November 20, 2013

Retail Shopping: The Experience of Discovery

By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

Visit the website of fashion retailer bebe and odds are you'll find cheaper prices than in a local outlet as well as some online exclusives. However price is not the only reason – or even the main reason – why consumers shop online.

What's really key is the overall shopping experience.

Does the mobistore have a great selection? Is it easy and fun to browse? Are the prices clearly marked? If I'm looking for something specific, can I find it quickly?

These same questions should be at the top of the list for brick and mortar retailers as well.

According to the 2013 BuzzCity Retail Survey – a poll of 13,000 mobile users across 20 countries – product variety is the number one factor for shoppers, regardless of whether a store is located online or not.

In addition, contrary to popular perception, online shopping is not taking away from High Street retailers. Instead, we're increasingly seeing a fusion between the two as consumers look for information online before heading to retail stores and some brands that were internet-only have begun setting up a physical presence.

Let's start with some fast facts . . .

First, what is most important to consumers when shopping in-store?  About one-third of our survey respondents cited good product variety as well as product & price display.

The numbers are not as high, but the top two answers are the same for online shopping. Nearly 1 in 5 consumers say that product variety and ease of navigation are important for online commerce.

Let's return to the example of bebe, which uses a number of tools and approaches to showcase the variety of its products and encourage a fun straight-forward experience of discovery. On the site's home page, several beautiful dresses are featured under “Looks We Love”. Click on one of the models and you're taken to a page with short videos – about 15 - 20” each – with titles like “Downtown Date”, “Shimmer & Sheer” and “Office to Cocktails”. In each video, a model slowly turns to show the outfit from different angles.

bebe also makes use of social media, giving it real estate on its home page as well, in a section called “Be Seen: Show How You Wear Bebe”. The brand's consumers are partners here; they upload their own pix of bebe clothes and accessories.

Again from the home page – or the dropdown menu that appears throughout the site – consumers can easily drill down to a specific product, see the price tag and view photos of it taken from different angles. In addition, there are recommendations for shoes and other accessories that go with the chosen look.

Now some observers have argued that the advent of online and mobile stores has corresponded to a fall in traditional shopping. It's true that most mobile users buy things online now (59%), but these same consumers also tell us that they still shop in stores.

For some products, like groceries, there's still a preference for in-store shopping. For categories like clothing, hardware, home funishings and travel, the numbers are evenly split, while online shopping has a slight edge when it comes to computers & electronics, books & music and sporting goods.

What traditional retailers need to realise though is that their consumers are connected. Nearly 30% of shoppers check prices or product availability before going to a store. Many others use their phones while in a store to compare prices, check product reviews and get tips from friends. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 shoppers now feel that they are better connected to product information than store clerks.

Failure to deliver a good experience at a good price is the danger all merchants face. If a consumer is in a store, but while there finds a better deal online, can't get the right information or finds that the checkout queue or delivery time is too long, then s/he is likely to leave the store without making a purchase.

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