Retailers must respond to tech-savvy shoppers, survey says

Retailers must provide more information on their websites including stock levels, store locations and coupons available for print if they want to gain more customers, a survey of over 2,500 Australians has revealed.

The IBM survey also concluded the current market is tipped in shoppers’ favour due to technology providing easier access to product price aggregation and information, and retailers must reply to this by providing what consumers want.

The survey, which questioned over 32,000 consumers worldwide, found Australians are connecting more directly with retailers through technology, such as social networks and online offers.

As a result, they are smarter, more aware of the current business climate and are extremely vocal about what they want – and retailers must respond by giving it to them. Ian Wong, ANZ retail industry leader, IBM global business services, says retailers must pay attention to current consumer needs.

“Behaviours are changing based on the way they use technology and the technologies they have access to. Consumers are using more technologies for shopping, they want to interact with other consumers and retailers through technology.”

“Now consumers have this technology, there is a balance of power. They expect more from retailers. Over 73% of consumers want to use technology, and 31% are using two or more technologies to shop. So they want to use a mobile phone or kiosk.”

About 92% want to use websites to compare prices, while 76% want to be able to use websites to access and print coupons. About three-quarters want to use mobile phones to determine where the nearest store is located, while about 70% want to check what goods are in stock before visiting a location.

Offering personalised discounts was ranked of the highest importance by users, followed by having knowledgeable staff and employees willing to help customers in the shopping process.

These changes to customer service could go a long way to increasing revenue, the survey found, with about 63% and 64% of generations X and Y respectively saying they would increase their spending if a retailer “did the right thing by them”.

“This was also the case for specialty apparel and home merchandise shoppers, with 66% and 62% respectively saying they would respond well to customer-friendly actions,” the survey found.

Additionally, consumers said that providing extensive product information, such as manufacturing details, promotions such as frequent shopper programs and high levels of customer service are extremely important – 54% said they would spend more money if these areas were improved.

Moreover, the survey found shoppers are becoming increasingly more interactive. About 76% of consumers are willing to help create store variety and assist with layout ideas, and about 22% of consumers are willing to “follow” a retailer, but a “value exchange” is required.

Examples of this would include followers being given exclusive information about discounts, or the ability to try sample products before they go to market.

“There is a desire to collaborate with retailers,” Wong says. “But the question is, is there a compelling social networking offering to drive Australians to jump onto Facebook or Twitter? When we spoke to consumers, they want to see sneak previews, loyalty points or something to become a Facebook fan or Twitter follower.”

Wong also said Australians, more than any other nation, are demanding more “personalised” discounts or promotions.

“Understand my personal shopping habits, history, etc. That is what consumers are asking, irrespective of generation, they are asking for personalised discounts based on their previous shopping lists. “

About 63% of consumers said they would be happy to use websites to shop. About 34% they would be happy to use in-store kiosks, while 7% said they would be willing to use mobile phones to shop and make purchases.

About 31% of consumers said they would be willing to use two or more technologies to shop, with Generation Y consumers the most tech-savvy, with 48% the most willing to use alternative methods of shopping.

To stand out from their competitors, the survey found, Australian retailers should embrace the shopping channels and instruments preferred by smarter consumers, particularly Generations X and Y.

Wong says retailers need to consider three major points: individualisation, employee satisfaction and the growth of online retail.

Treat the consumer as an individual based on their likes and dislikes. Also focus on the staff, because consumers want knowledgeable staff. Thirdly, maintain product availability. When someone comes in, have a product available, and an underlying current to this is online retail – consumers want to know all this through technology.”

“They should develop strategies to convert consumer buying intentions – expressed in online forums and chat sites – into in-store and online sales. Online analytics tools can help them uncover consumer desires and develop personalised offerings and experiences.”

Wong also says Australian consumers were less likely to be “advocates” to businesses, with only 23% of consumers giving themselves that label, compared to 39% in the US and 32% in Britain. Generation Y had the highest level of advocacy at 25%, and Baby Boomers the lowest at 21%.

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