Can Retailers Handle Today's Fickle Shoppers? - eMarketer

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Can Retailers Handle Today's Fickle Shoppers?

Research suggests digital shopping has hurt customer loyalty

February 9, 2015

Every retailer is concerned with customer acquisition and retention. But according to new data from Accenture, shoppers are more fickle with their brands than ever before. Digital channels have enabled consumers to find the same products at cheaper prices on competitor sites. Customers also research their purchases in advance, bypassing potential temptation to be lured into a store as a passerby.

It’s not just a hunch: Customers were more loyal in the past. Fully 56% of US consumers told Accenture that the number of brands they considered had increased significantly in the past 10 years. Nearly half of those surveyed also said they were more likely to switch brands than they were 10 years ago.

Very few customers feel bound to a retailer by affinity and nostalgia alone. Just 28% of those surveyed said they felt very loyal, and only 31% would recommend a specific retailer to someone else. Even if customers are satisfied with their purchases, the availability and interchangeability of many products ensures that they will hunt around—which the internet makes easier than ever—for the best prices from the most convenient retailer. When looking for a service provider, 78% of consumers look to an online channel for research.

These changes come with changing paths to purchase. Many customers hear about a product via word-of-mouth, then go online (via mobile device or desktop) to learn more before purchasing online or going to a physical store for the transaction.

What retailers can do is beef up digital channels so that they enhance the in-store experience and vice versa. And many retailers who provide compelling loyalty programs can secure consumers’ loyalty time and time again. In an October 2014 COLLOQUY survey, 60% of US internet users indicated that they would be likely to sign up for a loyalty program if it allowed them to earn extra program benefits or use their own bank’s debit/credit cards. Over half said they would want to connect their debit/credit cards to loyalty programs without using any additional cards and apps. That way, the loyalty program could integrate with their routine shopping habits with little friction.

The other good news is that some consumers who leave behind a retailer they once frequented are open to switching back. Accenture found that more than one-quarter of consumers would consider returning to a previous provider. For around half of respondents, the most attractive reasons to switch back would be attractive pricing (56%) and a superior product or offering (47%). More than ever, customers are hoping for an experience that is highly personalized and beneficial in terms of cost and convenience: If a brand’s experience misses the mark, they’ll simply take their business elsewhere.

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