Canadian consumers are becoming less forgiving and more high maintenance, according to a study from Retail Council of Canada and RCC's Marketing Advisory Council. In fact, consumers don't want to wait in line for a cashier and they don't want any hassles when they purchase online; they are expecting a much more convenient, seamless and integrated shopping experience, no matter how they shop. This article is copyright 2019 The Best Customer Guide.

The study, conducted in partnership with Google Canada and WisePlum, asked more than 5,000 Canadians about their requirements of retailers, and about their shopping preferences, expectations and needs. The results showed that Canadian shoppers demand a seamless retail experience no matter if they buy in-store or online and are more likely to switch retailers who do not provide a perfect experience.

Little Tolerance for Online Errors
Since the first Canadian ecommerce transactions years ago, consumers have been willing to accept some fulfillment and service issues that come with online shopping. But that is changing.

Within the last five years, new technology, tech-savvy consumers and the growth of mobile has contributed to significant e-commerce growth. The 2018 study clearly shows consumers are becoming increasingly intolerant of frustrations, especially with online purchases. More than one-third (67%) of those surveyed reported having a problem with online purchases while only 41% of consumers said the same of in-store purchases. Considered up until now to be a convenience driver, online is becoming the Achilles' heel of retail.

"We are seeing a consumer who will not hesitate to switch retailers when problems occur," says Diane J. Brisebois, President & CEO, Retail Council of Canada. "Consumers are frustrated by long checkout lines in store, annoyed by all the credentials required for an online purchase or finding out a product is out of stock after they have decided to buy. Retailers in Canada are aggressively looking at new ways to quickly meet the increasing demands of consumers to remain competitive."

The survey found the demand for a better experience is being driven by Millennials (59%) who report to experience more problems with both online and in-store purchases than older consumers (32%). Younger consumers expect flawless shopping experiences and are not willing put up with learning how to purchase a product.

"Younger Canadians are technology experts. They want shopping to be more personal, faster and better, and it should work across all devices and surfaces by merging online and offline to create one intuitive experience," said Eric Morris, Director of Retail, Google. "They are moving fast, and retailers need to move faster. If a retailer can't connect their customer to the right product in as few steps as possible, they will go elsewhere."

Death of Bricks-and-Mortar 'Exaggerated'
Consumers have made it clear that they want both online and in-store choices, both for product and service. Online shoppers are increasing their demand for physical locations nearby in order to complete their experience.

Consumers are doing more research before purchase and are using both physical and digital stores to do it. It was assumed that consumers go into a store to touch a product but ultimately purchase it online. According to the research, 61% of shoppers did at least one online activity prior to an in-store purchase while 65% of shoppers did at least one offline activity prior to an online purchase.

Increasing Pressure on Retailers
Retailers need to focus on being omni-channel and frictionless when it comes to delivery or they risk losing market share. Based on the survey, consumers want speed, selection, service and price. Traditional brand affinity is fading.

"The study highlighted that a new generation of lifestyle and experience-driven consumers have specific demands when making a purchase and these expectations are increasing," said Paula Courtney, Product Founder for WisePlum. "We found that retailers that were not able to reduce points of friction from their stores, and provide convenience, service and value lost customers."

This year, consumers indicated that Grocery is especially where they want more convenience which includes: click & collect, curb-side pickup, delivery to home, and designated pickup locations - all with the purpose of providing consumers with flexible options on how they can shop.