Digital influence: Shoppers have new paths to purchase

Analysis

Digital influence: Shoppers have new paths to purchase

Today’s digital shoppers do not follow the same “rules of the road” that they used to. Most people now interact with brands or products through digital before arriving at the physical store. These customers do their research online, identify the products they want to purchase, and even select the stores and departments they want to visit. They may even purchase a product online to be picked up at a store. In short, customers in the digital era are more hunters than gatherers once they arrive in-store, and the influence of digital channels is without question.

Customer satisfaction and loyalty is a matter of trust. Previously, customers came to the store to collect any information they could about products and made their decision during that trip—the store was likely one of their only sources of product information. Today, as the number of information sources has grown, the digital-enabled customer can actively decide where amongst their many options to look for the best information. These customers look to influencers through social media, often friends or family, subject matter experts, or independent bloggers, for their trusted information. They also visit review sites to assess everything from quality to price to customer service, as evaluated by complete strangers. The common thread is that many consumers place their trust in these influencers specifically because they are not tied directly to retailers or brands.

For the third year in a row, Deloitte Digital conducted a survey with thousands of consumers to understand how consumers engage with digital when shopping, and to measure the digital influence on their in-store purchase behavior. This year, and over two million data points later, the continuing growth of digital influence is resulting in a widening divide between consumers’ digital expectations and retailers’ ability to deliver on them.

Our research uncovered three key findings that help us understand the trajectory of digital influence:

1. Simply measuring channel sales misses the larger trend

Our latest research points to the fact that digital sales alone—a metric used by most retailers to measure the success of their digital strategy—is a lagging indicator. The 76 percent of surveyed consumers using digital devices to shop prior to their store trip are making digitally-influenced decisions much earlier in the process and it’s not just about the moment the shopper makes a buying decision.

It is about a much broader spectrum of ‘moments that matter’ along the journey. Many retailers are looking in the wrong places to measure success—failing to understand whether or not they are affecting these early steps.

The impact of digital on overall sales is fundamental and retailers are losing authority along the purchase journey, particularly as many nontraditional competitors are focusing on these earlier steps in the purchase process.

2. Consumers use digital very differently by category

Shoppers are defining their own journeys, and more often, are doing this in the category or even the product level. How a customer gets inspired and informed to buy shoes may differ greatly from how he or she buys groceries or electronics, as evidenced by disparities in digital behaviors. With the digital influence factor ranging from 31 percent for the food and beverage category all the way up to 62 percent for electronics, the variation is clear: category by category, shoppers curate different shopping experiences using digital.

3. In-store shopping has digital at its core

As inspiration, information, and decision-making have become decoupled from the physical trip, consumers now shop differently. An increasing number of consumers have already determined what to buy by the time they reach the store’s front door. They have specific, personalized actions in mind fueled by sources of information they trust that are more often not controlled by the retailer. Furthermore, 34 percent of shoppers surveyed are using digital while in the store. It would seem from our data that the degree to which consumers value the traditional in-store shopping and browsing experience is decreasing. This raises the stakes on how retailers leverage digital in creating a more valuable in-store experience.

If retailers are investing in digital only through the lens of their eCommerce business, or measuring success simply by measuring channel sales, they may be missing the bigger opportunity.

Digital influence: Tracking the true value

We often say that it is not about digital strategy, just strategy. It is not about eCommerce or mCommerce, it is simply commerce. Consumers understand this inherently as they choose to utilize all resources available to them to make their shopping journeys easier and more satisfying. Retailers that embrace the dissolution of online versus offline will be well positioned to adapt and thrive.

Check out the infographic for some highlighted statistics and findings from the 2015 report, Navigating the new digital divide: Capitalizing on digital influence in retail.

Published on September 21, 2015.

The digital influence on retail is growing

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