By Rieva Lesonsky
What do consumers want? If we knew all the answers, we’d be multi-billionaires. But, thanks to the latest issue of Consumer View, a quarterly report issued by the National Retail Federation (NRF), we have some clues about consumer demands. The report, which gauges consumer behaviors and shopping trends for both brick-and-mortar stores and online shopping sites, says when consumers shop they’re most often looking a specific item. It’s important to them to find those items quickly and easily. Online shoppers, in particular, want to get their merchandise quickly—and they don’t want to pay for shipping.
“Consumers today want what they want when they want it and they don’t expect to pay a premium to get it fast,” says Mark Mathews, NRF Vice President for Research Development and Industry Analysis. “When they walk into a store they want to find their item, and find it easily, especially if they’ve researched it online beforehand. And whether it’s next-day or pickup-in-store, quick delivery of online purchases at little or no extra charge is growing so fast that it’s something shoppers are coming to expect.”
Whether shopping in-store or online, most consumers don’t want to browse. Instead, they typically want to buy a specific product—that’s true for 73% of in-store shoppers and 54% of online shoppers. In either case, 58% say being able to find what they want quickly and easily is their number-one factor when deciding where to shop.
Online shoppers’ expectations
Shopping “just to browse” is much more popular among online shoppers—46% of them browse, compared to only 27% of in-store shoppers.
Among online shoppers, 68% expect free shipping—even on purchases of less than $50. Nearly half (47%) will abandon an online purchase if shipping isn’t free. And 38% expect two-day shipping to be free, while 24% think same-day shipping should be free.
Luckily, Mathews says, “Retailers are literally racing to consumers’ doorsteps to meet [their]rising expectations.”
This is important, because the report says “the quality of customer service” is also a top factor when consumers decide where to shop (cited by 44% of those surveyed). Other important factors include: speed and simplicity of checkout (42 %) and the ability to try products before they buy (20%).
Consumers say their overall experience with a retailer is important before deciding which one to buy from and how often to buy (79%) and how loyal or connected they feel (77%).
Attracting customers—in-store and online
Holding special events is a great way to attract customers into your stores or onto your e-commerce sites, according to 59% of those surveyed. These include the ability to try products, get exclusive access to sales, demonstrations and product tutorials. Millennials are especially enthusiastic about special events—44% say they’re “very interested” in events, compared to 25% of consumers overall. Millennial men (60%), in particular, are more likely to be “very” interested than millennial women (28%).
According to the report, consumers are not especially tech-savvy. Less than one-third are aware of technological innovations such as 3D printing or making purchases through social media (29% each), in-app store navigation (28%), in-store digital displays (25%) or retail messaging apps and online chat (24%). Among those that were tech-aware, messaging apps and chat were the technologies that were tried the most (65%) while in-app store navigation was the most-cited for improving the shopping experience (63%).