A Ranking of the Retailers Providing the Most Connected Shopping Experiences
Consumer behaviors in retail are especially interesting in that they’re often so routinized and sticky. Major shifts in shopping trends and expectations require either earth-shattering industry innovation or a completely life-changing cultural event. Unless consumers’ lifestyles are greatly impacted in some way, their shopping habits remain just that — habits. Though many retailers had begun offering curbside pickup; buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS); and other connected experiences, consumer interest was minimal. It cost more energy to work these models into our lifestyles than it did to keep shopping channels vertically compartmentalized out of sheer repetition-inspired convenience.
However, when a global pandemic universalizes demand, urgency, and a fear of in-person shopping for so many key retail categories, consumers will (and did) learn the value in omnichannel paths to purchase.
Given the lasting impact these learned shopping behaviors will have on consumers’ relationships with and expectations of retailers, CI&T felt compelled to create its first ever Connected Retail Experiences Report. The main purpose of this report was to evaluate 10 of the most well-known retailers on their connected experiences. Before evaluating these retailers, however, we surveyed 530 consumers to ensure our assessment criteria was most relevant to post-pandemic shopping objectives.
The consumer insights portion of our research surfaced that there are seven components of the connected retail ecosystem: the overall experience, search, shop, cart, buy, fulfill, returns. Crucially important throughout these aspects are consumers’ confidence that they’re getting “good” prices; the ability to easily and quickly find, purchase, and return items; and the receipt of strong customer service.
Those reported shopping objectives became the foundation for the 74 specific user experience capabilities we rated the 10 retailers across. When you look at the top five on the basis of their total scoring, you likely won’t be surprised to find Nordstrom, Target, Home Depot, Staples, and Walmart. All five of these retailers have repeatedly made headlines both over the last year and the last few years. However, if you look at the breakdown pages, where we show you how each of the top 10 retailers scored in each of the seven paths to purchase components, you’ll see there’s some interesting variety in the overall experience, shop, and returns arenas.
Looking strictly at the overall experience bucket, Crate and Barrel (which didn’t crack our top 10), followed by Walmart, Gap, Nordstrom, then REI ranked the highest. Home Depot and Gap were the only two retailers to achieve perfect “shop” scores, with Foot Locker, then PetSmart and Office Depot next in line. Nordstrom and Target were the only two to reach perfect “returns” scores, and the wide-ranging percentages within the category further accentuate the need for more attention to be paid to such a significant customer touchpoint.
Therefore, while Nordstrom and Target secured the most perfect scores across categories, there was significant room for improvement for every retailer. The fact that the top five retailers have had successful track records over the last few years highlights how innovation begets innovation — i.e., if your brand hasn’t begun offering a strong suite of connected retail experiences, it’s time to not only do so, but to do it well, and to start thinking about what’s next from here.
With the drastic amounts of store closures and bankruptcies in 2020, the divide between retail stars and retail strugglers is only going to expand. Our Connected Retail Experience winners are primed and ready to tackle the next frontier of innovation (e.g., chat commerce, fine-tuned demand forecasting, perfected distribution modeling), and consumers are primed and ready to traverse this frontier with the retailers embedded in their newly adjusted shopping routines.
Melissa Minkow is retail industry lead at CI&T, an end-to-end digital transformation partner.
Melissa recently joined CI&T as Retail Industry Lead after two years in merchandising strategy at Target, six years covering omni-channel, e-commerce, and social commerce at Gartner, a short tenure in pharmaceutical market research, and the completion of a Kellogg MBA. She is a retail futurist whose methodology is rooted in cross-industry consumer insights and innovation. She measures her success by how far out of the box she can inspire a client’s customer-centric solutions.