Evolution Turned Revolution of Shopper Expectations

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Look closely, and you’ll see consumers took the reins setting fast-changing expectations years before the pandemic drove them from evolution to revolution. The rise of omnichannel, social-media-driven, service-conscious consumers across socioeconomic lines with a hunger for endless aisles and a thirst for convenience is now lightyears ahead of two years ago. 

For retailers, the challenge continues to be how to serve diverse customers (giving them what they want when they need it) to maintain loyalty and avoid brand abandonment. Ignoring a channel weakens loyalty. Stagnation breeds vulnerability to competition. Innovation is perceived differently by demographic, and in-store innovation is often slowed by legacy constraints and vendor dependency. 

Today, all indications point to retailers needing agility and iteration that delivers results in 60 to 90 days coupled with control to develop and deploy their innovative experiences with independence. 

To validate the perception of agility’s role in responding to customer expectations, we surveyed over 600 consumers, collecting more than 12,000 responses across regions and demographics to see how shopping changed in 2021 and what it means for retailers. 

What Do Shoppers Really Expect?

When it comes to grocery store experiences, shoppers showed high sensitivity to price with nearly one-third (30%) leaving their preferred brand due to price.An almost equal number of customers (27%) abandoned brands due to limited stock, long lines, or not having delivery or curbside pickup, punctuating the fragility of brand loyalty. But the data does show measurable value for delivering modern engagement options as shoppers who use curbside pickup services showed a 3 percentage point drop in their likelihood to switch stores based on price.

This suggests that continued improvement to “in-the-moment” services can offer protection against the low return of head-to-head price competition. The survey findings are supported by reports from industry leaders like Kroger, which has 60 million households annually shopping with them either in-store or digitally, who note a 98% retention rate when customers engage with them in-store and online. 

This “stickiness” is incredibly valuable and makes it clear that the opportunities for digital engagement still have significant headroom to return on investments for brands of all types.

One Size Does Not Fit All 

Another interesting trend centered on demographics. Across all shoppers surveyed, checkout preferences were almost evenly split between traditional cashier-assisted lanes and self-checkout (39% vs 44%),while just over 20% opted for things like pickups or scan-and-go. But shifting to mobile-generation shoppers, preference and expectation for modern and contactless checkout options were profound. Seventy-two percent of shoppers aged 18-29 use self-checkout, mobile checkout, or curbside pickup as their preferred method to complete transactions versus 28 percent who use traditional lanes. 

This is where demographic diversion became clear. Shoppers over 44 noted a significant preference for cashier checkout over self-checkout (49% vs 8%), and less than 4% use mobile or contactless options. 

What does this mean for today’s retailer? In short, the disparity by demographic indicates that agility and iteration are key factors in creating experiences that resonate across all customers. Shoppers have clear expectations and defined preferences so to serve them efficiently, retailers must remove legacy constraints on in-store technology to bring fast, efficient and scalable experiences to the moment of interaction wherever that occurs. 

Automated, mobile, and self-checkout options provide shopper choice and help to optimize retailers’ human capital. Building a modern checkout strategy on a unified commerce transaction engine allows retailers to unlock value from their legacy point of sale (POS) or replace the system entirely while gaining access to cloud-native, SaaS commerce services that enable unlimited control of user experiences. 

Invest in Your Future 

Soaring expectations indicate that retailers must deliver attention, choice, convenience, personalization, and perks that hook customers in the moment and place of engagement to protect critical market share and competitive advantage. Customer acquisition costs five to 20 times more than retention, not even counting long-term customer value. Therefore, gaining a unified, actionable view of customers across all channels and time is an investment that pays undeniable benefits.

—Lexy Johnson is CMO at OneView Commerce empowering retailers with the agility and control of unified commerce.

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