Retail shopping

Blink and consumers might be gone — or at least onto something new.

Salesforce’s second installment of its “Shopper-First Retailing” report captured the shifting preferences among global consumers. Namely, the research discovered that marketplaces are outpacing traditional retail and brand web sites as delivery speed and efficiency continues to dominate shopper priorities.

“A new swarm of retail start-ups, direct-to-consumer brands, and new low-cost and experience led competitors — combined with a backstage technology revolution in supply chain, robotics, automation, blockchain and dark stores — are changing the way retailers compete in the digital age,” the report said.

To gain a global perspective on the shopper insights, Salesforce launched an extensive survey, which included polling 6,000 consumers in six countries, deploying “mystery shopping assessments” in 70 physical stores within Manhattan, London and San Francisco in addition to reviewing online shopping behavior from more than 1 billion e-commerce visits.

Though some of the results surfaced familiar results like consumers’ penchant for all things convenient, there were some new findings, too. For example, the survey found that shoppers increasingly prefer to shop on marketplaces over online retail or brand sites.

“Marketplaces received top scores when it comes to price, product variety, product availability and inspiration. Brands win shoppers’ preference when it comes to product quality, innovation and uniqueness,” a Salesforce spokesman explained. “Retailers must lean into their service strengths by modernizing tactics through emerging tools like video chat or always-on chatbots. They should also aim to improve shoppers’ perception of product quality and availability.”

What’s more, marketplace services are moving the needle on return shopper conversions. According to the report, when poll participants were asked where they would purchase an item for second time, 47 percent said they’d revisit a marketplace, 34 percent said they’d go to a retailer’s web site, and 20 percent said they’d go straight to the brand.

“The second purchase is today’s battleground. Agility, loyalty and personalization are imperative for retailers and brands to differentiate and win the second purchase. Unforgettable experiences and products can’t be commoditized,” the spokesman said.

But while marketplaces might be cornering the online segment, traditional, physical retail hasn’t fallen to digital competition just yet. According to the survey results, 46 percent of shoppers continue to prefer to shopping in-store compared to 35 percent on laptops and 18 percent on smartphones.

Though consumers might not be using their phones for final purchases, they are increasingly referring to them while shopping in a brick-and-mortar. “Seventy-one percent of shoppers say they’re now using their mobile devices in-stores — 83 percent for shoppers aged 18-44, up from 62 percent in 2017,” the report said.

The survey results confirmed that consumers – 36 percent – are comparing prices when referencing their smartphone in a store. Twenty-nine percent are researching products, 28 percent are snapping product photos, and 25 percent are reading a product review, the report said.

Likely driven by social media, product newness is heavily important to today’s consumers, the research found.

“Seventy-five percent of consumers’ site search queries are brand new each month, showing just how fast consumers are discovering new product types, brands and features. Within the top 5 percent of best-selling products on e-commerce sites, the majority of them [59 percent] change monthly. That means retailers and brands can’t sleep on analyzing shopper searches and delivering the ever-changing items they seek in real time,” the report said.

As they investigate fresh items, deploying artificial intelligence will prove beneficial, the report suggested. “Six percent of e-commerce visits that include engagement with AI-powered recommendations drive an outsized 37 percent of revenue. In a landscape where 64 percent of shoppers say they feel retailers don’t truly know them, AI-driven personalization is a critical tool,” the report said.

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