Retailers and customers ‘don’t see eye to eye’

Retailers are not meeting customer expectations, and in many cases are missing the fundamentals, according to Oracle Retail.

For instance, the two sides dramatically disagree on how easy it is to return purchases – while 57 per cent of retailers noted that returning products was ‘very easy’, the same share of consumers disagreed and rated the return process as a ‘complete hassle’.

The tech giant surveyed 15,800 consumers and 210 retailers across five key regions: Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom), JAPAC (Australia, China, India, Japan), LATAM (Brazil, Chile, Mexico) and North America (Canada, United States).

Shoppers and retailers were also split on what constitutes their most important in-store experiences.

More than half (56 per cent) of consumers rated convenience as the top priority, while only 34 per cent of retailers noted it as such. Consumers also ranked discovery (36 per cent) and expert advice (22 per cent) as important when shopping in-store. This was much higher than retailers, which indicated these attributes at merely 18 and six per cent, respectively.

When asked how retailers are preparing to deliver against ever-changing consumer shopping needs, ‘faster shipping’ reigned supreme. Consumers not only agreed, but were open to different ways their order could arrive, so long as the delivery is fast and cheap. Ninety-two percent of consumers said they would like “free one-day delivery by whatever means is most expedient – drone, driverless car, messenger, etc”.

The one caveat is that products must get there when expected – the price for late deliveries according to 13 per cent of consumers is they would never order from that retailer again.

Consumers are increasingly open to whatever gets orders to their door the fastest, with more than 90 per cent seeking free one-day delivery by whatever means is fastest – including drone, driverless car or a messenger. This is more than double (43 per cent) the number of consumers who felt these delivery mechanisms would be “awesome” when asked just last year.

Consumers equally value choice, with the majority (86 per cent) agreeing that retailers should offer the ability to choose the most convenient delivery option at the time of ordering. While 87 per cent of retailers recognise choice is important to consumers, the need is not yet being met, with 47 per cent of consumers reporting that the delivery option they want is ‘sometimes, rarely or never’ available.

Online-only retailers are winning on this front, as 61 per cent of consumers felt that “the delivery option they want is always available” compared to 52 per cent for traditional retailers and 46 per cent for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. When asked if “items always arrive when they say they will,” 52 per cent of respondents said this is the case with online-only retailers, compared to 49 per cent for traditional and DTC brands.

“Consumer expectations are perpetually in flux, with each positive experience setting a new bar for success in retail,” said Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager at Oracle Retail. “No matter if they’re enjoying the convenience of ridesharing, browsing through a seamless in-app experience or walking into a brick-and-mortar storefront, customers expect the same calibre of service in all interactions, upping the stakes for retailers as they compete with rival brands and new business models.”

Today’s shoppers don’t view online and in-store as discrete channels and expect the same level of convenience no matter where they shop. In fact, 51 per cent of consumers associate convenience with a great shopping journey, regardless of channel.

Consumers are open to new technologies helping improve the convenience of their shopping experiences, with 54 per cent of respondents favouring the idea of “online technology that allows you to view a digital version of yourself to try on products”.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the appetite for this is even higher at 67 per cent. It similarly leads the EMEA region in interest in virtual reality (VR) technologies, with 68 per cent saying they would embrace VR to “browse a virtual closet online and pick out items like you would in a store”, compared to 53 per cent of global respondents.

Consumers are also seeking preferential treatment based on their relationship with the brand. Roughly half (48 per cent) said that offers or discounts which are better than what anyone else can get based on their loyalty to that retailer are “absolutely essential”. Loyalty also relies on transparency to succeed, with 52 per cent of consumers having greater trust in retailers which respond immediately in the event of an issue or recall.

While honesty from retailers is highly valued, consumers say it can be hard to come by – just21 per cent of Generation Z and Millennials consumers completely trust what retailers tell them. When issues arise with products they’ve purchased, 66 per cent of consumers expect to be notified right away, rising to 72 per cent amongst Baby Boomer consumers.

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