It’s not new news that the world of retail had been and continues to undergo a huge transformation, which has fueled a rise in consumer expectations, leaving most retailers fighting to keep pace. As we enter a new decade, we see some new norms established, and for the time being, it seems that a recipe of sorts has been established to deliver a satisfactory shopping experience for the consumer.
- Fast delivery speed
- Always-available inventory
- Flexible payments
- The right tech
Fast delivery speed
As retailers like Amazon have pushed boundaries further and further towards instantaneous fulfilment of orders, consumer expectations have gone through the roof.
According to GoPeople, 40% of customers would consider receiving orders via a drone if it would speed it up and 88% are willing to pay for same day (or faster) delivery if it’s available. For deliveries that are knowingly going to be a bit slower arriving, 63% want to know a guaranteed delivery date when they place their order.
Whether they are shopping online or in store, availability of inventory is key to meeting customer expectations, including a record of in-store stock levels from online. This is a fundamental in particular for the last-minute shopper that has left it too late to order online.
It’s not easy keeping track of multi-location stock in real-time, but the retailers that have invested heavily in the technology to manage this are winning big. According to Cybertill, currently only 36% of retailers show stock availability in store and of those, only 18% show the exact stock numbers broken down by store.
According to JDA’s Global Customer Survey, it’s not only about having inventory available for the right product, which 35% of customers have come to expect, but also having an overall variety of physical stock to choose from, which 29% desire.
As we become more conscious about the impact our consumption is having on the environment, we are seeing a shift away from the mindless consumerism that dominated the noughties. While new purchases still have their place for consumers, we have seen a shift towards “thrifted fashion”, seeking out new looks from charity shops or via online portals for second hand clothing, as part of a more circular economy.
Retailers that are able to demonstrate sustainable manufacturing and packaging are going to be a popular choice for our environmentally minded younger consumers of the twenties. IKEA is a good example of a brand that is moving towards both sustainably manufactured homeware products, but that is also opening sustainable stores, such as its new store in Greenwich, to lean into shifting consumption habits.
Supermarkets are also rapidly redefining their approach to plastic packaging of products such as fruit and vegetables in response to this growing demand for more environmentally friendly waste.
According to research by ITE Group, independent retailers in the United Kingdom said they are hoping to increase sustainable products by 33% in 2020, which jumps to 40% amongst fashion retailers. 75% of retailers claim to have made changes to operations to become more sustainable.
We saw the first wave of the payment revolution in retail with the introduction of contactless payments in 2007, which has since risen to mainstream adoption. However, expectations around payments continue to rise, especially when it comes to bigger ticket purchases.
The latest in payments is the option to “buy now and pay later”. Millentials, intrinsically wary of credit cards, have truly embraced this payment method, according to Klarna. 63% would spend more with the option of flexible payments.
We are moving towards an era of more automated shopping experiences, removing the need for shopping deemed a chore, such as for groceries.
We saw the first example of this with the rise of the Amazon Alexa, which was able to automatically add products to cart for you when you told your assistant you were running low, but the next step is a move to your products telling you when you need to place an order.
A startup WePlenish is a good example of this in action, with the first automated replenishment product – a smart coffee pod bin, which senses how many empty coffee pods are in the bin, automatically placing an order on Amazon for new ones of preferred variety when it nears full.
In general, we are seeing that customers are willing to part with their data, but expect something in return for it. Firstly, that retailers are taking the wealth of data they have and using it to personalize the experience they have with the brand, including personalized recommendations, which according to Accenture, 63% would like to see.
In addition, the same report finds that there is a an expectation of data sharing to come with a direct and tangible benefit, such as loyalty points (64%), exclusive deals (60%), rewards (56%), special offers (53%).
The right tech
Technology for the sake of it is going to be a wasted investment, but incorporating technology into your business that allows you to make a customer’s shopping experience more seamless or reduce friction on the path to purchase is only going to bring benefits.
Adidas is an example of a brand using technology for positive benefit. The new Adidas LDN flagship store includes 100 digital touchpoints, including product experiences, interactive challenges and product customization. The latest advancement here is the inclusion of changing room mirrors using RFID technology to recognise products one visitors step into the room, allowing them to request different sizes or colours without leaving the changing room.
Another example of technology that will benefit the customer is image commerce, with Accenture finding that 63% would shift half their purchases to a retailer offering image commerce.
While this recipe isn’t a one size fits all solution, it’s clear from the breadth of consumer expectations that retailers will have to continue on their journey to keep pace, in what is a fast moving and ever-evolving industry.