February 02, 2016

Retailers’ Mobile Capabilities Lag Customer Demands, Accenture Research Finds

Research highlights need for retailers worldwide to improve mobile capabilities to meet customer demands for adaptive retail

NEW YORK; Feb. 2, 2016 – Retailers are failing to meet consumer demand for increased convenience while shopping with mobile devices, according to new research from Accenture.

Accenture conducted two pieces of research: the Accenture Adaptive Retail report, which surveyed more than 10,000 consumers across 13 countries; and a separate benchmarking study that evaluated a global sample of 162 retailers in 10 countries across multiple industries. Taken together, the research findings highlight the need for retailers to become more adaptive in order to embrace and achieve the connected and integrated shopping experience that consumers seek.

Smart shopping with smart phones
The consumer survey found that the number of consumers shopping “on the go,” with mobile devices, grew 10 percent in the past year, from 36 percent of consumers in 2014 to 40 percent in 2015. Not surprisingly, the number of shoppers who want more retail services via mobile devices, particularly real-time in-store promotions, also grew this past year, to 47 percent, up from 40 percent in last year’s survey. However, only seven percent of retailers said they currently have the ability to send real-time promotions.

Furthermore, while nearly one-third (32 percent) of shoppers want to be able to scan products in-store using their mobile devices – up from 27 percent in 2014 – only 17 percent of retailers provide scanning capabilities. At the same time, 42 percent of shoppers want to receive automatic credit for coupons and discounts via their mobile phones – up from 35 percent last year – yet only 16 percent of retailers have the capability to automatically credit coupons.

“Retailers must make every effort to improve their mobile commerce capabilities and keep up with consumers expectations,” said Patricia Walker, senior managing director in Accenture’s Products practice and the company’s North America Retail Practice lead. “To be an adaptive retailer, the experience needs to be seamless experience for consumers who expect mobile devices to ease the shopping experience, both online and in-store.”

While retailers are adapting to the increase in consumer demand for improved mobile capabilities, with the vast majority offering smartphone-optimized websites (93 percent) and tablet-optimized websites (89 percent), they are not doing enough: the research found that only 58 percent of retailers offer smartphone apps with purchase capabilities.

Meeting Expectations (or Not)
Despite inconsistent mobile capabilities, overall, shoppers feel that retailers meet the majority of their expectations, according to the Accenture research. However, while 67 percent of shoppers were satisfied with store environment and product quality, only 52 percent were happy with interaction with staff and delivery, and 51 percent with web environment and returns.

The Adaptive Retail benchmark assessed retailers in terms of nearly 200 dimensions that evaluated their performance across six key metrics: consistent experience; connected shopping; flexible fulfilment; personalized interaction; integrated merchandising; and a better, faster, memorable experience. Among the findings:

“This year’s survey confirms that retailers have begun to adapt to the evolving needs of their customers. However, the challenge they face is investing in building the important digital elements of their channel strategy while remaining focused on driving profits which in many cases is still primarily driven by stores. Retailers need to understand however, that they are actually involved in a race that will likely accelerate as consumers continually seek more value, greater convenience, and better customer experience across all channels,” said Walker.

Accenture’s research also showed a nearly 60 percent increase in the number of shoppers who want the ability to order out-of-stock products when shopping in-store – 27 percent, up from 17 percent in 2014. Some retailers are already meeting that expectation, with almost half (46 percent) employing store staff who can order out-of-stock items for customers; however, only nine percent have in-store kiosks for customers to place those orders.

“Visibility across channels is becoming more important to consumers globally,” Walker continued. “Our research found that the number of consumers who want the ability to check product availability online prior to visiting a store almost doubled this past year, to 49 percent, up from 27 percent in 2014. However, less than one-third of retailers – just 28 percent – offer this capability. Retailers must begin to look at their businesses from the consumer’s perspective and place digital at the very core of the customer experience if they want to succeed.”

‘Creepy’ vs. ‘Cool’ Customer Experiences
Despite the desire for the ultimate personalized experience, shoppers still have reservations about some retailer capabilities related to mobile use. The Accenture research found that 75 percent of shoppers believe that a retailer’s ability to automatically adjust the price of items for loyalty points and other discounts is a ‘cool’ offering, whereas six percent consider such ability ‘creepy.’

Interestingly, 41 percent of shoppers think that having sales associates who know the items in their online wish list or shopping basket is ‘creepy,’ compared with 29 percent who view it as ‘cool’. However, 45 percent of shoppers said that a retail website that automatically tailors to “who I am, what I like and what I have previously purchased” is ‘cool.’

While more than half (56 percent) of shoppers see promotional offers as ‘cool’, 41 percent think that receiving recommendations based on social media is ‘creepy.’ More than half of shoppers (55 percent) want websites optimized for mobile devices, while 16 percent consider that ‘creepy’.

Accenture’s benchmark of retailers across the globe found that some retailers are taking measures to get to know their customers better in order to provide more personalized experiences:

Differing Shopper Lifestyles Across the Globe
The Accenture Adaptive Retail report found that several companies have a significant impact on consumers’ lifestyles across the globe. Google (57 percent) and Facebook (41 percent) are the top two companies with the largest impact on shoppers, followed by Apple, Netflix and Uber, who did not have as much of an impact globally. This varies by geography – in the U.S., Amazon was listed as the top influencer (59 percent) followed by Google (56 percent), while the UK, France and Japan ranked Google first (50 percent, 46 percent, 40 percent, respectively), followed by Amazon (40 percent, 36 percent, 40 percent, respectively). Meanwhile, China-based consumers (74 percent) are more largely impacted by social (weibo), followed by Alibaba (72 percent).

Accenture conducted an online survey of 10,096 consumers in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States who have shopped both online and in stores during the last three months of 2015. Sourced from panel data, survey respondents were vetted by ESOMAR, which adheres to strict international guidelines for market research. The sample of shoppers came from seven equally weighted sectors: apparel; consumer electronics; department stores; discount, mass, and hypermarket stores; grocery stores; drug stores; and home improvement outlets. The survey represents respondents in terms of gender, generation, household income level and place of residence. The survey screened all shoppers for regular Internet and smartphone use and has a 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.

To understand retailer capabilities, in November 2015 Accenture benchmarked a global sample of 162 companies representing the apparel, consumer electronics, department store, discount/mass/hypermarket, grocery, drug/HBA and home improvement sectors in ten countries around the world. The research assessed retailers in terms of nearly 200 dimensions that evaluated their performance across six key metrics: consistent experience; connected shopping; flexible fulfilment; personalized interaction; integrated merchandizing; and a better, faster, memorable experience.

About Accenture
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network – Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With approximately 373,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.

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Caroline Douglas
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