PwC’s new 2016 Total Retail Survey reveals a global consumer revolution and for retailers and e-commerce business, the disruption by online consumers is building. PwC surveyed nearly 23,000 online shoppers in 25 countries identifying the changing behaviors that will drive the coming retail revolution.
Overall, the research showed several interesting online consumer behaviors including:
- 54% buy products online weekly or monthly
- 34% agree their mobile phone will become their primary purchase tool
- 67% say reading or writing social media reviews and comments influences their online shopping behavior.
The report stated:
“From the unmistakable desire to be a member of a specialized retail community to buying more on their mobile phones, from becoming more reliant on social media to demanding a more service-focused and knowledgeable store employee, global consumers are pushing the boundaries of what shopping means.”
Eight key online consumer insights
PwC highlights eight key, in-depth insights that will drive big changes in retail online and in-store. E-commerce and retail strategists will find these invaluable in forecasting, developing strategies and sales planning.
China predicts the future of shopping online
To understand future global shopping behavior, look to China. PwC says historical data shows that early shopping trends in China often are visible several years later in other locations around the globe. For example, 65% of Chinese shoppers shop online via mobile at least monthly compared with only 22% of the US at present. Only 12% of Chinese consumers have never shopped online compared with 46% of shoppers around other parts of the world.
In 2015, Alibaba’s Single’s Day online sales totaled $14.3 billion, up 60% over 2014 and 69% of all purchases were made on mobile devices, up from 43% in 2014. That’s a phenomenal pace of change yet to surface in most other markets.
In just one year, the number of Chinese consumers who paid for an online purchase with mobile grew from 18% in 2014 to 46% in 2015! That compares with the rest of the world which moved from 12% in 2014 to 20% in 2015.
Price is still king
We may live in the age of value—but price is still king, according to the report. Years of slower economic growth have consumers seeking value but affordability is important in every income bracket, in every country and across all age groups.
60% of consumers chose their favorite retailer because of prices. 32% pick retailers because items were in stock or they trust the brand and 25% because the retailer had items not available elsewhere or had a good return policy.
But it’s still mostly about the price.
Rise of multi-channel
Store traffic doesn’t matter as much as overall customer conversion across channels. The simple fact is more consumers are shopping online. The report highlights: “The need for an increasingly focused, curated and engaging brick-and-mortar store experience that creates maximum conversion—no matter what channel ultimately records the purchase.”
Many retailers are already working hard to build consistent shopper experience both online and in-store. Retailers need to continue building that integration of customer channels but the upshot is that if you’re a bricks and mortar store, you still have advantages you can use within the customer journey.
Retail talent (finally) matters
Consumers say an important part of the in-store shopping experience is staff with product knowledge, technology know-how and people skills.
PwC says “Among them were sales associates with a deep knowledge of the product range (40%), ease of checkout (35%), ability to check online stock quickly (32%), an inviting ambience (23%), and in-store Wi-Fi (22%).” That’s a familiar services challenge and human resources reality for every retailer.
In some countries (UK, France, Japan, Italy), customer service ranked lower as a factor in making for a great shopping experience. It ranked higher in Thailand, China, and the Middle East, and very high in Germany, Spain and Chile as driving favorite retailer perception.
Mobile buying matters
Let’s take a look at a couple of important insights about mobile shoppers:
- 36% use mobile to research products
- 31% access mobile coupons or promotional codes
- 25% check reviews about the product or retailer on mobile
- 23% access mobile emails to pick up their product
- 21% access loyalty or reward programs.
Goldman Sachs predicts at the rate that mobile commerce will account for almost half of all US e-commerce by 2018. Globally, in-store purchases via mobile were made by 20% of consumers, up 8% from 2014.
While it’s common in Europe and Asia, mobile payment technology and services are still catching up in North America. As with most technologies, millennial’s will adopt mobile payments in North America fastest as soon as they are available. We can expect more innovations, more choices and more change in financial payments in the very near future.
Look for “customer communities
Consumers welcome a closer connection with retailers who can create a sense of “community”, a reason for customers to care and ways for frequent shoppers to remain loyal. 91% of consumers said they are now members of loyalty or rewards programs.
The top three benefits cited by consumers from their loyalty/reward programs were member-only discounts/offers (70%), collecting reward points (61%), and free shipping (58%).
Interestingly, 58% of consumers still prefer receiving discounts, promotions and coupons by email, 20% by print, 10% by text message, 5% via apps, and 3% each for social media and retailer website.
There’s never been a better time for strategic, innovative and effective loyalty, membership and “community” programs.
Social media matters
Social media now has huge influence on consumers. “Customers are relying on social media—in addition to their family’s opinions, advertising messages, and media coverage—to make product decisions and gauge brand authenticity,” the report says.
When it comes to influence, here are the social media factors that matters most:
- 45% reading reviews, comments and feedback
- 44% receiving promotional mailings
- 30% by advertising
- 25% staying ahead of fashion and product trends
- 22% writing reviews, comments and feedback
- 20% associating with product or brand loyalty
- 16% buying directly on social media channels.
43% of consumers say positive interaction with brands on social media has influenced their positive opinion of the brand. “For example, in Denmark just 22% of survey participants are influenced by reading review, comments, and feedback, while in Malaysia that figure is 69%. India follows at 66%, China at 63%, Chile at 58%, and Turkey at 56%.”
Clearly, social media is now a key part of the customer journey today and tomorrow.
Innovators will rule
Perceptions of retailer innovation are most positive around product availability; less so in sustainability and online presence
“The issue for retailers is the small percentage of respondents who believe their favorite retailer is innovative enough to be a “leading innovator.” No category topped 17%, and only 10% of respondents said that social media and sustainability were categories in which their favorite retailer is a leading innovator. Given how active the world’s online shoppers are on social media, retailers will certainly want to improve here.”
Retailers have an opportunity to grab the “leading innovator” mantle. While consumers see occasional signs of innovation, very few identified their favorite retailers as innovators. The challenge and the opportunity are there for savvy retailers.
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