iVend Retail understands that it’s a challenge for retailers to maintain an accurate, up-to-date view of consumer behaviors, trends and expectations. Last year, we began conducting surveys across the globe in an effort to help our retailer clients better understand their customers. We’re excited to reveal our 2016-2017 Great Omnichannel Expectations Shopper Survey Report at the upcoming NRF BIG SHOW. The report polled 1,000 North American consumers to gather insights on shoppers’ views of omnichannel trends and changing consumer behavior.

Before the general release of our survey report, we offered it to a few analysts to review, and one jokingly commented, “I don’t think shoppers know what they want.”

After two years of remarkably consistent results, however, we have to disagree. Granted, consumer behavior may not be as predictable as it was two decades ago before the launch of Amazon and eBay, but there are some basic, overarching themes in the responses to our poll: Shoppers want a shopping experience that’s convenient, easy to use, and relevant.

This year’s survey revealed that 92% of North American consumers now regularly shop on multiple channels — and that includes shoppers of all ages and not just Generation Z digital natives.  This has resulted in a new definition of “the store,” which now encompasses more than just brick-and-mortar locations, but all channels a brand uses to engage customers. Contrary to some predictions a few years ago, the physical store has not lost it relevance — different channels meet different needs for shoppers and, moreover, channels that seamlessly work together can provide the great, connected shopping experiences customers are looking for.

The Informed Shopper

This year’s survey confirms that shoppers crave for information they can use to make informed purchasing decisions. In addition to confirming most omnichannel shoppers research products online, we also researched consumer behavior related to accessing information in brick-and-mortar stores — and the results seemed to suggest they prefer looking it up for themselves. We asked them what would improve in-store experiences:

  • 4% said free Wi-Fi.
  • 9% said kiosks or digital help desks.
  • 5% said offers sent directly to their phones when they enter the store.

Interestingly, sales assist was a less popular response. Of the consumers in our survey, 26.5% said retail sales associates using tablets to provide information could improve in-store shopping — less than the other options. It’s also interesting that only 12.5% of those we polled want sales associates to make product recommendations by accessing information about them on mobile point of sale (mPOS) devices.

The bottom line is that providing information is critical. However if you decide to provide it, make sure there is a way for potential customers to find what they need to know before making a purchasing decision. And don’t forget to make accessing relevant information convenient and easy to do.

A Word of Caution about Being an Informed Retailer

Consumers appreciate and respond to personalized offers, but our survey shows there isn’t total buy-in from all customers on the data collection that enables you to make those tailored offers. Our survey found data collection is agreeable to 31.5% of consumers if they get something in return, but almost 37.5% want a say in what is collected. Overall, 42.8% say it is okay for retailers to collect data, but they don’t want to be bombarded with marketing information.

It’s important to temper efforts to collect data with respect for shoppers’ personal boundaries, and to demonstrate to your customers through the quality of the promotions, offers, and rewards you offer that you are using the data you collect to truly benefit them.

How Informed Are You?

Our survey report is filled with more insights into changing consumer behavior including:

  • The path to purchase that starts on one channel and ends on another such as the growing use of Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS)
  • The demand for consistency across channels
  • Increasing use of mobile devices for shopping
  • Preferences for how digital offers are delivered

We are going to release the 2016-2017 Great Omnichannel Expectations Shopper Survey Report at the National Retail Federation (NRF) BIG Show on January 15. Stop by Booth #4343 during the show for more insights from the report that will help you understand what consumers expect from shopping experiences, variations in trends among different demographics, and what shoppers think retailers are doing right.

Consumers will always gravitate toward retailers that not only provide the merchandise, but also the convenient, easy-to-use, and relevant shopping experiences they are looking for. Do you know what your customers want and how to deliver it?

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