New Study: Gap Between Consumers and Retailers Shows That Basics Matter
For the past decade, I’ve worked closely with retail organizations through a consistently changing landscape that has always been dictated by new generations of consumers. Over the years, I couldn’t help but notice that there seems to be a vast gap in perspectives between the retail executives I talk to and today’s consumer. A new study conducted by Oracle NetSuite in partnership with Wakefield Research and The Retail Doctor confirmed what I had suspected for years: retailers and consumers are not on the same page when it comes to today’s shopping experience.
Mind the Gap: Retailers vs. Consumers
Where are retailers missing the mark? Let’s start with the elephant in the “proverbial room,” which is the big gap between what retail is focusing on in-store vs. what consumers want out of the retail experience. Contrary to the hype that brick-and-mortar is "dead," there's still a much-needed role for interactions in-store, and consumers agree. Nearly all (97 percent) of the shoppers we surveyed acknowledged there's a need to go into a physical store, and the majority (70 percent) believe the most appealing retail stores have features that simplify and streamline the shopping experience. With that being said, you have 73 percent of retail executives who believe that the overall environment in retail stores has become more inviting in the last five years. That sounds enticing, but only 45 percent of consumers agree, and 19 percent believe it has become less inviting.
So where does the gap come from? That’s simple — shiny new technologies that haven’t yet found a permanent place in the reality of today’s shopping experience. Retailers have been led to believe that the physical retail environment should mimic an online experience rather than extending digital elements to complement in-store experiences. Retailers often find themselves spending money to replicate what they have online in their stores, even though the consumer might not be asking for the exact same experience. Furthermore, 90 percent of retailers are not confident the use of advanced technologies to customize the shopping experience is meeting consumers’ needs. And we’ve seen that personalization still proves a challenge to address while still making the customer feel comfortable and confident in the experience.
Back to the Basics
Why spend all that time and money on things that aren’t working? Well, it’s not entirely retailers fault. Many organizations have been led to believe that millennials and younger generations don't want a physical experience or want to be engaged in-store, when in fact data has shown differently. It's not product information that these generations are looking for, it’s inspiration and engagement. Simply transitioning features from an online experience without optimizing for human interaction won’t cut it.
Instead, we're seeing that consumers want to be engaged on a much deeper level and want to connect with brands. What does this mean? Going back to the basics and making sure there's singular visibility into what's needed to answer shoppers’ most basic and simple questions. Today’s experience should be unified and authentic for store associates to leverage so that they're viewed as an asset in the shopping environment, not a nuisance or an extra step to get to the end result. Educating and training associates on how to have more in-depth meaningful conversations can go a long way as technology continues to be a supporting tool to the retail experience, not the only tool.
Matt Rhodus is director and industry principal at Oracle NetSuite, a cloud-based business management software provider.