Which digital tools are growing fastest, shaping decisions?

New digital-use figures should push retailers to excel in more aspects of cross-channel communication with shoppers.

November 15, 2012

Supermarkets that master digital’s influence on shopping will more ably drive traffic despite heavy competition in multiple channels, and defend sales from online showrooming tactics. 
 
It is equally vital for retailers to execute in the digital space as in their stores, we believe at F3. This involves the artful integration of social media, text messages, downloadable coupons, shopping apps and more. Collaboration with brands could significantly shape shopping decisions.
 
The rising urgency stems from consumers’ growing use of digital tools when planning trips and in-store to help make smarter, higher-value decisions. Usage rates are multiplying, according to the 2012 Ryan Partnership Digital Retail Study:  96% of 8,000 primary household shoppers surveyed say they use at least one digital shopping tool, with most using multiple tools.
 
The five most popular used this past year:  store websites (64% of respondents in 2012, up from 28% in 2010), downloadable coupons (61% in 2012 vs. 28% in 2010), retailer e-mails (53% in 2012 vs.25% in 2010), search engines (51% in 2012), and brand websites (49%). Numerous other tools—such as product reviews, load-to-card coupons, social media, mobile coupons, retailer texts, shopping apps and QR codes—don’t penetrate as deeply, yet show steep ascent since Ryan’s prior survey in 2010.
 
“Usage of digital tools during the planning phase of shopping is no longer a behavior for particularly cost-conscious shoppers or for digital early adopters. Today, such behavior is virtually ubiquitous,” says Kim Finnerty, vp-consumer and shopper insights at Ryan.
 
Shoppers use different digital tools for different purposes, the study found:

Social media from retailers is the strongest driver of new brand and product trial. Therefore, brands launching new items should seek to have stores feature them in their social media efforts, as well as their own.

Shopping apps and retailer tools are the top drivers of unplanned purchasing. Therefore, being included in a retailer’s digital tools improves the selling chances for brands that aren’t on shoppers’ lists.

Text messages from retailers and brands are most likely to influence where people shop. Therefore, retailer-brand collaboration can effectively move “shoppers from the product information that engages them to the store to buy….,” Ryan states.
 
Which tools will grow the fastest in use in 2013? Shopping apps and social-media updates, predicts Ryan, citing shopper utility (such measures as “makes shopping more fun” and “makes me feel like a smart shopper”) and behavioral impact (“I make more unplanned purchases,”  “I try products or brands I never bought before,” and “I spend more than I planned”).
 
“Two years ago, early adopters were the only consumer segment using shopping apps and following retailers’ updates on social media. Now, the vast majority of consumers are weaving these digital tools into their path to purchase,” adds Finnerty. “This [is a] formative shift in shopping behavior…Brands and retailers…that harness the power of these tools across the entire path to purchase stand to win at shelf and beyond.”

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