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Analysis

Retail trends: 3 R's of consumer shopping behavior

Consumer shopping behaviors are changing rapidly. Advancements in digital capabilities streamlined shipping logistics, and constantly expanding inventories combine to create a retail environment full of empowered customers. New digital marketing technology makes information about consumer trends and dollars spent easier to quantify and analyze, but insights into the psychology behind consumer behavior have lagged—until now.

New research in consumer shopping behavior trends shows that modern retail customers are harnessing technology, social communities, changing social norms, and efficient infrastructure to make smarter and faster purchases than what has historically been possible. Marketers aiming to effectively do their job must know the decision-making path for modern consumers.

Deloitte identifies three tools customers are using to empower their purchasing decisions:

  • Research
  • Recommendations and reviews
  • Returns

Research

Thanks to consumer technology, an unprecedented amount of product information is available to consumers at the tap of a screen. Deloitte estimates that over half of all in-store purchases are influenced by digital data, especially in big ticket items like electronics and home furnishings.

To positively influence consumers on products, marketers should make sure that product information, specifications, and geographic availability is clearly and easily accessible from digital channels. Yes, that includes mobile optimization! Digital assets should be mobile-friendly and any product information text properly formatted. Customers are prone to research even when they’re standing inside a store—many even prefer to do a quick internet search instead of talking to a store associate.

Recommendations and reviews

Digital marketers are well aware of the rise in user-generated content and predominant online influencers. According to our research, recommendations, especially those from trusted social contacts, are more influential in purchase decisions than any collateral marketers create.

It’s a delicate tango for marketers in the online reviews space—the lack of control over brand appearance is enough to tempt some into “gaming” reviews, or using other methods that could put your brand integrity at risk. To gain some control over their digital review environments, some retailers choose to implement interactive features that encourage rounded discussion and feedback.

Returns

Quick and easy shipping options lead online retail consumers to feel free to make more purchases, because they know they are free to try out the product (or try it on) and send back whatever products they decide they don’t want. The same is true in brick and mortar stores—a study by the National Retail Federation indicates that nearly 9 percent of all retail products are returned, and department stores see about a 16.5 percent return rate.

While marketers may not have much final say on their organization’s return policy, the policy itself can serve as marketing collateral. A flexible return policy can stand out as a prime selling point, which can boost transaction size and volume. Even if a portion of the products get returned, you’re increasing brand exposure to anybody who clicks your ad or decides to window-shop your storefront.

Purchasing behavior will continue to evolve along with consumer technology, and marketers are challenged to keep up with the new ways it influences purchasing decisions both in-store and online. For more information and additional data about these trends, read Deloitte’s retail report, On the Couch: Understanding consumer shopping behavior.

Published on November 2, 2015.

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