By Anna Rose Welch, Director, Cell & Gene Collaborative
New study from Accenture finds more consumers plan to increase in-store purchasing in 2014
E-commerce is on the rise, but so is consumers’ interest in making purchases from physical stores this year, a new study by Accenture has revealed. According to the “seamless retailing” study by Accenture, 21 percent of shoppers have expressed plans to increase in-store purchasing — an impressive jump from just 9 percent last year.
However, just because the interest exists already doesn’t mean retailers are off the hook; they should still be doing everything they can to improve the in-store shopping experience. While creating a solid online shopping experience is important to 16 percent of those surveyed, a much larger 40 percent of respondents ranked improving the in-store shopping experience the most important thing for retailers to work on.
Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice says that the lines between channels have blurred, but that consumers are still finding physical stores a necessary part of shopping. “The survey results indicate that retailers have an opportunity to increase in-store sales but only if they make the experience worthwhile for consumers,” Donnelly says. “Consumers are looking for the conveniences of shopping online, such as information on product availability to be available in store.” Indeed, services like “click and collect” and in-store ordering/home delivery are just some of the increasingly popular ways consumers are taking advantage of online and brick-and-mortar channel-blurring today.
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Consumers are also interested in checking product availability online before venturing out to a store. Of those surveyed 31 percent said that being able to research store inventory online would be the most important improvement a retailer could offer. For 89 percent of shoppers surveyed, real-time information on product availability is also more likely to encourage a sale either in store or online. Customers are also most likely keeping their eyes open for free-shipping options. For 57 percent of customers looking to buy goods that need to be shipped, free delivery is the most desired shipping option. And it doesn’t stop there; consumers also believe that goods shipped for free should also arrive in a shorter period of time — roughly one to five days. Compared to last year’s study when 25 percent of respondents expected shorter delivery times, this year’s number jumped to 44 percent. This increase, Donnelly says, is a sign of the influence of pure-play online retailers, like Amazon, which offer faster delivery for the cost of an annual subscription.
Indeed, as more consumers turn online, they are also expecting to find consistent promotions, product offerings, and the same prices they would in-store, and vice-versa. However, more work could be done to connect consumer accounts across the channels, as only 31 percent claimed they could access accounts both in-store and online. Not to mention, as more consumers sign up for loyalty programs, they expect to be able to use the loyalty points across multiple channels. In this study, only 32 percent said that were able to earn and use their loyalty points across multiple channels.
Donnelly says that retailers aiming to meet consumers desires for an omni-channel shopping experience should be hard at work coming up with strategies that combine the physical and digital. Analytics will also be an important piece of this challenge to keep customers engaged in new ways, especially as more retailers begin jumping on the personalization bandwagon and consumers begin to expect a more personal shopping experience.
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