IBM recently released their new executive report entitled ‘From transactions to relationships: Connecting with the transitioning shopper’, with some reasonable commentary and insight in to the Australian environment. This is the fourth year the report has been produced and covers more than 26k consumers across 14 countries.
One of the foremost interesting parts of the study is the focus on consumers relying on the mix of channels for their shopping experience. Over the years, I have always found the challenges between the ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers versus the online websites an interesting one. Any corporate environment will have their stories of long battles in the office between these two channels and some still continue that battle for relevance, commitment from senior management and funding resources across the organisation.
The important factor in this report is the recognition of the new omni-channel consumer. One of the strongest drivers of this result has to be the rise of smartphone technology. Even the simplest experiences where a shopper walks in to the retail outlet and googles a cheaper price for a product, or the product information on their phone. QR Codes are used in stores to make this latter experience even more seamless however as IBM point out, “few have found the right formula to deliver the seamless omni-channel brand experience” and take advantage of the latest mobile device capabilities. Apple certainly hinders this progress with its lack of NFC capabilities and the report does lack the insights to produce innovative ideas for many readers to take the next step in the direction they are purporting their audience takes.
Another interesting factor, particularly with regards to relationships is the consumers’ increasing propensity to share their information as noted in the graph below from the report, which indicates this increase over the year.
Another revelation, which is likely quite well understood by many is the increase in social media, however, what was interesting from the report is the increase in positive sentiment about brands. The report noted over the years the remarkable change in consumer advocacy via the social media channels.
The concept of ‘showrooming’ is something briefly discussed, and this seems likely the best nugget from the report. While consumers are definitely interested in the personalised approach online, they are still interested in the touch-feel experience that a retail store provides. These people, as noted in the report, are the real ‘spenders’ as they are (in historical sales terms) ‘red hot and ready to purchase’. Nearly half of the online shoppers were ‘showroomers’, people want the online bargain once they have the information that sight and feel provides in store or that ‘in the hand now’ experience.
It is this revelation that makes the seamless omni-channel approach to consumers possibly the most important challenge that is facing any retail business today. It represents the best opportunity for the well established ‘bricks and mortar’ stores and the most important challenge for the online only stores.