What do shoppers really want from the retail experience?

E-commerce has dramatically changed how people shop, and led retailers to rethink the role of their stores. 

With change being a constant and continually accelerating, there is truly only one way to learn what shoppers want and expect their shopping experience to be like and that is by asking them directly.

Together with retail research specialists Ipsos and GfK, Axis Communications surveyed consumers to understand their ideal shopping experience and to help retailers design the stores of the future. The research team turned their focus to fashion (cosmetics, clothes, sportswear, accessories and shoes) where the pace of change and fierce competition is at its greatest.

A total of 2500 shoppers in New York, Shanghai and Paris were interviewed about their expectations for the shopping experience, offline and online, both today and in the future. 

Why do we need physical stores?

As an enthusiastic shopper myself, it came as no surprise that seeing and touching products is the main reason for visiting a physical store instead of going online in all the survey locations, added to the fact that you get the products immediately in a physical store. What also triggers a visit to the physical store is getting direct personal advice from the sales assistant. 

With just 10 per cent of people only shopping online, 14 per cent only in physical stores, but 77 per cent in both environments, the study shows that the consumer does not want either/or, but for the retailer to have both physical and online stores which complement each other, with a seamless experience across all online and offline touchpoints (and this includes consistency of pricing).

In the light of above it is positive to read that last year’s trend continues in the US, with more than five retail chains opening stores for every retailer that is closing stores. 

The experience is key 

The research found that in Shanghai particularly, shopping provides an important and attractive opportunity for social activity with friends. This is consistent with the trend particularly seen at malls all over Asia, the region leading ‘retailtainment’, where shopping malls are environments aiming at providing a richer experience focused on social engagement: dinner, sports, socialising and bringing many generations together. A meeting place beyond shopping that sometimes integrates retail, leisure and residential into a single large complex.

For the first time in world history we have six generations of shoppers simultaneously: The Silent generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, Generation Z, and Alpha Generation, with the two latter ones being true digital natives. Looking forward to the desired retail experience of the future, the overt use of technology to improve the experience in-store – from fitting rooms to payment on mobile – received a mix response across the different geographic regions in our research. 

The consumer wants the shopping experience to be convenient, and technology has a role in solving some of the key issues seen by shoppers, from reducing queues at checkouts (90 per cent of respondents saw this as important) to helping retailers provide an appropriate number of assistants at busy times. Most shoppers stated that having shop assistants available when they need (80 per cent) was an important factor in the ideal shopping environment. 

The above highlights just a few of the findings and insights from the research study. More of the top findings and insights will be shared at the coming Axis Retail Forum on November 12.


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