The ‘Future of Retail’ survey by InternetRetailing Expo, which investigated 2,000 UK consumers’ attitudes to retail experiences, has revealed that UK shoppers want to blend their in-store and online retail experience.
While they are not ready for a purely virtual, exclusively online retail world , there is a clear demand for increased integration across online and in-store in terms of the shopping experience and the customer data collected at each point.
While online retailers invested in customer profiling and targeted digital advertising, only 6% of consumers felt that online shopping was improved by brands helping them choose more suitable items in line with their taste by recommending items based on previous purchases.
Almost a third of the respondents (28%) agreed that they would be willing to grant a selection of their favourite brands full access to their social media profile to enable receipt of better product recommendations in-store and online. In addition, 30% would like their offline purchases to be added to their online profiles so that brands could have a single view of their tastes and purchase behaviour.
The physical experience of purchasing a suitable product remains a powerful force. Even though 93% of respondents had ordered a product online within at least the last month, 43% claim to still buy all their clothing in-store.
The survey showed that over half (57%) disliked not being able to experience the look/feel/fit of the product if it was purchased online.
However, when it comes to convenience, choice and privacy online shopping proved a winner. Almost half of respondents (43%) avoided in-store shopping due to a hatred of queues, with 36% saying that online was far more convenient.
Privacy also proved a key motivation, with one fifth said they felt uncomfortable getting undressed in a public environment and that they didn’t like changing rooms, and 14% claiming they felt more adventurous whilst shopping online in the knowledge they could try items on at home and return if unsuitable. Ordering different sizes at once was also a key factor as 10% said they felt ‘judged’ for ordering multiple sizes, and 14% did not like dealing with shop assistants.
The survey has revealed a demand both online and offline virtual reality-enhanced shopping. Almost half of respondents (48%) said they would like more retailers to enable them to see how an outfit might look on them virtually, with 25% willing to upload a photo to retailer’s website to enable this. Changing rooms with in-store displays or virtual changing rooms where items are digitally added to their reflection or on-screen image proved to be in demand for 23% of respondents.
In fact, 10% claimed that if retailers offered customers the chance to see how an outfit would look on them, without physically changing, either online or in-store, they would purchase more. This would also mean that they would return less (17%).
Neil Gaisford, managing director, retail, Clarion Events said: “The results show a significant appetite from customers for VR and AI tech to deliver a more integrated omnichannel shopping experience.”
“Half of consumers are enthusiastic about the idea of using virtual changing rooms, and over a quarter said it would mean they purchased more. These are statistics that retailers can’t afford to ignore. There’s a clear shift in UK customer expectations of their retail experience – whether online or in-store, and retailers will need to prepare to meet these demands.”
He continued: “Although data privacy is of course something that must always be a top priority for retailers and customers alike, we’re also seeing a third of UK consumers moving towards a greater willingness to share more data to ensure better recommendations. There’s also an expectation that their offline and online purchases will be available in one single customer view. There is clear consumer demand for everything omnichannel offers; therefore, to ensure their future success, UK retailers must ensure they are meeting the demands of this new ‘hybrid’ customer.”