New canopies bearing the Macy's logo hang at their State Street store in the former Marshall Field's building in Chicago, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006. Federated Department Stores is converting more than 400 department stores across the nation to Macy's today, including Filene's  in Massachusetts and  the 154-year-old Marshall Field's store on Chicago's State Street. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)

From Abercrombie & Fitch to Macy’s, an overwhelming number of industry pillars have closed brick-and-mortars in attempts to salvage revenue and realign with an increasingly digital-savvy consumer. The report, “The Experience Revolution: Digital Disappointment, Why Consumers Aren’t Fans,” released by IBM revealed one of the potential leading reasons for the swelling chaos: decision-making executives are hugely out of touch with what their shoppers want.

To collect results, two surveys were implemented. The first survey polled more than 600 executives in roles ranging from chief executive officer to chief marketing officer, and chief customer officers with a business-to-consumer focus in China, Germany, India, Japan, U.K., and the U.S. The second survey was issued in partnership with SurveyMonkey that questioned 6,610 consumers in the same countries as the executives polled.

Consumers and executives were both asked what would influence them to forgo their normal shopping behavior and try a new customer experience. “When we compared the executives’ ranking against the consumers’, the results were alarming. With the exception of ‘convenience,’ all of the executives’ top picks were near the bottom of the consumers’ list,” said the report. The results showcased just how insensitive executives currently are to consumer values. The top executive opinion of key factors that would inform customers’ willingness to try companies’ digital customer initiatives was it would improve shoppers’ sense of control. The real answer: It would take less time.

IBM, consumer behavior, technology

Factors driving customers’ willingness to try companies’ digital CX initiatives. 

Digitization isn’t a one-generation-fits-all solution. In fact, consumer demographics have a much larger influence on adoption of new technologies. According to the research, 63 percent of Millennials are excited to see how companies will use digital customer strategies — 39 percent of Baby Boomers shared the sentiment. Executives missed the mark on generational difference. The report said, “When we asked executives if customers’ age would determine how quickly they’d adopt digital CX, only 38 percent said age would have an impact.”

First impressions matter — especially with introducing new technologies, the study found. Most of the consumers found new technologies to be disappointing and accordingly, not worth continuing to use. “Among this group of consumers — those who had tried digital CX — age was not a factor. These consumers all felt comfortable enough with the technology to see how it would work for them. But, regardless of age, far too many found the initiatives lacking,” the report said.

IBM, consumer behavior, technology

Percentage of consumers citing why they didn’t adopt digital CX after trying it. 

The picture painted in the report of executives’ consumer insight was bleak, but not surprising. The report suggested to executives to be sure that digital strategies aim to relieve consumer pain points, not those belonging to the company. The report suggested, “If your digital CX doesn’t eliminate underlying customer pain points, getting consumers to adopt digital will be difficult – especially if they don’t perceive it to be faster, easier or more convenient than traditional channels.”

To inform these new activations, the report recommended analyzing the root motivations and friction points belonging to consumers. “Having a detailed, multidimensional understanding of your customers, including their propensity to use digital, is essential. By applying advanced analytics and cognitive technologies to synthesize both structured and unstructured customer data from a variety of sources, you can build a nuanced profile of your customers that will help you determine the right digital CX initiatives to invest in and the best approach for customer adoption.”

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