At a recent Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) event, Walgreens’ president of digital and CMO, Sona Chawla, discussed the new e-commerce initiatives that Walgreens has implemented since her tenure, and made a point to tell the audience that she believes this is the most exciting time in retail. For those of us in the industry, we couldn’t agree more. The history of retail is made up of many transformative “moments,” from the first cash register invented in 1883, to the opening of the first shopping mall in 1930 and the establishment of online retail giant Amazon in 1995.
We are currently living in an age of intense digital transformation, where retail shoppers are making a global impact on the industry. They are armed with more technology and knowledge than ever before, not to mention a whole new attitude of what they expect from retailers. Retailers, you need to be listening, or else risk missing this significant retail moment.
The NRF recently released a report tracking how consumers scored the importance of different online shopping services, including:
• Flexible return policy
• Importance of free shipping
• Importance of low prices
• Importance of store pick up and return
According to the survey, low price, in-store pick up/return and “live” customer service has been declining in importance, while free shipping, an easy-to-use-website experience and a flexible return policy are all at the top of the wish-list for shoppers. A recent Gallup poll revealed that more than 35% of American adults are doing more of their shopping online than they were a year ago, but are retailers giving them the online shopping experiences they expect? Shoppers are being very clear about what they want, and they want it now:
• Low price isn’t everything – They want a more engaging shopping experience to help them find the products they want as quickly as possible. (And they don’t want to pay for shipping, either!)
• Convenience, convenience and convenience – Did we say convenience? Shoppers want options that allow for the ease of buying and returning products in the method that best suits them. They’re shifting some of their shopping from the store, but they expect similar conveniences.
We are hearing this kind of shopper feedback from multiple resources, too. In that same Gallup poll, it was reported that most retailers are falling short on delivering the ideal online experience for shoppers. The survey reported that of the retail customers who shopped online more often and shopped the same or less offline, 32% are actively disengaged and 53% were indifferent. That’s a pretty large piece of the shopper pie who are not exactly thrilled with the current state of the online shopping union.
Lastly, in a recent announcement from OrderDynamics, there is a huge disconnect between the omni-channel services that retailers are delivering and what customers actually want. According to the company, more than half of online shoppers want a named delivery date, but only 15% of retailers currently offer it. By contrast, 61% of retailers offer next-day delivery, but only 10% of shoppers are willing to pay extra for the service. And here we go back to shoppers putting more value on unique service offerings and memorable online shopping experiences, and less on price.
The changes in retail won’t stop, and neither will the wants and needs of today’s online shopper that are cementing new retail moments:
• Online retail is shifting from a fulfillment channel to a true shopping channel.
• The store is shifting to provide new value as a place to research before buying online.
We all know that success in retail is keeping the customer happy. If retailers make it too hard for shoppers to find what they want, and hold back on giving them the online services and features they expect, the competition is just a click away.