Oracle NetSuite and I partnered to find out exactly where the disconnect between shoppers and retailers is occurring and how those findings could point the way forward for brick-and-mortar retailers competing with online stores.
We engaged Wakefield to survey 1200 consumers and 400 retail executives in the U.S., UK, and Australia. I found the gap between the expectations about what retailers thought they were providing and what consumers were experiencing to be in line with my own shopping.
No retailer wants their customers to be confused or anxious, yet more than half of respondents have felt that way while shopping. Shoppers will only feel confident if they develop an emotional connection to the brand.
This happens when retailers foster positive, helpful in-store interactions; contrary to popular belief, the survey reveals millennials really want store employees to help them.
With nearly every respondent reporting that they value brick-and-mortar stores, now is the time to stand out by crafting every in-store interaction to keep shoppers returning.
What did this survey reveal?
You Don’t Know Me:
When retailers don’t understand their customers or lose sight of who they are, they lose shoppers, and sales fall.
• 73% of retail executives believe that the overall environment in retail stores has become more inviting in the last five years, but only 45% of consumers agree, and 19% state stores have become less inviting.
• 79% of retail executives believe online chatbots are meeting consumer needs. But 66% of consumers disagree. Respondents noted that chatbots are currently more damaging to their shopping experience than helpful.
• 98% of retail executives think that engaging with customers on social media is important in building stronger relationships with them, yet only 12% of consumers think it has a significant impact on the way they think or feel about a brand.
It’s Not Personal:
Even employers are not confident in their employees’ service abilities. A lack of retail staff training leads to bad customer service. But if employees are properly trained, and the store is inviting, shoppers can benefit from a positive in-store experience and will be more likely to return.
• 80% of consumers do not feel they are provided with a personalized shopping experience both in-store and online.
• 58% of consumers are uncomfortable with how stores use technology to improve personalization in their shopping experience, and 45 % reported negative emotions when they receive personalized offers online.
• 53% of consumers felt negative emotions the last time they visited a store; only 39% feel confident in retail stores today.
Not Believing The Hype:
Tech will never be sufficient in enhancing the customer experience until retailers address the challenge of understanding their customers. They should then use technologies to support their human interactions, instead of replacing them.
• 90% of retail executives are not confident that using advanced technologies to customize the shopping experience meets consumers’ needs.
• 79% of retail executives believe having VR and AI in stores will increase sales, yet just 14% of consumers believe the technologies will significantly impact their purchase decisions.
• 98% of retail executives believe VR and AI will increase foot traffic, but 48% of consumers do not think VR or AI impacts how likely they are to go into a store.
The Days Of Stack It High And Hope It Flies Are Over
Brick-and-mortar stores can provide an experience and interaction with products that the cold, emotionless online shopping experience cannot.
• 97% of consumers agree there is a need to go into a physical store to purchase items, and 70% believe the most appealing retail stores have features that simplify and streamline the shopping experience.
• The top features attracting consumers to physical stores include:
36% want in-store options to be consistent with those online
35% want simpler store layouts
29% want staff to be able to order on mobile devices
23% want to see in-store kiosks that allow them to purchase products that are unavailable in the store.
Matthew Rhodus, Director of Retail at Oracle NetSuite, added, “Consumer expectations are not only rapidly changing, but exactly what expectations look like varies from person to person and moment to moment. This makes it incredibly hard for retailers to keep up. The survey results show that while the retail industry is often considered to be at the forefront of consumer experience innovation, there’s still a long way to go to meet shoppers' expectations. This means that the opportunity for retailers to improve the relationship with consumers is tremendous.”
Smart retailers will realize the days of mass selling of mass-produced items have drawn to a close. It is now about selling to the one, not the many. The low-hanging fruit are shoppers who actually make the effort to go to the store.
You can see the importance of knowing who your customer is and helping them feel more confident, less anxious, and less alone when they are in your stores.
It takes a radical reinvention of store operations to no longer hire the person who can just show up for a shift but the one that can deliver on the promise retail executives think they are brilliantly executing but are sadly failing at.
Concentrate on that this year and find yourself able to compete with Amazon and the rest.
Continue in a siloed home office where these customer truths don’t seem to land and find yourself like Gap and JCPenney, not knowing who their customer is, what they want, or how to deliver a consistent brand promise.
If you're looking for the full survey results, you can find them here.