IBM Study Identifies Consumer Expectations In Online Shopping

Nearly half of shoppers now prefer to do their shopping online, according to a recent IBM Institute for Business Value study on changes in consumer expectations.

The study, which collected and analyzed more than 110,000 responses from global surveys since 2011, sought to identify what shoppers expect when shopping online and what retailers can do to better meet these expectations.

Three major consumer shifts were identified:

  1. A growing preference to shop online.
  2. More openness to communicate with retailers and the importance for well-tailored messaging.
  3. Expectations that digital benefits will cross over into physical stores.

Growing preference for online shopping

One metric measured in the study was shoppers’ “perceived convenience.” While in-store purchasing is still preferred by most shoppers, online delivery has jumped in preference from 23% of shoppers in 2011 to 36% of shoppers in 2014. This shift introduces a “new range of non-traditional competitors that present themselves as the heroes of near real-time fulfillment.”

Open Communication 

With the explosion of mobile technologies and social networks, today’s consumers are interacting with businesses more than ever. This growing interaction moves consumers to expect “tailored, meaningful messages”, the study suggests. Retailers have sought to meet this expectation by learning more about their customers. Through advanced analytics, retailers have moved to collecting data on browsing behavior, location, communication preference and much more.

This increase in consumer-retailer connection has also made shoppers more willing to share information with preferred retailers. The study identified a rise in willingness to share their social handles, location and mobile number for text.

Digital Benefits Crossing Into Physical Store 

Online shopping has also created the perception of a “low out-of-stock world”, bolstering higher expectations in inventory visibility. Sixty percent of surveyed consumers indicated that an important differentiator in the ability to see if an item is in stock before going to the store.

As online shopping continues its state of flux, it is difficult to forecast how consumer expectations, too, will change. The IBM Institute’s follow-up study will investigate retailers quest for stability in an ever-changing ecommerce environment.

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