Shoppers desire retail revolution

12 January 2011

NEW YORK: Consumers in the US and UK want "new ways" to shop which more fully integrate the online and offline worlds, a survey has revealed.

Cisco, the technology giant, interviewed 1,000 adults from these markets to gain an insight into current attitudes and preferences.

It found 63% of contributors employ digital channels to identify the lowest prices, and 46% use such mediums to save time.

Overall, 26% believed this strategy yields the best product selection, and 25% agreed the highest-quality goods are accessible via the web.

However, traditional word of mouth retains a central role, as 60% of those polled stated friends and family constituted the most important information source when making purchases.

Online reviews posted 29%, beating in-store staff on 24%, print media, securing just 19%, and TV, delivering a 10% rating.

Cisco reported two distinct communities of "tech-savvy shoppers" are emerging in the featured countries, with profound implications for marketers.

Members of the first category were described as "calculating shoppers", or 56% of the US population and 59% of their UK counterparts, and always used the internet before picking products.

The majority favoured researching potential acquisitions on the net to speaking with employees in bricks and mortar outlets.

Exactly two-thirds are looking for deals more regularly than two years ago, and 51% anticipated placing a heightened emphasis on this activity projecting forward the same amount of time.

Another 33% had visited coupon-sharing platforms, a figure reaching 31% when it came to accessing retailers' Facebook pages.

Nearly a quarter have exploited the opportunities afforded by bulk buying services like Groupon, but only 18% turned to the iPhone or devices powered by Google's Android for commercial purposes.

A further 11% are "extreme shoppers", and though this demographic is comparatively small, it does comprise a substantial number of customers from Generation Y.

Some 73% of "extremes" now dedicate more effort to hunting down special offers and promotions than previously, and 61% predicted they would still be doing so in 24 months.

The penetration of websites hosting vouchers and money-off coupons hit 60% concerning this audience, 56% of which had used a retailer's Facebook page, alongside 42% leveraging group-buying portals.

Smartphones were also influential, with 65% deploying these gadgets during the path to purchase.

"While 'extreme shoppers' receive the most attention, the larger group of 'calculating shoppers' has the greatest impact on retailers' revenues and margins," Cisco argued.

Of the latter segment, 54% were keen to try what was termed a "mashop", seeing retailers install innovative technologies in physical stores.

For example, 73% were enthusiastic about reading relevant information through a touchscreen on the shelf edge.

Around 44% outlined a desire to view product specifications, price comparisons and user-generated reviews on touchscreens, the same total as expressed interest in "virtual video advisers".

"Today's shoppers expect a completely custom shopping experience," said Lindsay Parker, Cisco's global retail industry director.

"They want to shop anywhere, anytime, on any device. And they prefer to shop with retailers that provide seamless, customised experiences."

Data sourced from Cisco; additional content by Warc staff