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    Consumers Want Seamless Experience Across Channels

    49% prefer in-store, online, mobile integration: Accenture

    Retailers that deliver on customers’ expectations and provide a seamless shopping experience – whether they are shopping in-store, online or through a mobile device – will win their loyalty and gain a competitive advantage, according to new research by Accenture

    Based on a poll of 750 consumers in the U.S., and an analysis of how top retailers operate across multiple sales channels, the “Accenture Seamless Retail Study” found that half (49 percent) of consumers believe the best thing retailers can do to improve the shopping experience is to better integrate in-store, online and mobile shopping channels. Additionally, 89 percent of consumers said it is important for retailers to let them shop for products in the way that is most convenient, regardless of the sales channel.

    Almost all survey participants (94 percent) found in-store shopping easy; 74 percent said online shopping is easy; but only one-quarter (26 percent) found the mobile shopping experience easy.

    “Seamlessness is a tall order for most traditional retailers,” said Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “In many cases we have found a significant gap between consumer expectations and reality, but we believe seamlessness is achievable.”

    “Traditional retailers must take stock of their operational capabilities,” Donnelly continued. “They require a presence at every stage of the customer journey to deliver a consistently personalized, on-brand experience from discovery through research, purchase, fulfillment and beyond to product maintenance or returns.”

    Choosing Channels for Seamless Shopping

    Regardless of their original shopping touch point – in-store, online or mobile – consumers expect their interaction with retailers to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience, according to the survey. The research also indicates that consistency weighs heavily on the consumer experience, with 73 percent expecting a retailer’s online pricing to be the same as its in-store pricing, and 61 percent expecting a retailer’s online promotions to be the same as its in-store promotions.

    A benchmark analysis by Accenture of the top global retailers indicates that while 73 percent offer the same promotions online as in the store, only 16 percent offer the same prices online as they do in the store. Additionally, while 43 percent of consumers surveyed expect a retailer to offer the same product assortment online as they do in the store, only 19 percent of retailers actually offer the same product assortment.

    “Showrooming” and “Webrooming” are Here to Stay

    As online shopping continues to grow as a consumer preference, there is a mutually beneficial relationship between stores and online channels. For example, while in the six months prior to the survey, 73 percent of respondents indicated that they participated in the practice of “showrooming” -- browsing in-store and then buying online --  and an even larger number (88 percent) said they participated in “webrooming,” or browsing first online then buying in-store.

    Of the consumers who had showroomed in the six months prior to the survey, 41 percent said they do so more now than the year before. Additionally, 43 percent of all U.S. consumers plan to shop more online and 23 percent plan to shop more with their mobile phones in the future.

    When asked what kind of retailer information would be useful to have before going to a physical store, 82 percent of consumers selected having access to current product availability as their top choice. However, the Accenture research showed that this is offered by only 21 percent of retailers. The survey also found that 30 percent of shoppers want retailers to provide a crowd indicator that would allow them to know how busy the store is.

    “Stores remain a crucial asset by which traditional players can differentiate themselves from the online pure-play retailers,” added Donnelly. “They can serve as a showcase for desirable brands and places where customers can enjoy an experience and social interactions.”

    The survey also highlighted the following findings:

    • After purchasing, 81 percent said it is important for a retailer to enable them to pick up or arrange for delivery of their purchase regardless of how they paid for the item.
    • One-quarter (25 percent) of survey respondents said they would be willing to wait two weeks for free shipping.
    • Other consumers are willing to pay for speed and convenience: 24 percent said it is important for retailers to offer same-day delivery, including 30 percent who are willing to pay $5-$10 and 19 percent who are willing to pay $11-$20 for same-day delivery.
    • The ability to offer a range of fulfillment capabilities is something offered by just over half (56 percent) of retailers; however, only one quarter (26 percent) have same-day delivery capability.
    • When respondents were asked what they would do if a retailer has a product they want but it was outside normal business hours, 39 percent said they would wait until the morning for the store to open to purchase; 36 percent would buy it online from that retailer; and 22 percent would search for the best price and buy the product somewhere online.
    • 49 percent surveyed are influenced by in-store offers (promotional displays, salespeople, etc.); 56 percent are influenced by email coupons and offers; and an equal amount of respondents say they are influenced by coupons mailed to their home.
    • 69 percent and 62 percent respectively said that online pop-up ads and mobile banner ads would never influence their purchasing.

    Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company with approximately 261,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries.

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