consumer shopping expectations

Remember when brands’ e-commerce and traditional retail departments duked it out for perceived revenue share? That’s old hat — today’s consumers opt for on-call shopping options ranging from mobile commerce to old-school bricks-and-mortar.

Walker Sands, a public relations and digital agency for business-to-business technology companies, released its annual “Future of Retail 2017” report that cast a deep look into technology’s affect on consumer behavior and emerging buying preferences. The study polled 1,622 U.S. consumers to understand current shopping habits, preferences and views on emerging retail technology.

Non-traditional shopping methods — buying on mobile, desktop or voice-controlled devices — are becoming status quo. “Nearly half of consumers 
[46 percent] now prefer to shop via a non-traditional channel, such as mobile, desktop or voice-controlled device, compared to 54 percent who still prefer 
the traditional in-store experience,” the report said.

The retail landscape has become a leveled playing field. Consumers opt to shop regularly online — 61 percent of consumers said they show online at least once a month — but more than half the shoppers visit a brick-and-mortar weekly, the report shared.

“The study findings show 
that physical stores could be making a comeback, especially among younger consumers who crave more authentic 
and engaging experiences,” the report said. “And as the lines start blurring between the online and physical shopping experiences, consumers are starting to get the best of both worlds.”

Throwing technology into a store isn’t a fix-all. “Consumers pointed to unique experiences, including food and beverage offerings [30 percent], a more personalized shopping experience [18 percent] and entertainment [17 percent]” as main factors that motivate them to shop in-store. Cultivating a highly personalized, authentic and efficient — yet without rushing — atmosphere will draw Generation Z shoppers, especially.

Newer technology like smart dressing rooms and virtual reality have yet to become mainstream expectations among shoppers of all ages. “By integrating technology with better experiences, like Amazon has done with its Go store, retailers can truly blend the best of both worlds,” the report said.

And though they’re hesitant to embrace the aforementioned in-store features, consumers are much more willing to deploy voice-activation functionality — convenience is king.

“Nearly one in five consumers [19 percent] have made a purchase through Amazon Echo or another voice-controlled device in the past year, and one in three consumers [33 percent] plan to make a purchase in the next year,” the report said. With the rise of Amazon Echo and the soon-to-market Apple HomePod, retailers and brands will encounter a new hurdle: curating a fresh perspective on shopper experiences that lacks a familiar user interface.

This will require the alignment between once siloed internal departments — and bolster the continued cross-pollination between channels and platforms linked by authenticity and consistency of enhanced customer service.

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