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October 17, 2013

Acquity Group Finds Consumers Value In-Store Wi-Fi, Rich Content and Mobile Experience Over Loyalty Programs

The search for what motivates all of us when we are shopping, physically and virtually browsing, to go from interested to pleased and possibly ready to buy something is marketers’ search for the Holy Grail. Retailers are constantly looking for the magic combination of user experiences and types of incentives that lead to purchases. 

In the increasingly mobile age in which we live, this search has become more complicated as mobility and Internet access have made shoppers more knowledgeable when they are out and about, as well as more fickle based on having real-time access to important information like price comparisons and reviews. 

Acquity Group, a global brand ecommerce company and digital marketing agency, which has recently become part of Accenture Interactive, was more than a bit curious about what pleases us, and is out with a really interesting study, “Desktop vs. Smartphone: Technology’s Impact on Omnichannel Behavior.”Acquity surveyed 1,526 smartphone owners across the United States to analyze buyer preferences and behaviors for shopping across a variety of channels. These included, in store, online through a desktop or laptop, online through a smartphone and online through social media. Respondents were characterized using demographic qualifiers, including age, gender and income. Response percentages were evaluated on a quantitative scale to assess actionable metrics for retailers. 

Image via Shutterstock

Experience and information over loyalty programs

 It came as a bit of a surprise to me that respondents said that the user experience, particularly when they are mobile and desirous have having broadband Internet access trumped the attraction of loyalty programs. This may be an area where the lines are blurring given the ability of location-based services to provide loyalty discounts when retailers are aware you are on their premises with a mobile device and therefore highly susceptible to not just making purchases but being up sold, but that is a work in progress. In fact, as our personal devices more and more become our transactional platforms of preference—on the couch through that prized “second screen experience” and on the go—the lines are going to become even more blurred.  

So what did the Acquity inquiring minds find out? Quite a bit.

Free in-store Wi-Fi is a worthy investment for retailers

Consumers feel they would be more confident making a major purchase when free in-store Wi-Fi is available and would also be more likely to make additional purchases while in store: 

  • 50 percent of smartphone owners would feel more confident making a major purchase with the ability to research in store. 
  • 30 percent would be more likely to browse additional items not on their list. 
  • 20 percent would spend longer in store. 

“Retailers are looking for ways to increase in-store sales, while also pushing online spend in an age of showrooming, but several are eliminating some of the best opportunities to drive a greater amount of in-store revenue,” said Chip Knicker, vice president of eCommerce at Acquity Group. “In-store Wi-Fi not only allows retailers to keep consumers in store longer, making them more likely to purchase, but also helps tie in the consistent user experience across channels that today’s consumers expect.” 

Overall, the survey results reinforce that consumers want a shopping experience that brings all of a retailer’s digital and in store elements together. In fact, 46 percent of smartphone owners would purchase more online if there was a more consistent user experience across channels.

Online content is king for purchasing across channels

Online content from omnichannel retailers is becoming more influential and driving purchase decisions across all channels, including social media:

  • 78 percent of smartphone owners have looked up a retailer’s inventory online prior to visiting the physical store.
  • 59 percent have been influenced to make an in-store purchase decision after browsing product images and information on a smartphone.
  • 73 percent would be more likely to purchase from a brand that provides editorial content (social updates, news, or email) that is relevant and interesting to them. 
  • 32 percent have not yet purchased products posted on social media, but would be open to trying it. Another 16 percent have already purchased items after being influenced by social media posts. 

Consumers want organization and simplicity when purchasing via mobile

There was a section of the survey that asked respondents what they wanted when doing a mobile-based purchase. For retailers, this is a good place to take careful notice.

  • Of the respondents who have made a purchase via mobile, 83 percent say convenience is the number one reason they’ve done so.
  • Of the respondents who have not previously made a purchase via mobile, 41 percent would be more likely to make a purchase via their smartphone if the website were optimized for smartphone use.
  • 44 percent of smartphone owners say mobile website organization is the most important aspect of a good smartphone experience. 

“The frequency of mobile and online purchases will clearly increase as retailers expand their mobile content and capabilities,” said Knicker. “In addition, our study shows the willingness of respondents to purchase products promoted through social media channels. In the end, driving purchase activity is directly related to the abundance of relevant, customer-focused content brands provide that connects online, in store and social media experiences.”

Shopping preferences differ across all channels, but loyalty programs are universally the least important decision maker. Shopping preferences for smartphone owners rank differently across channels. Price was less important while shopping on mobile vs. online (on a desktop/laptop) and customer service was most important while shopping in store.

Overall, loyalty programs were the least important factor to customers regardless of channel.

Shopping preferences differ by generation

Finally, from the surprises to the obvious. Overall, the study confirmed assumed generational shopping behaviors in store, online, via mobile and through social media.

  • Younger consumers are most likely to remain loyal to a brand or retailer (across channels) based on price, while older consumers are most likely to remain loyal because of customer service. 
  • Across generations, most respondents make frequent online purchases (two times or more per month) from laptop or desktop computers.
  • Smartphone owners aged 26–45 are the most likely (73 percent) to have made a purchase via their smartphones.
  •  Across all generations, convenience is rated the most important factor when making a purchase via smartphone. 

Knicker added: “The rise of omnichannel commerce has driven retailers to invest in strategies that engage consumers across channels…Our study demonstrates the importance of appealing to consumers’ specific preferences when targeting them across platforms. It also confirms that consumers’ preferences change both with age and as technology and design capabilities advance. Loyalty programs, once regarded as important to gaining and retaining customers, have been shown to be the least important when up against the time-honored factors of price, convenience, product availability and customer service, all of which can be delivered through a seamless omnichannel experience. It is clear brands that don’t align their experiences with evolving consumer expectations will miss out on revenue opportunities.”

Our smartphones have rapidly emerged as the modern version of the Swiss Army Knife. They can literally and virtually make our lives easier including making us better educated consumers. And, for those of you who live in the New York City area, you should remember the tag line of the late retail clothing merchant Sy Syms, whose advertising always ended with him saying, “An educated consumer is our best customer.”   No truer words were spoken, and the corollary to be gleaned from the Acquity study is that an educated retailer on the importance of leveraging technology to improve the user experience is going to attract and keep best customers.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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