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Retailers aren’t giving consumers what they want


Retailers already knew they had work to do to better meet online shoppers’ expectations, just maybe not as much as revealed by new research from IBM.

After four years and 110,000 shopper interviews in 19 countries, the latest insights from IBM’s Institute for Business Value show a considerable gap between shoppers expectations and retailers ability to deliver on those expectations. Most notably, with e-commerce 43% of survey participants prefer to shop online, but only 29% had made their most recent purchase online. The gap is even more pronounced in categories such as youth apparel and home décor, according to IBM’s data.

In addition, while more consumers are willing to share social, location, and mobile information with a trusted retailer compared to last year, the study showed that sharing could be much higher. Forty-two percent of consumers see the potential benefit of sharing their location via GPS with retailers, but only 28% are willing to do so even when they trust the retailer. Fifty-four percent of consumers see the benefit of sharing mobile for text with retailers, but only 42% would actually share the information.

“With consumers switching seamlessly from online to the store it might appear that retailers have finally struck the right balance, but IBM’s study identifies a significant gap between what shoppers want from retailers and what they are getting today,” said Sarah Diamond, General Manager, IBM Global Business Services. “Retailers may not be doing enough to meet consumer expectations shaped by digital experiences outside of retail, from location-based services to preference-based apps. The good news is that this gap also indicates the potential of growth for retailers who can meet those consumer expectations.”

One of shoppers’ highest expectations is inventory visibility. As consumer expectations for product fulfillment are shaped by online shopping experiences, out-of-stock situations which have always been a source of annoyance are becoming even less acceptable, according to IBM. Sixty percent of surveyed consumers said it is important for them to be able to find out if an item is in stock before going to the store. Meanwhile, 46% of consumers said it’s important that retail employees use mobile devices to fix an out of stock issue, up six points from last year.

A growing number of consumers said it’s important that retailers offer personalized promotions, particularly if they are presented on demand. Forty-eight percent of shoppers value initiating a personalized communication with a retailer when they are online. When in the store, 44% of shoppers want on-demand communication. Forty-one percent of consumers said it’s important that store associates offer personalized promotions based on their purchase history or preferences, compared to 36% last year.

And in one of the study’s more troubling findings, store associates ranked last on the list of trusted resources consumers access for product knowledge. IBM views that as an opportunity for retailers to better empower associations with tools to monitor inventory and offer promotions instead of focusing on general product information only.

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