Consumers crave seamless shopping experience

Summary:Whether it's mobile kiosks, e-commerce or a more traditional in-store transaction, your customers really crave one thing: convenience.

Does it annoy you personally to discover that you paid more online for a product that you could have purchased in-store -- from the same retailer -- for a lower pricetag?

You're not alone, according to a new survey about retail shopping by global consulting company Accenture. The study (which gauges the opinions of about 750 consumers in the United States) suggests that many people are getting plenty fed-up with retailers that manage their e-commerce and in-store operations as entirely separate entities. Or that set pricing strategies and promotions that have different terms and conditions, favoring one channel over another. Or that tolerate the existence of customer service departments that can't always see across a retailer's different sales channels.

So, while many small retailers are racing to invest in new mobile technologies that can help improve their point-of-sale systems and better manage their customer loyalty programs, they might also do well to pause and consider the Accenture data. Here are some of the specific numbers:

  • 49 percent of the respondents believe the most important thing for retailers to do when investing in new technologies is to ensure that they integrate well across in store, online and mobile channels
  • 94 percent of them find in-store shopping simple, but only 26 percent said the same of shopping on a mobile phone
  • 73 percent of retailers run the same promotions online as they do in the store, but only 16 percent off the same prices in both places
  • 19 percent of retailers offer the same assortment of products online as they do in the store, another pet peeve of the consumers who participated
  • Roughly half of the survey respondents indicated that they respond to in-store offers such as displays or the advice of salespeople. Conversely, approximately 70 percent of the respondents say that online pop-up ads never influence their purchasing habits.

"In many cases, we have found a significant gap between consumer expectations and reality, and but we believe seamlessness is achievable," said Chris Donnellly, global managing director of Accenture's Retail practice. "Traditional retailers must take stock of their operational capabilities. They require a presence at every stage of the customer journey to deliver a consistently personalized, on-brand experience from discovery through research, purchase, fulfillment and beyond to product maintenance and returns."

That may seem like a tall order for small retailers. But considering that many larger stores need to deal with the weight of legacy point of sale (POS) infrastructure, it's also a place where small or boutique companies might be able to achieve real differentiation quickly.

Photo: Courtesy of Creative Commons

Topics: SMBs

About

Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist specializing in transformative technology and innovation. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. In a past corporate life, Heather was editor of Computer Reseller News. She started her journalism lif... Full Bio

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