More than half of all consumers now prefer to shop online, and traditional retailers hoping to compete in a world of ever growing digital commerce will need to have a customer-first mindset, according to a retailer study from Salesforce.

Keeping up with the fast-paced shopping experience while offering value, personalization and strong customer service is key if retailers want to stay relevant, according to the report, which was released last month.

In fact, 86 per cent of Canadians started their product hunt through digital channels in 2018, with only 13 per cent starting in physical retail stores.
And while 46 per cent of shoppers, says the report, still prefer to buy items in a physical store that number may drop as use of mobile and smart home devices for shopping continues to grow.

The Salesforce Shopper-First Retailing report is based on data collected from over 500 million shoppers and offers three key takeaways for retailers: retailers that move faster grow faster; retailers should position themselves where consumers are; and they should offer purpose-driven experience and products.

Moving fast

Keeping up with the pace of customers is important, states Salesforce, since 69 per cent of consumers expect to see new merchandise each time they visit a store or commerce website.

Shoppers expect a fast-paced retail experience Source: Salesforce report

“Fast fashion only tells part of the story,” says the report. “Our research found that meeting shoppers’ expectations is now about fast retail, offering shopping journeys, transactions, and experiences that move at the speed of the shopper.”

And while consumers still prefer brick-and-mortar retail stores for customer service, marketplaces and brands like Amazon win out in every other customer preference category including price, product variety, availability and inspiration; and even though half of all first-time purchases are made with retailers, these businesses are losing second purchases to marketplaces, according to the Salesforce study.

It recommends that retailers keep customer service in mind to differentiate themselves in the market but also aim to improve product quality perception and availability.

Be where consumers are

Shoppers are continuing to move into the world of digital commerce, with the second quarter of 2018 seeing mobile shopping account for the highest ever rate (62 per cent) of mobile traffic.

Smart speaker use is also growing, with 70 per cent of owners using voice to make a purchase at least once in the past three months. Though this only accounts for 10 per cent of Canadian shoppers, the Salesforce report sees shopping to be a prime use case for voice technology in the future.

The use of mobile devices while in brick and mortar stores is also growing, with almost three quarters of shoppers using devices for purchasing or reading reviews while inside the stores.

How shoppers use mobile devices while shopping Source: Salesforce

“Brick and mortar locations aren’t responding to the surge in mobile usage in stores. This is a major untapped opportunity,” says the report, naming Sephora and Amazon Books as examples that have kept up with the trend and created a connected in-store experience.

Be purpose driven

The majority of shoppers say they feel that retailers don’t truly understand them, according to the report, and creating value, personalization and loyalty with products is key.

“Shoppers want experiences and products that connect to them as people, not just transactions,” states the report, furthermore noting that 45 per cent of shoppers are more likely to buy if the retailer or brand gives a charitable donation.

It suggests companies focus on creating products that drive emotional connections over just hitting a “bottom line”, offering products personalized to user needs, strong customer service and loyalty programs.

The Salesforce report makes it clear that, to stay competitive in the age of digital commerce, retailers need to cater to the more modern shopper, offering a more technologically advanced experience that keeps a shopper-first mindset.

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