Participant Perspectives; The Importance of Seamlessly Connected Retail Customer Experiences

The Importance of Seamlessly Connected Retail Customer Experiences

Date: August 9, Sonya Shen

We at KNow Research are constantly curious about the changing needs and preferences of retail customers.  To keep our finger on the pulse or “In the KNow” on retail trends, we periodically conduct research with shoppers to understand their customer journey and the importance of omnichannel experiences.  

Shoppers have higher expectations than ever and can easily pinpoint where retailers can be more seamless in delivering a connected customer experience. They don’t want to be convinced to spend their money – they need help in acquiring the items they already want. It’s not just a customer journey – it’s a treasure hunt and retailers can bring the map to life!  

While online shopping is convenient, there are still shopper problems that aren’t solved digitally. Online and offline retail experiences are still seen as separate, where they could really be working together better. This is crucial, as online apparel sales grew from 30.6% of all U.S. apparel sales in 2017 to 34.4% in 2018, according to DigitalCommerce360.com.

The following 5 themes highlight how retailers can tighten the connection between online and offline to bring shoppers closer to their goals

1. Shoppers look to brands for inspiration across ALL channels.

Shoppers are always on the lookout for something new and exciting, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources: in the real world, online, and in-store. Shoppers enjoy connecting with and engaging with brands online, as well as seeing how outfits work in photos and videos. Retailers need to continue this in-store. Bring the in-store discovery process to life for shoppers so it’s easy for them to visualize and build outfits when they actually have all the items at their fingertips.

“I really like department stores for inspiration. I really like Barneys because they always have really cool designers. I love discovering things while I’m there.” – Participant

2. Shoppers like the thrill of the hunt, but not when it’s too difficult!

This goes for both online and offline channels. In a cluttered world, attention is hard to come by. Don’t squander shoppers’ interest when you get it! Make it easy to connect shoppers with items they see and want.

“Sometimes if [the email] has a photo of something really cute I’ll try to click on it but sometimes they don’t link directly to the product, which is annoying and then you have to search for it.” –Participant

“Some [stores] are a lot messier than others even within the same brand. Some locations are messier than others. Which is fine if I know exactly what I want but not that fun to just walk in and browse.” – Participant

3. Shopper expectations continue to escalate; impress consumers by anticipating their needs and providing personalized solutions.

Shoppers expect to be able to find a lot of what they need online. However, as convenient as online shopping is, shoppers still recognize that there are still things they need help from a real person. Impress shoppers by providing the human touch that online channels lack.

“What really keeps me going [back to stores] is if I have a relationship with a salesperson. I shop a lot and I’m looking for that extra level of service I could never get online. Someone who understands my taste and preferences and can make really good suggestions or helps me make shopping more fun by offering me feedback if I’m trying things on and also introducing me to products that they think I might like.” –Participant

4. Shoppers enjoy attending special events and experiences at retailers.

Shoppers are not just looking for items and inspiration – they’re also looking for experiences!  Just as they draw outfit inspiration from online channels, they also want to hear about events they’re interested in, from sources they like and trust. Make shopping a special event that shoppers look forward to and make an effort to attend.

“These days I find myself more compelled to go to department stores if they’re having special events. For example, if there’s a beauty blogger that I like and they have a talk at Saks in San Francisco, I think, ‘I want to go to that’. If I’m there I’ll also shop.” – Participant

5. The return experience is a big factor for shoppers when choosing where they spend their money.

Online shopping means that shopping can be as easy as a click of a button. While great for convenience and selection, but not may be as great for sizing and fit. Shoppers are prepared for this and gravitate towards brands with easier return policies and expect to go in-store to return items if needed. Clothing and shoes bought online typically have a return rate of 30 to 40 percent, according to CNBC.com. Make the return experience just as important as the purchasing experience to create loyal customers who enjoy spending time in store. 

“I like seeing a lot of clothing in-person but most of the time I buy things online and have it shipped to my house. If I don’t like it I go in and return items to the department store and that’s usually how I spend more time there.” – Participant

By addressing shoppers’ needs to connect the online and offline experiences better, retailers can ensure that shoppers return to them no matter what channel they prefer. The future of retail isn’t online or offline – it’s about delivering an optimized omnichannel customer experience. As retailers chart a path towards the future, we recommend they start implementing changes in response to what shoppers are vocalizing now.

No one KNows about shifting needs and expectations in the world of shopper insights better than KNow Research.  We work with retail brands, stores and sites throughout the year to help them better understand the crucial ‘whys’ behind shopper behavior.  Let us help you get to KNow what your shoppers need and want and how those expectations are shifting. 

Explore the future of retail and what that means to you and your target audiences, contact us to start your exploration: admin@knowresearch.com