Consumers seek self-service as they cut back

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on January 19, 2009

Unprecedented price wars and product promotions by retailers across the board may be saving consumers money in the short term, but it is also costing consumers more of their personal time, according to a survey commissioned by NCR, which found that self-service options in the retail environment are now becoming more sought-after.

The research found that bargain-hunting Americans are now spending more time evaluating less familiar brands, switching among stores to take advantage of price deals, and scheduling their shopping trips to coincide with the arrival of their pay cheques.

In fact, the company found that 72% of consumers are now more likely to shop with a retailer that gives them the flexibility of interacting online, via the mobile channel, and through self-service kiosks.

NCR argues that retailers stand a better chance of winning consumers' trade and loyalty if they can make shopping both faster and easier. The company suggests offering greater levels of in-store help, faster check-out, and the seamless integration of stores, the internet, and the mobile channel.

"Marketers tend to assume that in an economic downturn the consumer is mainly motivated by price, but this research shows that retailers also need to deliver on service expectations that consumers value," said Mike Webster, chief strategy and communications officer for NCR. "Consumers in these uncertain times are showing a preference for retailers that can meet their expectations through self-service options via the web, mobile, and in-store."

Among the study's key findings:

  • 53% of consumers are now using the internet more frequently to research products and prices before making a purchase decision;
  • 46% said they want to receive price comparisons, product reviews, coupons, promotions and store sales information online or via e-mail;
  • 49% said they are switching between retailers to get better value for money;
  • 80% said they are buying discount or sale items more often than before;
  • 26% said they are making more frequent shopping trips to take advantage of promotions;
  • 21% said they are shopping at stores with more flexible hours, while 17% are increasing trips in line with their pay days;
  • 63% said they are trading down to store-brand or generic products rather than sticking with the branded goods they had purchased before;
  • 43% said they are buying ingredients to cook meals from scratch rather than buying ready-made meals;
  • 73% said that it is important that store employees are available to help locate products;
  • 55% said that it is important that employees should ensure that discounted items are not out of stock;
  • 48% said that employees' advice on discounts and promotions is important to them;
  • 72% said they are more likely to shop with a retailer that gives them the flexibility to interact easily via online, mobile and kiosk self-service channels;
  • 49% believe that kiosks that show them where to find products in stores would be convenient;
  • 43% believe that receiving discount offers and product information on large screens in-store would also be convenient, while 39% said they would like self-return systems in-store to help make their shopping trips shorter.

According to NCR, existing retailers using self-checkout systems have reported decreased customer queue times of up to 40%, and increased check-out speeds of up to 20%.

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