Sooo…what is YOUR shopping ritual?

A recent survey conducted by Accenture revealed that 73% of consumers preferred using their smartphones than dealing with sales associates when deciding on a purchase.

When visualizing a typical shopping experience, one might expect to:

  1. enter a mall,
  2. walk into a store of interest,
  3. accept greetings from a sales associate(s) closest to the entrance
  4. crack an awkward smile of fear and anxiety
  5. make a quick scan of the store layout
  6. approach the first section of items
  7. nervously accept another “harmless” greeting from an associate
  8. say “No, I’m just looking. Thanks.” when asked if they were looking for anything in particular
  9. seamlessly flow through the other sections, confident there will be no more encounters with staff
  10. stealthily make their way to the clearance section at the very back of the store where more associates lurk
  11. quickly double-back to the new arrivals after being overwhelmed by both staff and other deal-hunters
  12. an item of interest is identified
  13. now, they are faced with 4 (or more) options. what should they do???

Normally, you have 2 options: make a purchase or leave the store. But as most consumers would attest, there are additional steps that can be taken in the shopping ritual before (or after) selecting either of those. One might be to pro-actively seek the help of a staff member for further inquiry into a product of interest before making a purchasing decision (size, color, price, warranty, specs, etc.). Another may be to call a friend or family member for their opinion before deciding whether or not they should buy.

Nowadays, technology has allowed for an even more comprehensive shopping experience – so enriching that the role of sales associates becomes less and less a requirement.

Consider the continuation of the shopping experience above:

  1. a decision is made to leave the store
  2. before departure, the make and model number is recorded
  3. they leave the mall and head home
  4. once at home, they log onto their computer
  5. the item is entered into the search engine
  6. upon visiting an ecommerce site which sells the item of interest (at a cheaper price)
  7. an online coupon is also provided, giving a further discount
  8. a purchase is promptly made
  9. shopping process was evaluated as a wholly-personal experience: personal pace, personal evaluation, personal choice
  10. high-fives all around. You Win!!!

But what if you don’t want to leave the store, but you don’t want to be sold to (or worse, upsold) by a sales associate either? Consider this alternative:

  1. a decision is made to remain in the store
  2. a smartphone emerges
  3. rather than calling someone for their opinion, they enter the product name into a browser
  4. specs, reviews and comparisons are instantly displayed
  5. further product information also reveals size, color, price, warranty, specs, etc. for the specific store location
  6. item is taken to check-out for purchase
  7. shopping process was evaluated as a wholly-personal experience: personal pace, personal evaluation, personal choice
  8. high-fives all around. You and the Retailer Win!!!

Ready for yet another scenario? One that benefits both you and the retailer once again? Read on:

  1. walk into a store of interest
  2. no greeters are present
  3. no sales associates are in close proximity
  4. a smartphone emerges
  5. a geo-location app is launched
  6. a “check-in” is conducted, which instantly provides a promotional discount
  7. an item of interest is identified
  8. a barcode reader app is launched
  9. the product has a barcode which can be scanned
  10. specs, reviews and comparisons are instantly displayed
  11. further product information also reveals size, color, price, warranty, specs, etc. for the specific store location
  12. the store also provides a self-checkout option
  13. item is purchased
  14. shopping process was evaluated as a wholly-personal experience: personal pace, personal evaluation, personal choice
  15. high-fives all around. You and the Retailer Win!!!

This last scenario (or variations of it) is becoming increasingly prevalent. Certainly, the larger retail stores are the ones who are blazing the technology trail due to start-up costs and other resources needed to implement such processes. However, it is also in direct response to a changing consumer behaviour towards self-reliance that’s spurred this adaptation.

A lesson that can be learned from these scenarios is observation. How do your customers behave? How do they react when they are greeted or approached by your sales staff? Are they savvy enough to ask useful questions, or are they more comfortable finding answers themselves? Are your products easily searchable online? Do your competitors carry the same product? Are your products price-sensitive and prone to constant adjustments for discounts or mark-ups?

Knowing answers to some of these questions can help you introduce new ways of addressing the needs of your customers. Mobile functions are just the tip of the iceberg, but is part of a major overhaul in the shopping experience. Retailers need to recognize this and fast.

How Accenture came to target the respondents is unclear, but the methodology is as follows:

The survey was programmed and hosted online by Lightspeed Research and designed to obtain interviews with 100 respondents in ten markets; U.S., France, Spain, Italy, U.K., Germany, Brazil, Japan, China and India.

To qualify for the survey, respondents needed to have home access to the Internet through a computer or netbook and carry a mobile phone or smartphone with them when they leave home.

Within each country’s sample, quotas were set as follows:

* 50 male, 50 female,
* 50 respondents aged 18-35 years of age, and 50 respondents over 35 years of age,
* 70 respondents who carry smartphones when they leave home, and 30 respondents who carry conventional cell phones. (Some report carrying both.).

The full survey is available at (www.accenture.com/mobileretail).

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