COVID -19 accelerated online shopping trends, which has resulted in consumers now having higher expectations from retailers today than they did less than a year ago.
For example, U.S. retail e-commerce sales totaled $199.4 billion in Q3 2020, and because of this, retailers can’t risk a bad shopping experience. In fact, more than half of consumers agreed that a bad online shopping experience would destroy their trust in the brand. According to a new global research report commissioned by SOTI, From Bricks to Clicks: State of Mobility in Retail 2021 Report, in order for retailers to stay competitive in the new normal and excel, there needs to be a more efficient and seamless return process, delivery times need to be faster, and there needs to be better protection of personal and payment data.
A Quarter of North American Consumers Believe the Pandemic Will Harm Retailers that Don’t Master the Delivery Experience
Nearly a third (29.5%) of consumers in North America said they shopped with brands that could deliver goods the fastest. The U.S. is even more adamant about this point, with 45% stating that if delivery or pick-up of an item is more than two days, they will look elsewhere. In fact, half expect to be able to order online and pick-up in-store on the same day.
Consumers also want transparency and trackability. One-third stated that they want to know where their order is from the moment they purchase, to the minute the package is delivered to their doorstep.
“Speed and transparency are just as critical as user interface and inventory,” says Ryan Webber, SVP of Enterprise Mobility, SOTI. “This requires significant backend infrastructure and mobile tracking to create a seamless consumer experience. Our advice to retailers is to pay closer attention to their consumer experience and how they can track and receive the item they purchase, as it is just as important as the item itself. If the past year has taught us anything, it is that having a mobile strategy is business-critical.”
Return Experience Is Almost as Important as the Buying Experience
Retailers don’t just have to worry about creating an experience that allows consumers to purchase items more easily, they have to make the whole process from search, purchase and return, just as easy and fast. While this might have a been a lower priority a few years ago, it needs to be a top priority today.
Zac Rogers Ph.D., an assistant professor of supply chain management at Colorado State University Colorado State University, agrees that other valuable takeaways have surfaced as a consequence of holiday shopping during the Pandemic.
“When Amazon talks, all others listen,” he observes in an interview with SCMR. “Omnichannel distribution seemed like a radical idea two years ago, and now everyone is onboard with it. Consumer buying behavior patterns have been shaped by the epidemic, but we don’t see any of these reverse logistics strategies changing.”
Consumers Expect Retailers to Keep their Information Safe and Secure
It is imperative for retailers to invest in systems and processes that keep consumer data safe and secure. According to the report, almost half of North American consumers (47%) have abandoned an online purchase because they did not trust the site with their payment information. Additionally, less than half (45%) of consumers feel that their personal and payment data is secure when making an online purchase.
When looking at large versus small retailers, large retailers have gained more consumer trust when it comes to data security. Nearly 57% said they trust large and well-known online retailers to keep personal and payment data secure, while 47% indicated they are nervous about small retailers keeping their data secure.
“Data security is a differentiator for consumers and impacts their shopping choices,” says Webber. “Nearly half of consumers worry about their privacy – proving it remains critical for retailers to invest in solutions that protect vulnerable endpoints against malware designed to steal sensitive data during an influx of online activity.”
Three Things Retailers Can Do Now to Improve Consumer Loyalty and Trust
• If the retail sector wants to move to a multichannel, always-connected consumer experience, it needs to tackle trust. Retailers are faced with the challenge of not only digitally transforming at speed, but they also need to reshape their security and trust strategies for consumers to feel secure.
o In the U.S, a recent study found that 89% of customers would switch brands if a company lost their personal data.
• One of the most intimate relationships most consumers have is with their smartphone. Retailers can tap into this relationship by integrating business-critical mobility strategies that bridges mobile technology to enhance the consumer experience and complete transactions on-site.
o In fact, almost a third (31%) of consumers said they would like sales associates to use mobile devices that allow them to purchase items on the sales floor instead of at the cash register and nearly a quarter (24%) said handheld or cart-mounted devices to check inventory availability and pricing would provide a better in-store experience.
• Before the pandemic, U.S. investment in in-store tech increased by almost 60% year-on-year (YoY) to over $3.7 billion.
o According to SOTI’s survey, 16% of Americans said they would spend more in brick and mortar stores that used tech to improve the customer experience. Across all markets, the average is 12%. Last year, this was at 22.4%.
About the Author
Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Mr. Burnson is a widely-published writer and editor specializing in international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He is based in San Francisco, where he provides a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. He may be reached at his downtown office: [email protected]