Customers Like Personalization In-Store More Than Online

June 8, 2012

ris-preferred-personalization-techniques-june2012.pngWhen it comes to personalization techniques used by retailers, customers prefer to be acknowledged in-store rather than via digital channels, at least when shopping for specialty products, per findings [download page] from a RIS News and Cognizant survey of US and Canadian shoppers released in June 2012. On a 5-point scale, consumers indicated that they like special treatment in the store based on loyalty the most (3.4), and personalized mobile offers the least (2.3). Other techniques such as personalized offers delivered in-store and acknowledgment of status as a highly valued customer while in-store (both at 3.2) are preferred to website recommendations based on product searches and personalized emails (both at 2.9).

If a younger consumer is the target, though, the script flips. The report notes that while older shoppers prefer store-based methods, shoppers younger than age 45 prefer digital methods of personalization.

Youth Most Open to Sharing Data for Personalization

In order to facilitate a personalized shopping experience, consumers are most open to having information tracked by a loyalty number, sharing their name, address, and email for a web account, and having their email collected at the point of sale (POS). Across all information-sharing categories, 34-45-year olds and 18-33-year-olds are the most open to sharing information, with shoppers 65 and older the least interested.

Data from an ExactTarget report released in June, which looked at the activities of the 100 fastest-growing US retailers, reveals that only 44% of the retailers with stores asked for a customer’s email address at the POS. Even fewer sought a consumer’s zip code (32%), phone number (27%), and postal address (24%).

Face-to-Face Service Preferred

Meanwhile, when it comes to accessing customer service, consumers display a clear preference for face-to-face interaction, and this holds true across gender and age groups. Overall, respondents to the RIS News survey said that going to an in-store customer service desk was their preferred way of accessing customer service while shopping, with a rating of 3.8 on a 5-point scale of preference. Calling customer service was next (3.1), with online chat (2.3) and social media page (2.0) trailing. Mobile text message (1.9) and mobile chat (1.8) also don’t appear to be high on customers’ preferences, with video chat (1.7) the least favored.

Inefficiencies, Distracted Cashiers Rile Customers at Checkout

A fast and easy checkout is of relatively high importance to in-store shoppers, and further results from RIS News and Cognizant’s “2012 Shopper Experience Study” identify the aspects of the checkout process that are most likely to frustrate customers. Chief among those are an inefficient or inaccurate process and a cashier being either not available or distracted, with each of these factors scoring a rating of 4.2 on a 5-point scale, with 5 representing most disliked. Other checkout aspects that seem to unnerve customers include discounts and credits not being quickly processed (3.9) and cashiers trying to sell them more products (3.8).

Interestingly, despite December 2011 research from Motorola Solutions indicating that a majority of shoppers believe that self-checkout lanes improve their in-store experience, the absence of a self-checkout (2.5) is easily the least disliked aspect among the RIS News survey respondents.

Out-of-Stock Products Worst Element of In-Store Shopping

For in-store retailers looking to improve their shoppers’ experience, making sure that inventory levels are kept up-to-date might be the first place to focus. According to the RIS News survey, shoppers said that products they want being out of stock is their most disliked experience when shopping in-store for both specialty items and consumables. Closely following, prices, promotions, and discounts not being clearly marked frustrates shoppers, as does difficulty finding the product they want.

According to December 2011 survey results from Oracle, if an item is not in-store, one-quarter of shoppers will leave the store and find it online.

Other Findings:

  • Results from the RIS News survey show that the preferred payment methods for in-store purchases are a bank-issued credit card, cash, and a debit card. A digital wallet via a personal mobile device is the least-preferred. Even so, twice as many high-income shoppers ($150k+) as lower-income shoppers (less than $25k) would use a digital wallet via mobile phone.
  • Debit cards are the preferred payment method for 18-33-year-olds.
  • If available, the digital wallet solution most likely to be used by customers is PayPal. According to a June 2012 study [pdf] from Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group (CGC), if PayPal offered a mobile wallet, 4 in 5 consumers would be open to using it.

About the Data: The RIS News/Cognizant data is based on an online survey of 2,122 shoppers in the US and Canada conducted in April 2012. The respondent pool was 70% female and 30% male. The age group breakdown is as follows: 18-33 (30%); 46-64 (29%); 34-45 (20%); and 65+ (20%).

The ExactTarget fastest-growing US retailers are based on the list contained in the National Retail Federation’s STORES 2011 Hot 100 Retailers Report. To gather the data, ExactTarget’s research team visited the websites and, where applicable, at least one physical store of each of the Hot 100 Retailers in March 2012.

The CGC data point is based on an online study of 605 US consumers in April 2012.

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