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Our Cross-Channel Retail Research Revealed These Top 3 Consumer Trends

Jul 20, 2022

Our Cross-Channel Retail Research Revealed These Top 3 Consumer Trends

Providing an exceptional experience through different channels in the customer journey can be the distinction between earning lifetime loyalty or losing that customer forever. And with more points of entry, it’s never been more critical—and difficult—to optimize the customer experience.

To get a better understanding of customers’ cross-channel experiences, we gathered feedback from more than 6,000 consumers. Here we’ve laid out the top cross-channel retailing trends we uncovered and provided key takeaways to help inform brands’ cross-channel strategies.

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Trend #1: More than half of consumers prefer in-store shopping

With 52% of consumers citing a preference for in-person shopping, brands shouldn’t sleep on the in-store experience they’re providing customers. And while all factors—like store cleanliness, associate friendliness, etc.—are important, retailers should prioritize product availability and ease of finding items.

Why? Because half of those in-store shoppers hit up a brand’s website before they set foot in the door (and many are checking it out even after they’ve entered). They know what they’re after—and if they can’t easily find it in your store, you’ll likely have an angry customer on your hands.

Another reason customers come in store? They want to check the quality of the product. Many multi-channel consumers shop in-store after finding an item online so they can check out the quality of the product in person before purchasing. If they don’t like what they see, you’ll lose their business.

Another big motivator for in-store shopping vs. purchasing online is to avoid additional costs—one in three consumers will purchase in-store so they don’t have to pay any online or delivery fees.

This behavior of hybrid retail isn’t going anywhere, and brands that don’t create a seamless cross-channel experience run the risk of losing customer loyalty.

Takeaway #1: Ensure consistency in cross-channel retailing

The digital experience and store experience aren’t often siloed—most customer interactions with your brand are a hybrid retail experience (e.g., BOPIS, curbside pickup, in-store, “researching/window shopping” via mobile). And if those experiences don’t line up or provide the same level of service, your customers will notice.

An integrated CX platform that shows digital and in-store data side-by-side provides the insights needed to bridge the satisfaction gap, and helps you:

Discover what influences channel preferences

Are guests using your app to avoid the drive-thru before work? Do customers shop online for large furniture, but in-store for accent pieces? An omnichannel approach answers these important questions and details what drives shoppers to each channel during their purchasing journey.

Identify common themes in customer feedback

Did both online and in-store guests mention payment issues in their feedback? Multisource text analytics can decipher recurring product mentions, trends, and sentiment across touchpoints to identify emerging systemic issues—and triggered alerts can help you resolve problems as they arise.

Personalize their experience by merging purchase data

Use what your brand already knows about customers to enhance their omnichannel experience. Base rewards off favorite menu items, automatically suggest the fitness instructor they book most frequently, or add a personalized “Recommended for You” section to your homepage.

Leverage journey analytics to drive satisfaction across touchpoints

Customer journey mapping can help you capture key touchpoints, enabling you to optimize the digital experience at crucial moments—from awareness and intent through acquisition and loyalty. And with aggregated data from all channels streamlined into a single interface for real-time, cross-channel analysis and visualization of your customer journey analytics, you can create go-forward journey management strategies to improve customer experiences + future-proof your business.

Trend #2: Nearly 1 in 3 consumers expect to shop more online in coming months

Though in-store traffic is up and more than half of consumers prefer to shop in-person, 30% are anticipating an increase in their online shopping. So in addition to prioritizing the in-store experience, brands need to take a hard look at the digital experience they’re providing customers.

What’s top of mind for online consumers? No delivery fees (remember, they’ll avoid those all together by taking their business in-store). But if you can provide them with free shipping and save them the trip, you’re likely to score some points (and repeat business).

It’s also important to note consumers are less concerned with fast delivery. In fact, 88% said no shipping fees is more important than a quick delivery.

But customers who are picking up their online purchases in store are less patient. They expect to wait no more than 6 minutes to retrieve their purchase.

Takeaway #2: Track active and passive customer engagement

By offering touchpoints for consumers to provide your brand with solicited and unsolicited feedback regarding their digital experience, you can gain real-time insights into what works and what doesn’t when it comes to your website or mobile app. The options for gathering this kind of feedback include:

An open-ended feedback tab

An always-on feedback tab gives customers the opportunity to tell you about their stellar and less-than-stellar experiences with certain processes, pages, or your site in general. For example, maybe a loyal, repeat customer is struggling to book a service or appointment slot online they typically book in store, or a first-time user hits a roadblock while trying to use contactless ordering. Whether positive or negative, unsolicited feedback goes the extra mile to answer the questions you hadn’t thought to ask and provide insight to issues you didn’t know existed.

Self-service digital comment cards

To lessen the strain on your customer care team, your “Contact Us” page should have an intuitive feedback channel included. Brands can gain higher-level brand insights (as opposed to specific usability issues with the feedback tab) during a time location-level feedback might not be feasible. These pages help centralize both negative and positive feedback and make it easier for customer care teams to prioritize customer engagement efforts.

Website surveys

Intuitive site-intercept surveys nudge consumers for feedback during various stages of the purchasing or scheduling process. Brands can decide which pages or specific behaviors trigger the survey, allowing them to measure discrete, isolated experiences. By configuring survey invitation criteria to capture feedback and critical points in the digital journey, you can surface more targeted insights and design a user experience optimized for conversion at each step of the purchase decision funnel.

Real-time feedback can help you get the information you need to provide a simpler, stress-free shopping experience for consumers.

Trend #3: More than half of retail consumers use websites and apps to compare prices

When it comes to creating a successful cross-channel strategy, the key is consistency. And if you’re not conducting frequent pricing audits to ensure what’s listed online matches the in-store price, your customers are noticing the discrepancies.

Today’s consumers are more cost conscientious than ever—with 1 in 3 expecting their financial situations to worsen in the coming months. This has heightened an interest in value, with 45% of consumers turning to brands’ websites and apps to view special offers and promotions.

Takeaway #3: Understand what value means to your customers

With a heightened focus on personal finances comes a more discerning look at value—even the most laid-back consumer can probably say which gas station in town has the cheapest gas right now. Today’s consumers are expecting more bang for their buck, and brands across industries need to give their value offering a hard look.

In a previous consumer trends study, we found Overall Value among retail concepts had declined by 2-ppts over the last 6 months (when compared to the previous 6 months). We’re also seeing a rise in visit share with brands like Dollar General and Walmart—which historically lines up with times of economic hardship when value is top of mind for consumers.

The important thing to remember here though is higher value doesn’t always mean less expensive. Though nearly half of retail consumers list Promotions or Deals as a top factor in choosing a brand, 64% stated Quality of Products as most important.

Additionally, for grocery and service consumers, a previous positive experience is also a big factor. Which mean brands offering a differentiated experience—with high-quality products and exceptional customer service—will win customer loyalty in the midst of these economic challenges.

Optimize cross-channel efforts to reach more customers + garner richer insights

With 1 in 3 online shoppers willing to take their business elsewhere after one bad experience, you can’t afford to have mediocre digital touchpoints. But digital is just one piece of the puzzle, and if you’re not incorporating your digital customer experience strategy with feedback from other channels, you’re delivering fragmented experiences and missing out on conversion opportunities.

Brands must offer a frictionless cross-channel experience to meet the expectations of today’s consumer. If your CX data is siloed across multiple channels and platforms, meeting customer expectations will prove difficult, if not impossible. Learn how Party City successfully revamped its digital strategy, opening up new channels + touchpoints to increase response rates and make targeted improvements to the customer experience.