Today, shoppers can buy wherever and whenever they like: in the traditional way in a store, at home from their laptops, on the go using a smartphone or, most recently, at the push of the Dash Button. Mobility and digitalisation thus offer more and more touchpoints in retail for communicating and interacting with the consumer – which creates constantly changing requirements and expectations on the consumer end. Understanding these is essential for businesses wanting to position themselves successfully in this new omnichannel landscape.
In one large-scale, representative baseline study, the market and opinion research institute Ipsos surveyed internet users between the ages of 18 and 65 on the subject of omnichannel and identified trends and challenges for retail. The survey was also conducted in France and the United Kingdom and covers five sectors: fashion and shoes, electronic devices, beauty and cosmetics, food, and travel.
No either or: shoppers want to use offline and online in combination
Even though the majority of those questioned do not want to give up making purchases in stores in the real world, 70 percent of German internet users shop online at least once a month, with even a quarter (24%) of these users making purchases online at least once a week.
But for consumers it‘s not a matter of either or; the lines between online and offline shopping are becoming blurred: Every third person uses a smartphone to find information on products while they are in the store, and every second person would like to scan barcodes or QR codes in store to find out more about certain products. Half of German internet users already use in-app coupons when shopping in stores. Eight out of ten are interested in this. In order to achieve maximum reach among consumers, brands therefore need to make intensive use of digital content integrated into ‘‘brick-and-mortar’’ shopping experiences.
Smartphones are an opportunity: shoppers also want to be addressed when they’re on the go
Smartphones are our constant companions and offer companies a way to spur on consumers to make a purchase at just the right moment. For example, already 31 percent of German internet users use their smartphones to search for products after they have seen advertising. Apps can also strengthen customer loyalty and help generate sales. Currently, 54 percent of German internet users shop using apps on a smartphone or tablet.
‘A mobile presence and communication is therefore a brand touchpoint that should not be underestimated,’ argues Philipp Kunze, Senior Research Executive at Ipsos Connect. ‘For instance, personalised push notifications based on user data can repeatedly bring the brand to the attention of the smartphone user. In practice, this potential is nowhere near being exhausted.’
Using new technologies: shoppers want innovative shopping experiences
For many internet users, the shopping experience in store is still more attractive than the quick click-and-buy on the internet: 57 percent of German internet users prefer shopping directly in brick-and-mortar stores. They miss, for example, receiving personal advice (59%) when shopping online. Bad experiences with online retailers (59%) also put them off ordering.
But new technologies can also make purchasing online an exciting experience. In the future, consumers might step into a virtual-reality fitting room or wander through a virtual store. In Germany, more than half (52%) of internet users are interested in online shopping using virtual reality. German internet users (47%) are especially interested in virtual fitting, such as trying on glasses using a face scan. The people with the greatest tendency towards this type of shopping are millennials (born between 1981 and 1998): 56 percent are interested in shopping with virtual reality, and one in ten (11%) has already tried it.
Diana Livadic, Manager at Ipsos Connect sums it up: ‘The considerable interest in virtual reality presents a multitude of opportunities for retailers to offer their customers new shopping experiences. Despite this, only a fraction of those surveyed have yet had the opportunity to try out the new technology. Here it is up to the retail industry to take advantage of this great curiosity on the part of consumers and to gain from it.’
But other technologies are also striking a chord with consumers: Chatbots, language assistants, automated replacement purchases, touchscreens, beacons and digital store window avatars all find acceptance and interest with internet users.
Our recommendations for successful omnichannel strategies
This brief look at the results of the Omnichannel Survey 2016 offers some preliminary insights. With greater consideration of the countries and industries surveyed, five general recommendations for companies can be drawn from the data from the entire study.
- Think global, act local - Different technological developments and cultural peculiarities require adapting (global) omnichannel strategies to local markets.
- Use industry-specific strategies - No ‘one size fits all’ solution: understanding the specific expectations for a particular category and the corresponding consumer behaviour is the basis for successful omnichannel strategies.
- Develop ‘mobile first’ strategies - Content and brand must also offer optimal usability on mobile devices: flexible and omnipresent access to the brand, for example, through responsive website designs and individual apps, is essential in our increasingly mobile world.
- Brand communication as a trigger - Relevant and inspiring communications across all channels can support (mobile) shopping experiences, initiate purchases and allows you to be at the right place at the right time.
- No fear of new technologies - Young consumers are most curious about innovative and technology-supported communication. Well-targeted, multichannel deployment allows companies to position themselves as pioneers and to secure a competitive advantage for themselves.