North America vs. Europe: How Do Consumers’ Omnichannel Experiences Stack Up?
There are many things that North Americans and Europeans do differently. Their standards of measurement. Manual vs. automatic transmission. Even social customs.
Then there’s shopping. In today’s digitally enabled world, where it’s hard to find a major retailer or brand without a significant digital and mobile presence, you wouldn’t think that North Americans and Europeans are very different in their shopping habits. However, a new survey commissioned by iVend Retail to look at omnichannel shopping habits of consumers suggests otherwise.
About 2,000 consumers in North America (the U.S. and Canada) and Europe (the U.K., Italy, France, Germany and Spain) were surveyed about their shopping habits and preferences. The survey’s biggest revelation: by a wide margin, North Americans are much more online-focused in their shopping than Europeans, who much prefer to shop in a physical store.
Let’s look more closely at the numbers:
- Seventy-one percent of North American consumers said they find shopping online more convenient than shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, compared to about half in Europe.
- Seventy-two percent of European consumers said they do “all or most” of their shopping in physical stores. By contrast, 57 percent of North Americans said they do all or most of their shopping in physical stores.
North Americans are also more likely to incorporate online research into their shopping:
- Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. and Canadian shoppers said they research a product online at least once before going into a store, compared to 68 percent of consumers in Europe.
- Thirty-four percent of North American consumers said they like to use a smartphone to research product information while in-store, compared to about 20 percent in Europe.
This leaves us with two questions to consider.
First, why are North Americans more willing to shop online, while Europeans seem to prefer shopping in-store?
The answer is complex and there are many factors to consider. There’s not much difference between the internet connectedness and smartphone penetration among the countries surveyed. That said, here are two observations that help explain the differences. First, North America is obviously more geographically dispersed, which lends itself to the convenience of online shopping with delivery straight to a customer's door. The European countries surveyed are a bit more densely populated. For many North Americans, it’s not as easy to get to a physical store location, so many seek the convenience and ease of online delivery. Second, many of the large fashion houses are based in Europe, and these brands have paved the way with a seamless, enjoyable omnichannel experience for customers.
If given similarly high levels of service when they shop in-store, we’d see more North American consumers prefer to do more of their shopping via brick-and-mortar. The challenge is meeting consumers’ heightened expectations, which brings us to the second question: How can retailers and brands leverage these insights to improve their omnichannel shopping presence and deliver a better experience for consumers?
Consider that despite the fact that the survey revealed differences between consumers in North America and Europe, consumers in both regions share a desire for retailers to develop a stronger connection between the store and online channels.
Today’s consumers value personalization, ease of use and convenience — all of which can be found shopping online. With e-commerce, consumers get tailored offers based on their purchase history, as well as easy ways to redeem coupons and special offers sent digitally. Furthermore, they have the ability to check out without waiting in line. Oftentimes, they don’t find these same features when shopping in-store, partly because retailers’ sales channels are disconnected.
It’s important for retailers to tailor their omnichannel strategy to ensure consumers are getting the shopping experience they've come to expect. The best way to do this is to make shopping in-store more like e-commerce.
North American retailers could consider replicating the omnichannel efforts of their European peers. Brands like Gucci and Burberry have become known for strong omnichannel strategies, which give consumers features like seamless inventory and strong digital loyalty programs.
Implementing technology to fulfill orders in the customer’s preferred channel, offering digital passes and robust loyalty programs that reward customers for their repeat business, mobilizing the point of sale, and gaining a 360-degree view of each customer and their value to the business are a few of the ways to make omnichannel retail more seamless.
Paula Da Silva is the senior vice president of sales for CitiXsys, a provider of retail consulting, retail management softwares and point-of-sale systems.