Building a thriving and effective omnichannel retail ecosystem involves many moving parts, from the point of sale to an integrated loyalty program. According to the iVend Retail 2019 Global Shopper Trends Report, consumers around the globe want a seamless and convenient experience across their online and in-person shopping experiences.

North America is no exception, and survey responses from Canada and the U.S. were very closely aligned across the board (with a few minor differences) when it comes to the importance of loyalty programs, new retail technology, and omnichannel shopping behaviour.

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We asked 2,700 shoppers what’s most important to them.

Mobility Gains Ground

Retailers are increasing their use of mobile technology in the store. Using mobile devices, store associates can help customers view inventory and product availability at other locations, order and ship purchases to consumer’s homes, make purchase recommendations, and even accept payments.

According to the survey, more than half (51%) of U.S. and Canadian shoppers in North America would like store associates to have handheld mobile devices to view inventory levels and product availability in the store. The survey also found that 44.8% of North American shoppers would like store associates to use mobile technology for check-out and payment processing.

Interestingly, other countries have embraced this in-store mobility more enthusiastically, with 84.2% of consumers globally saying they look for a sales associate with mobile technology to assist them.

Shoppers Look for Rewards, Online Communication

This year’s surveys revealed how important loyalty programs are. According to the survey, 94.4% have shopped with a retailer because of a loyalty program, a 10% increase globally. The survey also found that 85.4% participate to get free items and earn discounts.

Another important North American shopping trend is the acceptance of online and mobile marketing. Email is the delivery vehicle of choice by a landslide – 74.4% of shoppers say they prefer to receive communications from retailers via email. It is 40% more preferred than the next closest communication method, mobile apps, at 32%. Shoppers are also open to location-based promotions, with 61.6 % of those surveyed saying they would likely respond to a coupon or offer delivered to them when they were in or near a store.

Online Purchases Can Drive Store Traffic

The online and in-store shopping experiences have become more integrated. Worldwide there was a 30% jump in the number of shoppers using buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) technology compared to last year. In North America, the survey found that 75.6 % use BOPIS in U.S. and 67.2% in Canada. (The only major differences in survey responses between the two North American countries were in the usage of BOPIS.)

This integrated approach to shopping is becoming the go-to method for some consumers, with 10% of those doing BOPIS saying they use it more than half the time they shop online.

The biggest reason North American shoppers use BOPIS is to avoid shipping charges (53.2%). These consumers want the convenience of shopping online but don’t want to pay for it so much so that they are willing to hop in the car and drive to a store to avoid paying for shipping.

Convenience is a critical driving factor, with 40.8% of shoppers using BOPIS to ensure that an item is in stock before they go to a store so they can avoid a wasted trip.

BOPIS has proven to be a great driver of foot traffic, and has shown to increase sales in stores up to 10%. Most shoppers, once they are in the store, tend to grab other items while they are picking up their online order.

In-Store Convenience

Convenience was also a major driver when it came to the types of technology that shoppers like to see in a store. The survey asked North American shoppers what technology made them want to shop with a retailer. Their top picks included:

  • 56.8% – A self-checkout station to purchase items without the assistance of a cashier

  • 37.4% – Scanning a QR code with a mobile phone inside of a store to get an instant discount or product information

  • 8% – Contactless payment or mobile wallet to pay for a purchase in a store

These results displayed a strong emphasis on the checkout process, which is often one of the least enjoyable parts of shopping. Creating more convenience and flexibility around payment and checkout could improve the overall customer experience and their impression of a retailer.

For retailers that want to take advantage of these North American shopping trends, it’s clear that an investment in new technology to improve the checkout process in the store will be a critical strategy. Digital coupons and other offers will be important as well, provided that retailers allow shoppers the flexibility to access those offers via email, on their mobile phone, and through mobile apps.

Finally, retailers should make loyalty programs a priority. If you don’t have one, create one. If you have one, make sure the loyalty program is integrated with other systems like your POS and ERP solutions, and that you are providing consumers with ways to earn points and rewards. Those are the features and capabilities that draw shoppers to your website and store locations, and keep them coming back.

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