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With holiday season 2014 rapidly approaching, retailers are investing in their fulfillment infrastructure and making sure those omnichannel marketing schemes, designed to reach consumers at every point of their shopping journeys, are up to snuff. But shoppers this year demand more than ever. In a new study of 3,000 global shoppers by SDL, 90% of consumers said they expected the customer experience to be consistent across channels and devices this holiday season. This represents a 17% increase from what consumers reported last year, the research said.
A projection from Forrester Research’s “US Cross-Channel Retail Forecast, 2012 to 2017,” released in March 2014, predicted that in 2014, offline sales that were not at all influenced by the web would slightly outpace those that were. However, by 2015—and even as far as 2017—most retail sales offline were expected to be influenced by those online. The research projected that in 2017, the amount US shoppers spend on web-influenced offline sales would amount to $1.796 trillion, compared with $1.437 trillion in non-web-influenced offline sales.
The need for a seamless, integrated online and offline experience remains pressing, as the path to purchase meanders from digital to analog and back again; that is, the norm is, for example, a shopper who researches on a mobile device on the go, continues that research on a desktop, later walking into a storefront to scope out the desired item and comparing prices on his or her smartphone even while physically in that store.
For holiday season, when shoppers have limited time—and spending money—set aside to pick out the perfect gift (or, a gift that passes muster) for beloved friends and family, their expectations are higher still. SDL found that 47% of holiday shoppers had so far been frustrated that their experiences in-store were different from those online; 40% of respondents claimed there was a disconnect between the quantity and quality of information available online vs. in-store as well.
With 46% of consumers surveyed saying they used online search and 32% saying they used the retailer website to conduct research about a brand and its products, online presence is critical. Yet the Amazon.com problem—the expectation that shoppers have developed that all items should always be in stock and delivered to them with little delay online or offline—has mounted frustrations about out-of-stock items (60%), not enough information available to make purchasing decisions (52%) and the differences between online and in-store impressions (47%).
What shoppers really want is consistency across channels. They demand it. Just because they engage with a retailer through multiple touchpoints before they purchase doesn’t mean they should struggle to piece those experiences together. And while the study reveals shoppers’ dismay with the coherence of the shopping path during holiday season, retailers that can best reconcile online and offline experiences will likely retain shoppers well into the New Year.
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