7 bugbears of the digitally-engaged shopper

By Steve Powell, director of sales at PCMS

The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, published earlier in the year by The Institute of Customer Service (ICS), showed the best performing organisations respond quickly to consumer queries and get things right first time.

Although it's a non-retail-specific compilation of UK organisations, spanning sectors such as telecoms, transport and media, Amazon topped the list and Superdrug, John Lewis, Wilko, Waitrose and Greggs make the top 12. It was an encouraging indictment of the retail industry's efforts to put the shopper at the heart of everything they do.

Jo Causon, CEO of the ICS, said that even though there may be a temptation to hold back service investment in economically uncertain times, there's no denying that when customer satisfaction is maintained "organisations will see a direct link to turnover growth, profitability and productivity". Specifically, in retail, I agree wholeheartedly that businesses need to be addressing consumer bugbears across all sales channels to keep satisfaction levels high and money ringing through tills.

But if retailers are going to address the bugbears and keep consumers happy, they need to know what they are thinking. We recently conducted research for our latest report, Navigating Modern Retail, that gets right to the heart of the matter – and it highlights seven things that really upset digitally-engaged shoppers. Let's take a look:

1. Unsolicited communications

While shoppers are becoming more accepting of retailers marrying online and offline habits to make automated recommendations digitally, only limited numbers want to receive an SMS message (11%) or an email (9%) detailing general marketing information.

2. Price inconsistency between online and stores

Two-fifths of shoppers surveyed in the research said that a major frustration of theirs is when online and in-store pricing doesn't match up. If there's a discount deal in-store, it needs to be offered online too, they say.

3. Product location problems

As consumers increasingly adopt an omnichannel approach to shopping – including researching online, and seeking advice in-store – 35% of them are dissatisfied when they can't see whether an out-of-stock product online is available in their local store.

4. Lack of inventory manoeuvrability

Almost a third of respondents said they want better access to ordering goods online or from a neighbouring store if the product they want is not available where they are. As a result, there is a growing expectation that store staff will have the equipment and technology to allow this to happen.

5. Ads for products they've already bought

A lack of joined-up thinking in retail can lead to businesses promoting products to customers who have already bought them. 21% of shoppers are fed up of receiving this type of messaging.

6. Specialist shop omnichannel capability

While grocers and fashion retailers were typically viewed as having the best joined-up services in retail, specialist shops such as bookstores and mobile phone providers ranked lowly.

7. Limited loyalty

Some 40% of consumers said they want to be able to use their loyalty cards agnostically across a retailer's stores and online operations. It's not always the case that retailers provide this function.

So, there you have it: seven deadly sins where retailers are guilty of not giving shoppers what they want.

Basically, the key message I took from this research – and which was supported by the UK Customer Satisfaction Index earlier in the year – is businesses operating across various sectors should never stop striving to deliver compelling, joined-up services because that and omnichannel consistency is what keeps driving customers back.

In retail, as it navigates its way through a tricky period of reinvention and restructure, in economically uncertain times, there's surely no alternative way of thinking.

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