Retailers and consumer goods companies are not meeting shoppers' needs in two key areas: product selection and customer service. But these two factors, it appears, are the most influential in determining where people shop and what they buy according to a survey by Accenture.
In a survey of 575 US consumers, almost three-quarters (72%) reported that customer service had a significant influence on whether or not they buy something.
More than half (54%), however, said that helpful customer service was lacking in stores, and even more (58%) said there were not enough salespeople available to help them. Only 35% of those surveyed said they were able to get help "most or all" of the time when they needed it.
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of those surveyed said good product selection played a key role in their decision of where to shop. Yet, more than one-third (38%) said limited selection was a common problem they encountered while shopping.
"It's significant that the two chief factors influencing purchase decisions are the same ones that shoppers complain about most," said Keith Barringer, global managing director, Accenture's Consumer Goods & Service practice. "Manufacturers and retailers that bridge this gap to offer better product selection and customer service can reap the rewards - improved sales and margins, for example - of turning shoppers into loyal customers. Bridging the gap, however, takes a dedication to innovation and the ability to be truly customer-centric."
Nearly all of the consumers surveyed (98%) said they need product information before or while purchasing a product. But, as another sign of the gap that exists between what shoppers want and what they get, less than half (48%) said they were able to obtain this information most of the time.
According to Jeff Smith, global managing director for Accenture's retail practice, "Companies looking to perform better would be well-served to spend time and effort determining what product and service improvements they can make that will connect with their target customers' needs. The first step in this process is to determine who that target customer is and what she or he wants."
High Street preference
Fortunately, it seems there is no shortage of High Street shoppers. Four out of five of those surveyed (80%) said they predominantly shop in stores instead of online and more than half (58%) report they shop in a store between two and six times per week.
For those who do shop online, the experience varied. While 54% of those surveyed said both online customer service and the service found in stores was bad, 61% said it was easy to find product information online and 63% said it was easy to compare products online.
Still a chore?
Only 14% of respondents felt that shopping is easier today than it was two years ago. More than one-third of those surveyed (38%) found browsing in stores a pleasant experience but almost as many (32%) are in a hurry and need to get in and out of the store quickly most or all of the time. Only 17% consider shopping to be a leisure outing.
Nearly two out of three survey respondents (63%) said stores do nothing to reward customer loyalty and that the stores they frequent treat them no differently from other customers. Online, however, it was a very different story: More than half of respondents (55%) said online retailers reward their loyalty with benefits such as special promotions.
Nearly all of those surveyed (87%) said price was the most important factor in deciding where to shop. For those shopping online, price was also the top factor, cited by 77% of those surveyed.
More than half (57%) shop online for convenience, while 45% use the web for products that are only available online.