they’ve purchased, 66 percent of consumers expect to be notified right away, and this rises to 72 percent among Baby Boomer consumers.
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