It seems like a broken record at this point. Consumer expectations continue to evolve according to new technology, but retailers are largely still failing to fold these advancements into their shopping experiences.
Boston Retail Partners’ “Customer Experience: Unified Commerce” report details where retailers continue to stumble: mainly, shipment transparency and automated return policies, but delivering basic omnichannel experiences remains a struggle, too.
“Consumers expect the ability to shop seamlessly across channels, however, only 7 percent of retailers provide a complete unified commerce experience by allowing a customer to ‘start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere,’” senior vice president of Boston Retail Partners, Perry Kramer, said in the report.
Boston Retail Partners surveyed 500 retailers in March and April to collate the results on client engagements and the overarching retail experience. Participants ranged in retail segments — from soft goods to hardline items, grocery and food and beverages.
The largest gap between consumer expectations and retail offerings was found in the return process portion of the shopping experience. According to the report, 68 percent of consumers are more likely to select a retailer that offers automated returns, but only 13 percent of retailers offer an automated return process. The other large disparity was found in order tracking. The survey found that 73 percent of shoppers want the ability to track orders across all touch points of a transaction, while 42 percent of retailers currently support this.
“[There is] movement down the path to unified commerce, with 81 percent indicating they operate a multichannel or omnichannel environment, however, only 5 percent indicate they have reached a true unified commerce model,” the report said.
Newer tech like augmented reality and virtual reality might impose burdens in execution for retailers, but will likely help attract shoppers in the long run. According to the report, 50 percent of consumers find new shopping tools and tech crucial to their journey. For example, 48 percent are more inclined to shop at a store that offers augmented reality.
But AR won’t do much to improve revenue channels if the rest of the shopping experience isn’t refined — and most importantly, personalized. Retailers should be sure not to leapfrog basic features for shinier add-ons.
Despite the onslaught of stats and materials regarding the importance of customized content, retailers are remaining lethargic in deploying the necessary tech to respond on this. The report said, “They [retailers] are also focused on providing personalized promotions or recommendations (36 percent), flexible fulfillment options (36 percent) and enhancing the personalized service (28 percent).” Those numbers are pretty low.
According to the stats in the report, 51 percent of consumers said it’s important to get personalized channels across all digital platforms — barely the majority, but this number will likely grow as Amazon’s influence increasingly permeates the collective consumer psyche.
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