Price wars and promotions may be saving consumers money but it comes at a personal cost because it takes up their valuable time as they more carefully evaluate brands and make more frequent shopping trips, according to research from NCR Corporation.
The company's '2009 Self-Service Consumer Survey' aimed to shed light on consumer purchasing decisions, the impact the economy is having, and what customers are demanding from retailers.
Among the key findings, NCR noted that consumers are nw spending more time evaluating less familiar brands, 'shop-hopping' to capitalise on offers and deals, and scheduling their main shopping trips to coincide with pay day.
The study suggests that there is a growing need for retailers to make things easier and faster for their customers, whether through better in-store assistance, faster check-outs, or greater integration of the web and mobile devices. Interestingly, 75% of consumers said they would be more likely to shop with retailers that offer flexibility via online, mobile and kiosk self-service channels, rather than retailers that do not offer these options.
"Many executives assume that, in an economic downturn, the consumer is only motivated by price but this research shows that retailers also need to deliver on changing service expectations that consumers say they value as well," warned Mike Webster, chief strategy and communications officer for NCR. "Consumers in these uncertain times are clearly showing a preference for retailers that can meet their expectations through self-service options, and these technologies are playing a growing role in helping retailers achieve a competitive advantage."
Indeed, the study found that efforts by retailers to drive sales through discount and promotions are already having a significant effect on shoppers' purchasing decisions and behaviour. For example:
- 53% are using the Internet more frequently to research products and prices;
- 46% want to receive price comparisons, product reviews, coupons, promotions and store sales information online or via e-mail;
- 49% are switching between retailers (shop hopping) to get better value. Shop hopping also takes the form of more 'just in time' trips in order take advantage of deals and manage cash flow;
- 80% said that they are buying discount or sale items;
- 26% are making more frequent shopping trips to take advantage of promotions;
- 21% are shopping at stores with more flexible hours;
- 17% are increasing trips in line with their pay day.
The economic downturn is also affecting decisions that are usually made in-store as consumers switch to more unfamiliar products in search of better value for money. Noteworthy findings included:
- 63% are trading down to own or store brands or generic products rather than buying branded goods;
- 44% are preparing their own meals for special occasions rather than eating out;
- 43% are buying ingredients from scratch rather than using ready meals;
- 33% believe the tendency of other people to spend more time shopping is making stores busier;
- 44% report an increased desire to pay for shopping more quickly;
- 73% believe that it is important that store employees are available to help locate products;
- 55% believe it is important that store employees should ensure that discounted items are not out of stock;
- 48% believe that staff advice on discounts and promotions is important;
- 72% are more likely to shop with a retailer that offers the flexibility to interact via online, mobile and kiosk self-service channels;
- 49% said 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 be convenient;
- 39% said they want self-return systems for processing returns more quickly.
NCR claims that retailers using self-checkout systems have reported a decreased customer queue time of 40% and increased checkout speed of 20%, mainly because adopting a broader range self-service options helps to free up staff to improve service and revenue opportunities in store.