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5 Trend-Defying Reasons For Retailers To Know What Shoppers Really Want

When it comes to the retailer/customer relationship, there are some general assumptions on which most of us can agree: First, the customer is the most important key to retail success. Second, shoppers come with a specific set of needs and wants. Third, Retailers sincerely want to fulfill the specific set of shopper needs. Fourth, retailers think they know what customers want. Buzzzzz. The study I recently described in my post, 25 Surprising Statistics About Shopper Behavior in 2013, indicates that what shoppers REALLY want is not always what retailers think.

Here’s another look the 4th Annual 2013 RIS/Cognizant Shopper Experience Study of 2500 shoppers surveyed in March 2013. The study looked at some of the popular trends, with statistics supporting the degree of importance of these trends to customers — i.e. what shoppers really want re Mobile shopping, price matching, social media, multi-channel cross-channel fulfillment, and customer service.

1. Assumption: Social media continues to exercise great effect on retail shopping.

1. Response: Survey respondents say social media is their least used source of information and the lowest influencer while shopping. While there’s no denying the influence of social media, its role in the shopping experience remains far more measured than first predicted. Social media provides an additional way to interact with customers, but it does not replace traditional communication methods. Retailers should focus their investments on social media customer outreach and social listening to discover broad patterns in customer behavior and use that knowledge to tune their core services and products.

2. Assumption: Mobile shopping is the wave of the future.

2. Response: True that mobile is possibly the biggest trend that will be with us for a long time to come. But not at all costs. ¬†Shoppers use a variety of devices and retailers can’t be all things to all people. ¬†While a mobile presence is the cost of doing business today,¬†retailers should select mobile sites‘ features, functions, offers, and product categories cautiously and appropriately for their particular shopper and assortment base.

3. Assumption. Shoppers are really big on price matching — retailers believe that price matching is the way to deal with Amazon and showrooming.

3. Response: Shoppers are not as big on price matching as you think. Only 20% of shoppers request price matching. Electronics is the most requested category for price matching, and home furnishings the least requested. Price matching “While many retailers are revamping their price-match policies and capabilities, there is no substitute for getting price right the first time and for ensuring it is consistent with customer expectations and brand image” per the study. And, anyway, price matching does not save sales that are lost when shoppers walk out of stores without buying.

4. Assumption: Shoppers want more self-service tools.

4. Response: it’s true that online shoppers expect functionality and information, but when it comes to in-store shopping, customers’ consistent message for the past four years is that they want — and expect — service, not technology — and furthermore, personalized experiences rank well ahead of interactive ones. Retailers need to arm their sales associates with the same information customers have access to, but shoppers reiterate time and again that they favor better “soft” interpersonal skills from sales associates, not more technology.

5. Assumption: Smooth multi-channel cross-channel fulfillment is a key customer expectation.

5. Response: Yes, this is a fair expectation, but it’s not well-enough-fulfilled, according to the study. Although many retailers have rolled out “order online/pick up in store” capabilities and many others are making plans to do so, study respondents indicated that seamless pricing and service are must haves that are often missing with this option.

Bottom Line For Your Bottom Line

What customers really want, and what retailers think they need to do to get the customer is the most important issue for retail success. The overall challenge, says the study, is to focus on the themes that are most important to your most valued customers and then bring policies and processes into alignment across your customer touchpoints. And, although the millennial generation is driving the evolution of new shopping paradigms, many of the different segments of every retailer’s customer base place high value on the themes mentioned above. Bottom line for retailers is, take two Maalox, and look at the statistics, not your gut.

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