What do shoppers want most?

Discussion
Photo: Walmart
Feb 26, 2018
Bryan Pearson

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from COLLOQUY, provider of loyalty marketing publishing, education and research since 1990.

Pressured by data-enhanced online competition, nimble startups and super-powered shoppers, retailers are inventing new ways to romance shoppers, and that means identifying what they want most.

Here are five developments that shoppers can expect in 2018.

  1. More free services: Today’s shopper can expect free cosmetic treatments, in-home tech consultations, in-store tech classes, curbside pickup and more. Free samples are rarely rejected, but now they are “sooo 2015”.
  2. More relevant offers and suggestions: Alibaba uses deep learning to enable what it calls FashionAI: in-store interactive screens that make clothing and accessory suggestions to shoppers based on what they are trying on. The screen does not use a camera; it reads information on product tags and relies on a memory of millions of clothing items, by store. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is helping retailers accurately assess shopper preferences and make on-the-money suggestions.
  3. More for less (time). Freestanding kiosks that offer endless aisles of products, new store layouts to accommodate quick trips and grab-and-go meals at the door will be commonplace as retailers retrofit their formats.
  4. More bargaining. Many electronics chains are willing to haggle on price, according to Consumer Reports. Jet.com shoppers can get lower prices on items if they order more than one of each. MoviePass and Smashburger are among brands offering unlimited or nearly unlimited products and services for a flat fee. In many cases, the shopper only needs to use the pass a few times a week to break ahead.
  5. Less aggravation: Casper Mattress answers the generations-long plea to just get the mattress into the bedroom without a rope, car roof and sore back. Walmart’s return app, Mobile Express Returns, and the retail service, Happy Returns, both simplify the returns process. Retailers are acknowledging shopper pain points for what they are: Barriers to purchase, not necessary evils.

Technology liberates shoppers to purchase their shoes, meals and makeup based on what is at their fingertips at the precise moment they need these things, so why settle for less? Retailers know the only way to stand out is to be amazing.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which of the trends cited in the article do you think physical retailers should invest and build on? Are there others you would add?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Convenience is most likely to move the needle today. Make the shopper’s life easier and you will be rewarded."
"Frictionless. Speed. Interestingly, consumers will eschew “free” in favor of a fast or frictionless experience. "
"Perhaps one to add to the grouping around convenience is trust — trust that the experience (product, service, return service) meets the expectation..."

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29 Comments on "What do shoppers want most?"


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Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

This article seems to be from a foreign perspective. Alibaba? Bargaining? Easier returns? America has long moved past these issues and is still concerned with more prominent ones like “lifetime” warranties and returns (like L.L. Bean just discontinued), faster deliveries (two hours), in-home deliveries including food, price matching, “true” omnichannel marketing and great in-store experiences.

Great prices, great selection, no out-of-stocks and a great in-store experience combined with outstanding customer service and a hassle-free return policy is what America wants. That is what any retailer should invest and build on.

Kim Garretson
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

Regarding more relevant offers — while AI is important for the future in this regard, I suggest looking at current individualized marketing trends where retailers are simply asking individual shoppers to share their criteria for relevant offers, such as price drops, alerts on the release of new products and other things.

Charles Dimov
Guest

Less aggravation! Today’s shopping is still not there. Only 29 percent of U.S., 24 percent of Canadian and 25 percent of Australian retailers offer in-store pickup as an option. So if I find a product online, have done my research and want it now … I can’t buy it and pick it up while running my errands (70 percent of the time).

We need to get omnichannel out of the strategy office and onto the ground floor already! Then when the shopper wants to return a product, ALWAYS make sure they can return in-store — even for online purchases. 68 percent of the time, they will buy something else when they are in your store!

Art Suriano
Guest

I think what we should be adding to this list is 1.) fewer out of stock items, 2.) faster checkouts whether it is through a mobile app or just speedy registers and, most importantly, 3.) stores with more staff that are well-trained.

It takes seconds for someone working in the store to escort a customer to the item they are looking for whereas it can take minutes for the customer to search a kiosk or an app assuming they can find what they want. Furthermore, the well-trained in-store associate can suggest and recommend items, often stepping the customer up to a more expensive item as well as building the sales with add-ons.

Max Goldberg
Guest

I would say less aggravation. Consumers want a hassle-free shopping experience from finding a parking space at a retailer to easily finding what they want in-store. Then they want quick checkout. And should the product not meet their expectations, they want easy, fast returns.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I’d give you two thumbs up on this one if I could. Concise. To the point. And what shopping is about today.

Phil Chang
BrainTrust
Phil Chang
Retail Influencer, Speaker and Consultant
2 years 7 months ago

It really depends on what you’re after. If you’re going to compete in a commodity space, you’re going to need to invest in more free services and possibly less aggravation.

If you’re after creating experiential moments — more relevant offers and suggestions are going to be key to building your business. Curation is a key part of helping a consumer sift through the world of marketing messages.

Ken Cassar
BrainTrust
Ken Cassar
Principal, Cassarco Strategy & Analytic Consultants
2 years 7 months ago

Convenience is most likely to move the needle today. Make the shopper’s life easier and you will be rewarded: Online ordering with in-store pickup that doesn’t make her get out of the car, meal kit boxes, mobile pay, etc. Consumers are increasingly trying to reclaim their time.

Peter Luff
Guest

The majority of retailers are not Alibaba with huge R&D funds or a VC backed entity not requiring a return in the short term. On that basis, I promote number 1: More free stuff. Reposition this as know what you are good at, demonstrate it and wow the customer with a great shopping experience. Take retailing back to old-fashioned sales values; so retro it’s cool.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Removing the friction, frustration and aggravation from the shopping experience is critical for retailers to invest and build on. Seamlessness is the goal, however, in order to get there I would add to the list that retailers should view their customers as “channel-less” and empower them to shop across any channel they wish.

In addition to empowering the customers, an educated, insight-driven sales associate team that has all the information at their fingertips could make a difference in driving a superior in-store experience. We live in a world where customers have more knowledge about the product, could easily navigate from retailer to online retailers, showroom, research, etc. However, this paradigm shift also calls for a store operations team that is one step ahead of the customer. One that could leverage all those great insights to drive a great in-store experience, make product recommendations, drive loyalty and be an evangelist for the brand, which extends to all channels.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

A lot of these suggestions can be categorized under “friction free shopping.”

What most consumers want is to shop with ease and without hassle or complication. Unfortunately, many retailers don’t deliver on this. Systems that aren’t joined up, a lack of customer service training, store designs that are not fit for purpose, complex procedures and so on, are all responsible.

Aside from the points listed, it’s imperative to remember that without the right product at the right price, consumers will not buy!

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

This excellent list forgets one key need that successful retailers will provide — an interesting experience. It may involve discovery, participation in a community of interest, seeing products in a lifestyle context, fostering of emotions suitable to the product mix or improvements to the ease of shopping.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust
None of these “trends” do anything for me. For example, “aggravation” has nothing to do with strapping a mattress on the top of my car. It’s about buying something on the advice of a salesperson only to get home and discover it doesn’t do what you need it to do. In fact, I think most of the five suggestions are diversions from what I suggest retailers really need to provide. My choice would be a sixth factor, though it’s a long way from being a trend. That is: INFORMATION. By that I mean sales staff who actually know their stuff and can help you make an honest, comprehensive, up-to-date decision about what to buy. Ace Hardware leads the pack on this variable, IMHO, followed by very occasional staff at places like Home Depot, Best Buy or Lowe’s. They are pretty well extinct at most department and clothing stores. Speaking of Lowe’s, the item in today’s RetailWire about their apprenticeship program will hopefully lead every Lowe’s salesperson to being truly knowledgable about the customer’s buying options.
Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Relevant product. All the other stuff is noise unless the shopper finds what they came to the physical store to buy and walk away happy and satisfied. And oh yeah, the thrill of shopping; discovering something you love and buy, unintentionally.

Nir Manor
BrainTrust

Speed, simplicity, convenience, relevance, wide selection, good deals and less aggravation are what shoppers want. Retailers that will embrace technologies to deliver (note the double meaning) on these vectors will win. To mention few relevant strategies, most still have not reached their “Tipping Point” — personalized offers, frictionless checkouts, endless aisles, BOPIS, buy in-store with home delivery, multidimensional dynamic pricing, empowering store employees with technology, delivering more value via store mobile app (navigation, proximity promos, handling returns).

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
Doug Garnett
President, Protonik
2 years 7 months ago

Once again, a massive pronouncement that misses out on the single most important issue for brick-and-mortar: product.

The only reason stores exist is to sell product — and to do that requires more than a dull mix of staples displayed in badly lit fixtures.

PRODUCT shopping needs to be interesting, compelling, fun and likely to be successful.

Going to a store to find an “endless aisle” kiosk? I can do that from home — why go to a store?

Relevant offers and suggestions? Um. Amazon has the best recommendation engine on the net and for me in 20 years of Amazon shopping only one or two recommendations have even been meaningful. Stores aren’t going to beat that.

Focus on what matters: Stores provide a physical location in which people look at products, compare products and make choices to buy. Making that process better is the only way to win and most of the changes that do that are physical — not technological.

Joy Chen
Guest

Convenience and customization are key trends to win in the marketplace. Convenience means no hassle and getting the product “now.” Customization is all about the consumer getting something that suits them in a special way. Any technology, service or brand concept that delivers these trends well will be a competitor in the marketplace.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Perhaps one to add to the grouping around convenience is trust — trust that the experience (product, service, return service) meets the expectation, and that if it doesn’t then the retailer will easily remedy the situation.

I’m thinking of Amazon and Costco … you know with them that if something happens along any line, that the retailer will make it easy for you to get a remedy with the least hassle.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
2 years 7 months ago

Hands down it’s less aggravation. This category covers how retailers engage with their customers and the type of investments and policies they need to make. Properly articulated, it can drive a cornucopia of downstream opportunities.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Number 5 is paramount to success. Less aggravation, as in low or no friction, is the root of a good customer experience that will drive more business. Another way of saying it is to be more convenient. Convenience can disrupt your competitors – and even an entire industry!

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

To varying degrees, these “trends” have been critical to retailing for decades, in their simplest form. “Relevance” or, more specifically, “personalization” is the newest trend that we didn’t talk about when I managed stores in the ’80s, but now technology has given us this capability and I think this is the next wave that will wipe out those that don’t adapt quickly.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Here is my ranking of the five trends in declining order of importance: 1.) free services, 2.) Less aggravation, 3.) relevant offers, 4.) more bargaining and 5.) more for less.

Things that make the shipping experience easier or less costly will be a winner for consumers. If the consumer has to go to the store just to use a kiosk or interactive screen, they will be more likely to do this interaction at home or on their phone. Artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies will be a better place to invest as they both can enhance the consumer experience.

Liz Crawford
BrainTrust

Frictionless. Speed. Interestingly, consumers will eschew “free” in favor of a fast or frictionless experience. While these two “convenience” pillars are used to gain competitive advantage, they can also be used to charge a premium if the alternative is lousy enough.

Robert DiPietro
Guest

Less aggravation is key. I would call it frictionless experiences. Whether it is buying something in store (or on the kiosk) getting it delivered or returning the item. The customer wants it to be as frictionless as possible. They don’t want to wait and expect curated (AR/AI) assistance that is relevant to them. Retailers have been collecting mounds of customer information — it is time to put it to good use.

Steve Johnson
Guest

For fashion, shoppers want convenience, efficiency and added value. Delivered simply. We’ve researched for more than 10 years and this is what matters.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

From my perspective, less aggregation is important as it’s code for shoppers who desire to “be better, smarter and faster.” Helping them achieve this (particularly for day-to-day shopping) will be rewarded. Some of the other elements — including personalization — fit into this framework.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
Ken Morris
Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors
2 years 7 months ago
All of the development areas above are worth investing in and the most important ones depend on what your customers value most. It is all about the customer. Convenience and reducing aggravation are key priorities for most consumers. Whatever retailers can do to personalize the shopping experience and make it easy will go a long way in earning loyalty and increasing sales. While leveraging technology and self-service options are compelling options, I think some retailers are losing focus on customer service. As retailers look to cut cost by reducing staff in stores, it can have a negative impact on the customer experience. The big advantage that physical stores have over online shopping is the ability to provide a truly personalized shopping experience. However, if you don’t have enough sales associates in your store, you risk frustrating customers that are looking for assistance but can’t find and associate. Retailers can enhance the shoppers perception by providing associate facing and customer facing applications on their phones that leverage what is in the customers closet, and what other… Read more »
Mike Osorio
BrainTrust

A very lively discussion indicating great passion for this subject. Many of the comments attempt to expand the question beyond its intent. We first can agree that starting with the customer and the product are critical, along with a well designed and experiential physical store. Let’s take that as given, for the purposes of answering the specific question, which was which of the trends cited in the article should be prioritized for investment?

My answer is “less aggravation” — as defined by the individual customer. This requires in today’s and tomorrow’s world to invest in AI and deep data analytics, with tools at the front end for both the sales associate and customer to access and leverage to personalize the product offer and experience to that individual customer. What specifically the retailer chooses to invest in, beyond data analytics and front-end tools, must be defined by the product being sold. Commodity shopping and purchases must be handled very differently from fashion and luxury.

William Hogben
Guest

Shoppers want EASY — anything that reduces the friction of purchase is going to help one retailer become a habit while others become a hindrance. Shoppers’ expectations of convenience have been raised by eCommerce and more and more shoppers choose the path of least resistance.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Convenience is most likely to move the needle today. Make the shopper’s life easier and you will be rewarded."
"Frictionless. Speed. Interestingly, consumers will eschew “free” in favor of a fast or frictionless experience. "
"Perhaps one to add to the grouping around convenience is trust — trust that the experience (product, service, return service) meets the expectation..."

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