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Growth in multichannel has lengthened shopping process to three-and-a-half days – research

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The rapid growth of digital retail channels is slowing down the shopping process in the fashion retail sector, according to research by retail analysts Conlumino for Webloyalty.

The total length of time taken from browsing to collection of a fashion item has increased from 0.5 days in 2002 to 3.4 days in 2012, reflecting the huge choice of shopping destinations now available to fashion shoppers. But with this increase in duration comes an increasing cost to retailers of maintaining customer engagement throughout the purchase process.

The purchase process has four phases – browsing, researching, purchasing and collection. The research shows that in 2002 the average shopper would complete the whole process in half a day, in a single shopping trip to the high street. In the past ten years, the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, combined with extensive broadband penetration, has driven retailers to develop innovative multichannel shopping experiences. Consumers can now access fashion retailers online through their desktop computer, tablet or mobile, as well as in store and through catalogues. 90.7% of shoppers now use two or more channels when making a fashion purchase. The result of this proliferation in choice is an increase to the time spent on making a purchase.

Shoppers now spend over half an hour longer browsing for fashion than they did ten years ago. The time spent on the research, purchasing and collection phases has actually decreased, as a larger proportion of this activity now happens on online channels which are fast and convenient. What is notable, however, is that the length of time between each phase has increased enormously. The first reason for this is that time lapses as consumers move between channels. They may spot an item they like in store but wait a day or two before buying online. The increase in purchasing from remote channels has also hugely increased as shoppers wait for their home deliveries to arrive.

Neil Saunders of Conlumino says: “The birth of several new channels being used by shoppers to make fashion purchases has added both to the cost and complexity of managing the path to purchase for retailers. Since consumers also now spend more time between browsing, researching and purchasing, retailers face the new challenge of maintaining customer engagement with the brand over a longer period of time.”

While posing new challenges, these changes in shopping behaviour also offer new opportunities for customer engagement. Guy Chiswick, managing director of Webloyalty UK, says: “Consumers now spend 34% more time on shopping for fashion than they did ten years ago. Taken alongside the increasing use of online channels by consumers as part of this process, this offers the opportunity for brands to ‘personalise’ the purchase experience. Engaging with shoppers throughout the whole purchase process is vital. This includes connecting with the consumer in the time between each phase of the purchase process. Email updates, information on the next season’s trends or targeted offers to customers between ‘click’ and ‘collect’ will all make a difference.”

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