Having a unified offline and online presence is critical for businesses trying to make the right impression on their customers, new research shows.
A study by Accenture revealed that nearly half of all consumers believe the best step retailers can take to improve the shopping experience is to better integrate in-store, online and mobile shopping channels. In addition, nearly 90 percent of those surveyed want businesses to let them shop for products in the way that is most convenient for them, no matter which sales option they choose.
The research shows the area most businesses are still struggling with is the mobile experience. While three-quarters of the consumers surveyed said online shopping is easy, just one-quarter of survey respondents said the mobile shopping experience is simple.
Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s retail practice, said seamlessness is a tall order for most traditional retailers.
"Traditional retailers must take stock of their operational capabilities," Donnelly said. "They require a presence at every stage of the customer journey to deliver a consistently personalized, on-brand experience — from discovery through research, purchase, fulfillment and beyond to product maintenance or returns."
The study shows that regardless of the shopping platform they choose, consumers expect their interaction with retailers to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience. Specifically, 73 percent expect online pricing to be the same as its in-store pricing, while more than 60 percent believe online promotions should be the same as in-store promotions.
Additionally, while 43 percent of consumers expect retailers to offer the same products online as they do in the store, less than 20 percent of retailers do so.
Consumers also said they want a way to determine the inventory a store has before visiting it. More than 80 percent of the consumers surveyed said having access to current product availability would be the most valuable piece of information for them to have before going to a physical store. The study also found that 30 percent of shoppers want retailers to provide a crowd indicator that would allow them to know how busy the store is.
"Stores remain a crucial asset by which traditional players can differentiate themselves from the online pure-play retailers," said Donnelly. "They can serve as a showcase for desirable brands and places where customers can enjoy an experience and social interactions."
The research was based on surveys of 6,000 adult consumers (750 of whom were U.S. consumers) in eight countries worldwide.