Context is critical for retailers selling to connected consumers

Retailers should consider the context around connected customers’ shopping, a new report suggests. That’s because, argues a report from Black Pepper Software, how shoppers buy depends on what they are buying.

Original research carried out for the Fit for the Future; Is your business agile enough to keep up the connected consumer? report revealed that more than half (54 per cent) of UK consumers’ buying patterns change with the item they are purchasing.

Mapping how the same shopper behaves in different ways when making purchases across seven key sectors – automotive, consumer electronics, DIY, fashion, finance grocery and leisure purchases, such as short breaks and holidays – the report found three key trends.

Complexity impacts channel choice
When it comes to the complexity of a purchase, the more complex the item, the greater number of channels consumers will use, as they research and validate their decision across multiple touchpoints. Consumers preferred to buy every day, ‘straight forward’ items in one channel; over half (51 per cent) always buy groceries in-store, while fashion purchases are split between the store (29 per cent) and online (24 per cent). Yet, when it came to ‘big ticket’ items, such as buying a car, a quarter (23 per cent) research options in both physical and online channels.

Customer service doesn’t need to be ‘hands-on’
The level of involvement a customer craves from businesses to assist their path to purchase also varies depending on the buying situation. Assisted by connect devices, shoppers are more independent, allowing them to research and justify their own purchases. A third (33 per cent) of fashion shoppers, for instance, don’t want help from store associates, while a further 30 per cent of grocery shoppers prefer to look up information online or at a digital kiosk as opposed to asking in-store staff. Similarly, 19 per cent of car buyers say they are put off by overly pushy sales people.

Personal doesn’t mean ‘personalised’
While a third (34 per cent) of UK shoppers expect a more personal level of service when buying an expensive item, consumers wanted recognition and relevance in these ‘personalised’ encounters. Cross channel recognition – taking in to account behaviours and total value across online and physical platforms – was key for 44 per cent, while 68 per cent said they wanted offers and incentives based on previous browsing and buying behaviours.

Josie Byrne, account director at Black Pepper Software, said: “When developing the customer experience, it’s imperative that businesses take a long-term view, as opposed to just focusing on what consumers need today. A short-term view may fix immediate problems, but it can inhibit long-term innovation, where true competitive advantage lies.

“To truly innovate around the connected customer, businesses need the technical flexibility that agile software development can provide, to quickly and efficiently create rich multichannel and personalised customer experiences,” she concluded.