IBM’s Institute for Business Value, a consulting think tank, recently published its findings from a global survey of 30,000+ consumers on emerging trends in e-commerce and retail. For over a decade, IBM has been researching the intersection between trust and technology. Here are the highlights of the report.
- The consumer is digital. Smarter consumers take technology completely for granted. Nearly half the people we surveyed are eager to use two or more technologies to shop. Younger consumers are particularly keen – and teenage “twitterati” have now escaped the parental leash.
- The household is “virtual.” Many consumers are shopping for a much wider range of family members, as the number of mutigenerational households rises. Thanks to the Internet, consumers can easily shop for adult parents who may or may not live nearby.
- Incomes and shopping attitudes are diverging. Between a fifth and a quarter of all consumers search for sale goods and only buy what they need, no matter how affluent they are or how optimistic they feel about their financial future.
- Smarter consumers listen to their families and friends first. The vast majority of consumers talk to relatives and friends or read independent reviews when they want to know more about a product. Only 18 percent rely on retailers and manufacturers.
- Smarter consumers shop differently. They use technology to start and stop the shopping process and take days or even weeks to complete the various steps in the process, instead of shopping in a continuous linear flow.
- Smarter consumers want to be served. They want to shop as easily and conveniently as possible because they already know which products and brands they need before they enter the store. They don’t want retailers to advise them because they have formulated their opinions by consulting family, friends and strangers.
- Smarter consumers want to be known. They want a personalized shopping experience tailored to meet their needs and preferences. In fact, it’s their top priority – as it was last year as well.
- Smarter consumers want to feel empowered. They want to use mobile technologies to make the shopping process easier and more pleasurable. And they want to take possession of the purchases they make in the ways they choose.
- Social media channels are a rich source of information and influence. Nearly half of all consumers who follow a brand on social media submit their own comments, and nearly two-fifths are more loyal to brands they have engaged with online.
You can download the entire study for free at this IBM site.
Opportunity Beyond The Survey
The most interesting insight for me was how fragmented the shopping process. Rather than wait for retailers to ‘get it right’, customer are taking matters into their own hands and creating infrastructure for themselves that was once the purview of their favorite retailers. I’m smelling opportunity here for retailers to make shopping easier for their customers. One of the ways they can do that is to make shopping their store more compatible with shopping others’ stores for the consumer. It might sound like sacrilege, but what if retailers offered mix-and-match between their sites and others’? Wouldn’t that be so much easier for the customer? Isn’t that what customers want? Isn’t that something you want?
I’m not naieve. I know such an idea presents lots of issues. But, just think about it as a design point for problem solving. Let it get into your head just a little and see where thinking like that takes your own thinking and the customer experience and service design you’re responsible for.