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Why the Future Shopper Wants You to Be More Like Amazon

Is 2018 the “year of the omnipresent brand?”

Hugh Fletcher, who serves as the global head of consultancy and innovation for digital agency Wunderman Commerce, sure thinks so.

Today there are more channels and touchpoints than ever that brands and retailers must address in order to remain relevant with discerning consumers. In particular, “trusted, convenient and ubiquitous” digital marketplaces now draw throngs of shoppers seeking the best selection of products and prices for a one-stop shopping experience.

In the New York City-based firm’s Future Shopper: 2018 and Beyond report, Fletcher said choosing a “balanced approach” to channel investments rather than an “either/or” mindset is the key to modern retail success, with leaders leveraging “the power of each channel to optimize the other.”

Wunderman and Salmon, a Wunderman company, surveyed 1,500 U.S. consumers and 2,016 shoppers in the U.K. between the ages of 18 and 64 to gain insights into how shoppers behave today and what they expect in the years ahead.

Amazon, millennials and voice commerce dominated the topics at hand. The e-commerce giant, whose popular 36-hour Prime Day sales event just came to a close, continues to exert outsize influence in online shopping, serving as the place where 51 percent of consumers commence their shopping activities—in stark contrast to the 16 percent whose searches begin on Google. Consumers also demonstrated a propensity to stay where they start, as 55 percent disclosed transacting on Amazon after undertaking their search there.

“Today, customers are judging their experience with companies right from the point they become aware of the brand, through purchase, delivery and ownership, right through to repurchase,” Patrick Munden, Wunderman’s global head of retail and marketing, said in the report. “It’s hard to look past Amazon as the reason for this.”

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One of many pluses in Amazon’s favor is its well-known legacy as one of the original digital innovators, a characteristic that resonates with the 72 percent of consumers who said they’re more likely to shop with retailers displaying digitally savvy. What’s more, another 72 percent expressed a desire for merchants to improve the shopping experience with innovative technology. Another sign that American consumers are hungry for tech-driven convenience? Nearly four-fifths (79 percent) of survey participants said they’re excited about the advent of a cashier-free in-store shopping experience like Amazon Go or the self-checkout tech rumored to be in development by Microsoft.

Millennials, naturally, overwhelmingly deemed themselves far more tech savvy than retailers, with 81 percent indicating this belief (ahead of the 63 percent of overall consumers). Consumers ages 22 to 37 do exhibit an openness to experiment with new technologies and a comfort level with existing ones.

Wunderman, whose clients include Selfridges and Yoox Net-A-Porter, found that half of all online retail spending comes from millennials, and these shoppers over-index when it comes to their interest in programmatic buying. Seventy-nine percent of millennials would try an automated service that purchases on their behalf, more than the 57 percent of all consumers who would try out such a service.

With every Echo, Dot and Google Home speaker sold, voice commerce is increasingly going mainstream and Wunderman’s data reflects consumer awareness of this new channel. Resistance to voice-assisted commerce is crumbling, as 71 percent of surveyed U.S. commerce expressed comfort with shopping this way and 44 percent of millennials indicating they’re active voice-based purchasers. Two-fifths of all consumers said they’ve interacted with a voice assistant housed in a device like an Amazon Echo or Google Home, and more than half (55 percent) described their experience using these gadgets and shopping in this manner as positive. Despite growing familiarity with voice commerce and voice assistants, 78 percent harbor concerns over privacy and these devices eavesdropping on their conversation. Even more—83 percent—fear voice-activated gadgets ordering products without authorization.

With Amazon moving thousands, if not millions, of Alexa-powered devices over Prime Day, consumer apprehension over voice assistant technology could taper off in the coming months as the gadgets populate a growing number of American households.