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Customers want an experience retailers aren’t delivering

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The public wants both a seamless shopping experience across any retail channel (mobile, online, in store) and is happy to research online (AKA ‘webrooming’) and buy from a brick and mortar store. These were two of the strongest conclusions in the Seamless Retail Research released by Accenture on April 15th.

This isn’t a shocker for a couple of reasons. First, the consumer world is in constant flux as people adopt online shopping and the mobile experience continues to improve with better devices and better mobile sites. The public is changing far faster than than the places they shop, and retailers as a whole have been woefully slow at bringing in new technology that can unify the experience. We see it every day and I’ll bet you do, too.

Second, brick and mortar is alive and well, at least for some things. There’s just something about picking up an item and looking it over as a way to gauge quality, features, value and finalize the decision. From our own experience, the first time choosing an item is usually in a store but then follow on purchases are done online for convenience and price (and more and more often for us, on Amazon).

Integrating the experience

Let’s face it…retail systems are antiquated. The study results highlight the need for retailers to integrate the many systems they use to run their businesses. You’d think this would be well-known and that most major brands figured that out long ago, but they haven’t. The problem is explained well here:

Regardless of their original shopping touchpoint – in-store, online or mobile – consumers expect their interaction with retailers to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience, according to the survey. The research also indicates that consistency weighs heavily on the consumer experience. For example, 73 percent of consumers expect a retailer’s online pricing to be the same as its in-store pricing, and 61 percent expect a retailer’s online promotions to be the same as its in-store promotions.

Yet, a benchmark analysis by Accenture of the top retailers globally indicated that while 73 percent offer the same promotions online as in the store, only 16 percent offer the same prices online as they do in the store. Additionally, while 43 percent of consumers surveyed expect a retailer to offer the same product assortment online as they do in the store, only 19 percent of retailers actually offer the same product assortment, according to Accenture’s analysis of top retailers.

Yes, Accenture will be happy to show up and help (thus the study), but I think they’re providing great insight through this research. How do I know? From my own experiences in buying everything from groceries to automobiles using a combination of online, mobile and in-store means. I’ve waded through inconsistent prices, excuses that something was ‘online only’, and even waiting a week for in-store pickup for an item that was in stock in the store (I canceled the online order and purchased from the store).

As consumers, we’re getting past the honeymoon phase of the Web and mobile and expectations are outpacing the experience. Something has to give.

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