Brick-and-mortar retailers: here’s what consumers want

As brick-and-mortar retailers seek to turn their physical stores into an asset instead of a liability to compete against online retailers, they will need to make sure they are heeding the demands of today’s increasingly mobile phone dependent consumers.

For one, while studies have showed in-store shopping remains important to a majority of shoppers, an International Council of Shopping Centers survey released on Monday showed that more than three-fifths of consumers expect that by 2020 they will actually prefer to be left alone to do their own thing while in stores instead of engaging with a sales person. The only caveat: stores have to provide easy access to products and sizes available there.

ICSC didn’t respond to a request for more details on any historical and other findings of the survey.

The survey of more than 1,000 people in February conducted by Opinion Research Corp. for ICSC also found more than half of the consumers said they prefer to virtually see how home furnishings and accessories fit in a home before they make a purchase. Separately, more than half said they want to compile a shopping list on a store app and receive a floor map to locate products.

The survey also showed how much consumers have come to rely on click-and-collect services, and how mobile is a key part of the experience: Nearly three-quarters of shoppers said they’ve made a purchase using their mobile device and picked up the product in store. Not surprisingly, millennials were even more likely than the average, with 87% of them saying they had made mobile purchase to pick up in store.

More retailers are trying to turn that to a traffic-driving weapon.

“We introduced buy online and pick up in store and buy online and ship to store” without any shipping fee, Crate & Barrel COO Michael Relich said in an interview earlier this year. “We are trying to use that to drive store traffic. When they come in, we give them bounce-back coupons. They use our stores as a showroom first. We actually see a lot of transactions start in one channel and finish in another. Brick and mortar is good for us.”

While retailers such as Crate & Barrel are capitalizing on the shifting consumer behavior, a late 2016 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for JDA, a supply chain software provider, showed that most retailers are still behind when it comes to designing a digital strategy that would give them a leg up in winning consumers’ wallet share.

Against the backdrop that some retailers are debating the economics of whether to use their mobile sites or roll out their own apps to target shoppers, the ICSC survey suggested there’s demand for retail apps: 71% of consumers said they have one or more retailer apps on their phones and 74% of them access them at least once a week. Some 86% of millennials accessed a retailer’s app weekly, outpacing 74% of Generation X and 61% of Baby Boomers.

In another sign there’s room for growth for voice-activated personal assistants like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, 37% of consumers said they’ve used a digital assistant to build shopping lists or to place orders for in-store pickups. The survey also offered an encouraging sign for mobile payment: 35% of survey respondents said they’ve used that feature.

With personalization a key buzzword for retailers seeking to stand out and offer a product or service only available in their stores, the survey indicated it’s time for them to take a closer look at prices: more than two-fifths of consumers said they are open to the idea of retailers “personalizing” prices based on their shopping patterns and demographics.

By Andria Cheng for www.etail.emarketer.com

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