“With holiday season 2014 rapidly approaching, retailers are investing in their fulfillment infrastructure and making sure those omnichannel marketing schemes, designed to reach consumers at every point of their shopping journeys, are up to snuff”, eMarketer published recently, emphasizing that shoppers this year demand more than ever.
In a new study of 3,000 global shoppers by SDL, 90% of consumers said they expected the customer experience to be consistent across channels and devices this holiday season. This represents a 17% increase from what consumers reported last year, the research said. Hence, the need for a seamless, integrated online and offline experience remains pressing, as the path to purchase meanders from digital to analog and back again. The norm is, for example, a shopper who researches on a mobile device on the go, continues that research on a desktop, later walking into a storefront to scope out the desired item and comparing prices on his or her smartphone even while physically in that store.
Positive customer experience integral to sale
For holiday season, when shoppers have limited time—and limited spending money—set aside to pick out the perfect gift (or, a gift that passes muster) for beloved friends and family, their expectations are higher still. SDL found that 47% of holiday shoppers had so far been frustrated that their experiences in-store were different from those online; 40% of respondents claimed there was a disconnect between the quantity and quality of information available online vs. in-store as well.
With 46% of consumers surveyed saying they used online search and 32% saying they used the retailer website to conduct research about a brand and its products, online presence is critical. Yet the Amazon.com problem, the expectation that shoppers have developed that all items should always be in stock and delivered to them with little delay online or offline, has mounted frustrations about out-of-stock items (60%), not enough information available to make purchasing decisions (52%) and the differences between online and in-store impressions (47%).
What shoppers really want is consistency across channels. They demand it. Just because they engage with a retailer through multiple touchpoints before they purchase doesn’t mean they should struggle to piece those experiences together. And while the study reveals shoppers’ dismay with the coherence of the shopping path during holiday season, retailers that can best reconcile online and offline experiences will likely retain shoppers well into the New Year.
Retailers must meet expectations that the quality and quantity of information and service online and offline will match, SDL’s study revealed, even stating that 66% of consumers said they are willing to pay a premium to get a positive customer experience.
Customer experience varies by gender and generations
However, the willingness to take on these higher costs vary by generation and gender. Generations X and Y both agree that they are willing to pay more for a product if the brand is willing to deliver a positive customer experience during the purchasing process. For millennials ages 18 to 29, 17% strongly agree that they are willing to pay; those ages 30 to 39 feel even more strongly, with 19% agreeing that paying extra for a higher-quality customer experience would be worth their while. Older generations care slightly less—only 8% of 40- to 54-year-olds and an even lower 6% of those ages 55 and up strongly agreed.
Males are more willing to pay for better customer experience compared to females. While 9% of females said they could, that number jumped to 12% among males.
What exactly might that experience look like? For one, the study showed that 90% of people expected customer experiences to be seamless when passing between interacting with the brand online and offline. The SDL survey confirmed that shoppers are interacting with retail brands at multiple touchpoints, showrooming and webrooming along the way.
Respondents were ticked off when they received an item of poor quality for the price they paid. Second-most-irritating was that there was no one available to help—or not enough information provided—when they needed it most. No matter the price, no matter the quality of the discount, customer experience was important. In an age where the internet has made everything infinitely more convenient and accessible, those factors are frequently considered lowest common denominators.