The eternal question: what do shoppers want?

Magento takes a look at the results from a UK Consumer Preferences Study on what makes a British shopper choose one brand over another.

Customer-centricity has turned into an industry buzzword. But it is true that building your strategy around customer needs and preferences may be the only way to navigate the ever-evolving retail landscape. It used to be that customers would come to you – now, retailers need to cater to shoppers’ ever-evolving demands to secure a sale.

It’s therefore imperative for brands to understand what consumers want, in order to tailor their approach and focus their efforts on meeting these expectations to drive success. In today’s competitive landscape, any insight into shoppers’ mindset is an invaluable tool to win the retail race.

That’s why we ran a survey to find out what influences UK and international shoppers’ buying behaviours. You can click here to download the full report.

It’s not easy being green – but it certainly pays off

Climate change is at the centre of the global debate. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg has become an icon in her own right, drawing unprecedented attention to this issue and challenging world leaders to address the spiralling situation.
Perhaps as a result of this hype, today’s consumers are more environmentally-conscious than ever before, and this hugely affects the way they shop. Afterall, everything from what we eat to how we travel and what we wear, has an impact on our planet. Therefore, the retail industry, facing complexities such as production, packaging, distribution, returns and so on, has inevitably been involved in the conversation. Customers want to shop from sustainable brands, so they pay attention to these aspects and their effect on the environment. For instance, they favour brands that work to reduce their carbon footprint by shipping sensibly, as well as those that utilise recyclable materials. Our report’s results confirm this: a significant 47% of those surveyed in the UK prefer retailers that minimise packaging.

In particular, Millennials and Gen Z’ers are growing up with the climate challenge dominating the headlines and this core component of the customer base is gaining more and more spending power, so merchants can’t afford to not consider their desire to shop responsibly.

The full report covers the other environmental factors that consumers say drive them to choose one retailer over another. Click here to read about how today’s sustainability culture influences how consumers shop.

Friction is still a big turn-off

While looking after planet Earth has moved up the customer agenda, some things never change: frictionless and engaging experiences still win shoppers’ hearts. The past few years have seen the astounding growth of online shopping, due to its unbeatable convenience. An undoubtable focus for retailers has been designing error-free, smooth-running websites – even a few seconds’ delay in page loading times can result in a missed sale and a customer who is unlikely to return.

The post-sale experience is no less important: despite the growing amount of orders and ambitious shipping expectations, brands are under pressure to manage flawless operations in order to offer customers choice and quality service. Speedy, affordable (if not free) and convenient deliveries that fit around customers’ busy lives are a must, leaving retailers that fail to achieve this losing business.

Sure, customer preferences evolve and new trends arise – futuristic stores with augmented reality features will help to attract shoppers’ attention,but – it’s undeniable – retailers that get the basics right always prevail.

For example, more than half of the British consumers we surveyed confirmed this need for merchants to have five-star core functionalities, and said website ease of use is a key deciding factor.

Take the money and run

The need to eliminate friction from the buying experience at all costs extends to all of its phases – and payments are no exception. In fact, the payments space is perhaps the element of retail that has witnessed some of the most exciting innovations.

In an effort to knock down all barriers to sale, forward-thinking retailers are streamlining payments beyond anything we imagined. We are now seeing options to buy now & pay later, cashierless stores were trialled by UK giants like Sainsbury’s and Tesco, and Amazon hopes to roll out a feature which will allow customers to pay with a wave of their hand in its stores. For their part, web stores opened their doors to new technologies such as cryptocurrencies and e-wallets.

But, when it comes down to it, what payment methods do people actually favour? Many UK shoppers just want to be able to easily pay with credit and debit card, so is it worthwhile for vendors to invest time and resources to integrate complex payment tools into their sites?

Automation fascination?

One of the most impactful technological advances of this era is without a doubt the rise of automation and artificial intelligence – these tools have irreversibly changed the way we interact with brands and vendors across all aspects of our lives. From a business perspective, manufacturing and packaging companies are now able to take efficiency to new levels thanks to robotics and machine learning. Naturally, retailers, too, are intrigued by the potential to rely more on machines, optimise resources and boost profits. But, for customer-facing organisations, does an increased adoption of automation come at a price? Brands looking to do more with less risk alienating customers who still value the human touch.

Retailers should ask themselves whether their customers would be willing to buy from highly automated companies and give up on all human interaction for the sake of receiving better service? Our research showed some surprising results in terms of how consumers in Britain feel about dealing with artificial intelligence when shopping.

There is no doubt that, this year, the pressure is on for retailers to turn around the discouraging results of the previous one and kick off the roaring twenties on a positive note. Keeping up with volatile consumer trends, while running a sustainable and profitable business, might seem near to impossible. However, brands can overcome these challenges by maintaining a customer-centric, insights-based approach powered by modern eCommerce technology.

If you would like to read more, download the full report. 

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