As consumers around the world seek greater accessibility to the global marketplace, their requirements are dictating how retailers have to prioritise their strategies to meet customer demand and compete more effectively, according to global research from Oracle Retail. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The study, entitled 'Evolution of Experience Retailing', found that consumers are demanding a retail experience that is global, yet still localised for their needs and expectations, that is "good for me", and that is defined and dictated by individual preferences.

Oracle commissioned the survey in August 2012 to examine the evolving marketplace and what this means in terms of meeting the retail requirements of consumers between 18 and 60 years of age in Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Russia, the UK and USA, looking at fundamental retail principles including service, experience and consumer preferences, in addition to shopping trends and attitudes to technology.

Among the highlights of the research findings:

  • Today's educated, information-driven consumers want retailers to co-create interactions that are 'good for me', which is defined as an experience that meets expectations locally and culturally and is appropriate in terms of the level, frequency and intimacy of the interaction between the retailer and the consumer.
  • Price, product and choice matter in driving consumers to take advantage of the global marketplace, led predominantly by Amazon which is successfully harnessing the power of customer data to deliver insight that meets the complete experience requirements of customers.
  • Service is increasingly important, with 88% of respondents listing this as very or fairly important, but retailers are under pressure to empower their store associates and operations to deliver accurate and connected, information-driven interactions at every touch point.
  • Perceptions of experience differ in-store and online, highlighting that while there is no 'one size fits all' approach to complete commerce, retailers should focus on enabling commerce anytime, anywhere (56% of respondents) and the provision of easily navigable channels online (61%); while in store consumers want product showcases (62%) and a vibrant, engaging environment (56%).
  • Consumers have little patience with poor service and experience, with over half of respondents (53%) indicating they would switch to a competitor or actively recommend against using a particular retailer (55%), and a growing number of virally savvy consumers (37%) will share their dissatisfaction via social media networks.
  • Personalisation is less highly valued in comparison to service and experience, meaning retailers are failing to understand how customers want to engage with them, but is defined in the context of targeted offers and information, based on their preferences, delivered to mobile devices (39%) and having access to a single shopping basket across channels (36%).
  • Mobile and social may not be preferential commerce channels just yet, but these are growing in importance, as detailed in relation to personalisation and the use of social media networks for sentiment management, particularly within emerging retail markets.
  • The study demonstrates that consumers are demanding that this 'good for me' experience be delivered across multiple touch points, which offers considerable opportunities for retailers to differentiate from Amazon's online offering by developing strategies to better understand preferences, deliver more targeted personalisation techniques and provide commerce anywhere.

"The pace of change in the global marketplace is unprecedented. Customers are now in charge, demanding the provision of commerce anywhere, the benefits of the competitive marketplace and the latest technologies to enhance their shopping experiences," concluded Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager for Oracle Retail. "This is the age of the individual that wants every retail interaction to be 'good for me', defined and dictated by their own personal preferences."

Expert Response...
This article highlights some interesting findings about consumer expectations when it comes to the retail experience, according to Tim Burge, director for Maxymiser ().
The essence of the article [above] is that poor service and lack of relevant content won't be tolerated by customers online in the same way they couldn't tolerate it in a store. The article goes further though, by saying that customer expectations are different online.

In the online world, it's about anytime, anywhere access on the device of their choice that's relevant to them and the job they are trying to do (browsing, buying, and so on). And it is important to understand that one size does not fit all and each customer will want a different experience to the next.

We've known for a while that first impressions count when it comes to engaging with customers, particularly in retail where there are so many other places people can go if they don't like what they see from you. online it's much easier for a visitor to your ecommerce site to go elsewhere than it is in the real world, so it's vitally important that you listen to what your customers are telling you and provide them with the experience they are looking for.

Another reason for customers to go elsewhere is confusion. Providing conflicting information across different channels is not going to impress your visitors. It is important that you understand that user 'journeys' are no longer limited to a single channel. What used to be a transaction in one place could now be spread over several of those touchpoints.

Understanding preferences is one thing but how often have we seen that what customers say and what they do are different?

You absolutely need to be asking your customers what they want on your site, but that should be through a testing and optimisation process that allows you to try different personalisation techniques and different content options and actually measure which one works rather than trusting that your visitors will tell you what you need to know – and don't forget to keep those preferences updated as their habits change.