Seamlessness the next retail virtue

April 16, 2013

To satisfy consumers across store, online and mobile channels, be consistent and personalized, says new study.

The Lempert Report bets retailers whining about “showrooming”—where they examine merchandise in stores and buy online—never let on how much they benefit from “webrooming”—the opposite behavior where people search products online and culminate their purchase in stores.

New research, the Accenture Seamless Retail Study, provides a clue.  During the six months before the poll, 73% of consumers showroomed, but 88% webroomed.  Accenture polled 750 U.S. consumers and 62 large global retailers.

If sales do flow both ways, it stands to reason that retailers with the most seamless shopping experience across channels (store, online, mobile) capture more customers.  The importance of seamlessness will rise because, the study says, 43% of U.S. consumers plan to shop more online and 23% plan to shop more with their mobile phones in the future.

However, a vast gap exists today between consumer expectations and reality.  While “seamlessness is a tall order for most traditional retailers, we believe it’s achievable,” says Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s retail practice.  “Traditional retailers must take stock of their operational capabilities.  They require a presence at every stage of the customer journey to deliver a consistently personalized, on-brand experience from discovery through research, purchase, fulfillment and beyond to product maintenance or returns.”

Consumers said where they’d find seamless value:

  • 89% want retailers to let them shop for products in the way that is most convenient for them, regardless of the sales channel.
  • 73% expect a retailer’s online prices to match in-store prices, and 61% also expect promotional prices to be the same in-store and online.  However, a survey of top global retailers showed just 16% gave the same prices online as in-store, and 73% offer the same promotions.
  • 81% want a store pickup or delivery service, regardless of how they paid.
  • 43% want the same product assortments online as in-store, but just 19% offer this.
  • 82% said they’d like their favorite retailers to tell them current product availability before going to the store, and 30% would like a crowd indicator that indicates how busy a store is.

Notably, 94% of consumers said they feel in-store shopping is easy.  Just 74% felt this way about online shopping and 26% about mobile shopping.