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Shoppers Expect ‘Same Caliber of Service’ Across Channels—But Retailers Aren’t Delivering, Oracle Says

A new global consumer survey revealed retailers have plenty of work to do when it comes to matching their in-store and online experiences with consumer expectations.

In “Setting the Bar: Global Customer Experience Trends 2019,” Oracle laid out the disconnect between consumer and retailer, surmising that consumer expectations and behaviors have diverged significantly from what the average retailer understands.

For instance, 56 percent of the 15,800 consumers polled from around the world rated convenience as the most important value when it comes to in-store experiences whereas only 34 percent of the 210 retailers surveyed answered the same. Aside from convenience, 36 percent prioritized a space to try on new items and experiment with products in-store and 22 percent expressed the availability of expert advice as critical to in-store shopping.

Opinions on delivery reliability, a hugely important factor of the online purchase experience according to respondents, also varied widely between online-only retailers, DTC brands and traditional retailers.

“This crucial stage of the retail journey is one that customers have high expectations of and online-only retailers are fronting the race: 61 percent of consumers feel that ‘the delivery option they want is always available’ compared to 52 percent for traditional retailers and 46 percent for DTC brands,” the report said. “When asked if ‘items always arrive when they say they will’, 52 percent of respondents say this is the case with online-only retailers, compared to 49 percent for traditional and DTC brands.”

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Despite the fact that online-only retailers clearly have the advantage in consumer perception at the delivery level, Oracle said that the comparable numbers for DTC brands and traditional retailers show progress in the retail industry when it comes to internet-driven logistics.

Widely available one-day and same-day delivery might be a relatively new phenomenon but that doesn’t mean consumers don’t already expect or desire it. A whopping 92 percent of consumers surveyed said that “free one-day shipping by whatever means is most expedientdrone, driverless car, messenger, etc.” was something that they would “like/love.”

A survey conducted just last year found that only 43 percent felt that such services would be “awesome” according to Oracle, representing a noteworthy change in consumer desires and behaviors.

“Consumer expectations are perpetually in flux, with each positive experience setting a new bar for success in retail,” Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager at Oracle Retail, said in a statement. “No matter if they’re enjoying the convenience of ridesharing, browsing through a seamless in-app experience or walking into a brick-and-mortar storefront, customers expect the same caliber of service in all interactions, upping the stakes for retailers as they compete with rival brands and new business models.”

Returns were another sticking point for consumers and their feelings toward the issue reinforced the disparity between retailers of all kinds and their shoppers. While 57 percent of all retailers said that their returns process is “very easy,” an equal portion of shoppers described returns as a “complete hassle” that could at least benefit from some improvement.

Consumers were somewhat divergent on the usage of virtual reality (VR) technologies in retail, depending on the region. In total, 54 percent of consumers surveyed said they loved the idea of “online technology that allows you to view a digital version of yourself to try on products (e.g. sunglasses, clothes).” However, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the positive sentiment toward this technology rose to 67 percent versus Europe’s 50 percent rating.

A similar situation exists when it comes to VR that would allow consumers to “browse a virtual closet online and pick out items like you would in a store.” More than half (53 percent) of consumers around the world said they would like to use the technology, with stronger interest 68 percent) indicated by consumers in the UAE and the EMEA region.

Overall, there is work to be done by brands and retailers when it comes to gaining consumer trust. According to the Oracle survey, only 21 percent of millennials surveyed said they “completely trust” what retailers say, a new savvy and skepticism that perhaps reflects years of data breaches, privacy scandals and consumers’ greater access to information beyond marketing campaigns.