Do retailers know what consumers want?

 

ONLY 4% of consumers believe retailers know what they like when shopping via a particular channel, but this could be improved if retailers embraced a consistent and coherent omnichannel strategy, a survey by Omnico has found.

The first Omnico Retail Gap Barometer explored the interactions 1,200 consumers’ had with retailers across the channels they offer, the stock visibility and promotions they deliver and the fulfilment methods they provide.

Overall consumers awarded 72 points out of 100 for the quality of their experience across every type of interaction with retailers. However, the survey revealed that levels of customer satisfaction drop as a retailer employs more channels. Although 62% of consumers said they had a seamless experience more than once across online and in-store, this fell to 39% when mobile applications, phone and social media were included. Customers have high expectations that each touchpoint will be quick and convenient, with 74% of respondents saying these are the most important factors in deciding which channel to use.

The survey shows that, despite retailers’ investment in multiple channels, traditional in-store shopping remains the most popular retail option, selected by 43% of respondents. Only 9% of respondents favoured the option of buying online and collecting in a third-party location such as a train station or supermarket.

“Shoppers now expect to hop between online and physical stores and have the same experience across every channel,” says Mel Taylor, CEO, Omnico Group. “While the overall score in our survey suggests a glowing picture, the details show shoppers today are frustrated by the service they’re receiving.

“The store experience is still king. Many retailers are then diluting the quality of the experience they offer as they expand into more channels and touchpoint.”

In addition, retailers are failing to provide the levels of stock visibility across channels that customers now require. 49% of consumers, for example, said visibility of stock in stores if products are unavailable online was no better than very poor-to-average.

Returns too, are an area of concern. Against a backdrop of 84% of consumers viewing a free returns policy as either important or essential to their decision to buy, 40% said they want to return goods by any method, irrespective of how they were bought. 30% of respondents, for example, rated their experience very poor-to-average when returning goods bought and paid for online.

Taylor believes that organisational siloes and un-integrated legacy systems have all hindered the progress retailers are making toward an omnichannel operation. “With these challenges overcome retailers can consistently and coherently deliver the same personalised brand experience across their channels. Ignoring these issues retailers face irreversible brand damage and will lose market-share as shoppers go elsewhere.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Meanwhile, The Institute of Customer Service has released the latest edition of its UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), collating customer satisfaction data from more than 10,000 UK consumers. Overall, the majority of the industries tracked, from insurance to retail, are giving consumers a better customer experience with this year seeing the largest year-on-year increase in companies’ scores since July 2011 and the third consecutive yearly increase. Amazon retains its top spot as retail makes up over a third of the leading 50 companies. Wilko, Waitrose, M&S Food and Land Rover make up the top five.

What differentiates the leading 50 companies their high performance in handling complaints and the helpfulness and competence of employees, especially over the phone. Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, comments: “Getting it right first time has to be a prerequisite for any organisation. Customers expect to be dealt with quickly and competently – as soon as they start to feel let down or ignored, their trust is lost. It’s encouraging to see that the non-food retail sector is making progress, but prevention is always better than cure, so the industry should take note of the areas which need to be focused on. Efficiency, effectiveness and empathy are key, and organisations should always follow up with customers to ensure that the problem is resolved.”

Along with scoring high levels of customer satisfaction, the leading companies are also increasingly being trusted by consumers. In fact, 96% of customers who rate a company nine or ten out of ten for customer satisfaction also give the highest levels of trust. A year ago it was 83%.

Also on the rise is consumers’ willingness to pay extra for goods or services by choosing companies which offer excellent service; The UKCSI found that 28% of customers express a preference for the highest levels of customer service even if it costs them more, 4% points higher than two years ago. This represents “a significant opportunity”, says the report, “but addressing this opportunity will require consistency in delivering the highest standards of service”.

Commenting on the findings, Edward Grant, co-founder and COO at business communications company, Solgari, says: “Good and bad, every company got the score it deserved. The brands we associate with speed and innovation quite rightly came out on top, whereas companies which have been too slow to adopt to the demands of modern consumers has found their service, satisfaction and score wanting.

“Retail continues to be a shining light for customer satisfaction in Britain. Competition is fierce and retailers know that, if they don’t offer a perfect service, customers will just go elsewhere. More so than ever, customers want instant communication, response and resolution – regardless of time, device and location. This is the challenge of the internet era, but one which businesses increasingly need to solve.”