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Why Retailers Are Under Increasing Pressure to Improve the Brand Experience

Consumers today are highly digitally savvy, but retailers could still be missing the mark when it comes to offering connected and personalized experiences.

According to a report by marketing platform SmarterHQ, consumers are moving from channel to channel when they shop, leaving retailers in a rut when it comes to personalized marketing and establishing a seamless purchasing journey from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce.

The report addresses the ways in which consumers buy their goods, how they shop across multiple channels and the omnichannel experiences they expect from retailers. SmarterHQ surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 who rated retailers based on their shopping preferences, buying habits and ability to heighten their purchasing journeys.

“Consumers view all the channels they shop on–online, in-store, through social media or via assistant home devices–as a single point-of-contact with a brand, yet many retailers still treat these channels as disparate systems that aren’t connected. This puts pressure on marketers to make the brand experience a consistent one no matter the channel,” Michael Osborne, SmarterHQ’s CEO, said. “Without a marketing strategy that includes customer identity resolution, brands risk losing buyers to the more targeted and personalized campaigns of their competitors.”

Key consumer identity findings

1. Shopping online does not always equate to purchasing online.

According to the report, most respondents favored omnichannel fulfillment, pairing convenient online shopping with the immediacy of in-store pick-up. Ninety percent have browsed for goods online and purchased them in-store. When consumers shopped on e-commerce platforms, they used an average of 1.92 devices to shop on, including personal computers (77 percent) and smartphones (61 percent). More than 50 percent have more than 3 Internet accessible devices, potentially making it harder for retailers to deliver personalized and connected experiences.

2. Multichannel shopping is the norm.

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Consumers bounce between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar frequently—engaging in buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS). The report said 53 percent of respondents preferred to use BOPIS due to retailers offering the opportunity to avoid shipping fees (62 percent) and time required to locate products (35 percent). When buying products online, 55 percent preferred in-store returns to snail mail (45 percent). What’s more, when shipping fees are added to returns, 73 percent of respondents would rather return items in-store to save money.

3. Shopping behavior varies across brick-and-mortar and e-commerce channels.

Purchasing across multiple channels is popular, however consumers frequent stores and online platforms for different reasons. Despite the convenience lure of e-commerce, most in-store buyers (81 percent) preferred to shop in-store, since they can walk away with their products they same day. Having physical interactions with products were also important to the brick-and-mortar experience, with 78 percent of respondents favoring stores because they could see items in person.

E-commerce also has potential perks over brick-and-mortar. Online leaders, like Amazon, are appealing to consumers who want a quick and seamless checkout experience. Respondents shopped online for many reasons, some don’t have time to leave home (65 percent), they can browse multiple items at once (56 percent), easily find specific products (51 percent) and it is fast (50 percent). Families with more children were 35 percent more likely to use personal assistants for online shopping, like Amazon Alexa (44.4%) and Google Home (43.7%).

4. Re-engagement, loyalty and communication could crack the consumer identity issue.

When consumers shop across multiple channels, they demand convenience, efficiency and relevancy. The report said retailers can craft an omnichannel strategy by connecting consumer interactions, creating behavioral data segments, re-engaging distracted consumers and promoting personalization through loyalty perks.

While consumers are jumping between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar, retailers can offer real-time personalization marketing to remind consumers about their incomplete purchases. Lastly, retailers can shape their campaigns based on consumer loyalty and hone in on consumers’ expectations with efficient loyalty perks, including customized rewards.