An ever-growing need for accurate, relevant, and immediate data highlights a new study on consumers and technology in the retail experience.
The National Retail Federation report says consumers are welcoming the advancing relationship between retailers and tech and are looking for the latter to solve issues throughout the buying process – specifically with researching features/reviews, item availability, and the returns process.
Researching product information is the most frustrating part of the buying cycle for consumers; more than a third of the study responders identify this as their primary pain point. The NRF says “Consumers want retailers to focus on technologies and solutions that take the guesswork out of the pre-purchase experience.”
Consumers expect product information to be optimized for their needs and data coming from suppliers may vary in how well it fits the buyer. They want to know exactly what a product does, how well it performs, and why that matters to them… and there are massive differences between a list of product features and a description of product benefits.
Let’s say we’re in the deep-space travel industry and our inventory gets a new warp ship – the Starstreaker-12a Admiral Class. We get a list of features from the supplier (left) and our marketing team writes the benefits (right).
Brands pen their product feature descriptions to be accurate, but may not be enticing to consumers and could result in an increase of ‘no sale’ situations.
On the flip side, retailers may oversell items or take liberties when writing benefits they haven’t fully vetted, leading to returns.
Accurate inventory/pricing info is another top priority for buyers. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed say finding out whether a specific item is in stock/available is the most frustrating part of the process.
Latency issues have made this a particularly difficult challenge for retailers to solve, specifically in a drop ship/distributed inventory model. Most brands are providing products to multiple retailers and don’t update their inventory in real-time.
Back to our deep-space travel hypothetical: Retailers X, Y, and Z see that there are eight of those Starstreaker-12a Admiral Class ships available at the start of the day.
X sells three, Y sells four and Z sells five. Four space cowboys are now left with canceled orders because the retailers have collectively oversold this warp ship model.
Another 24 percent of consumers are looking at the returns process as their top issue in the buying cycle. Consumer frustration makes sense here considering the laundry list of baggage weighing-down this stage of the process. In part:
- Shipping costs on return orders – nearly 90% of top retailers don’t offer free return shipping
- Restocking fees
- Printing out a return label itself, as at-home printers are becoming less and less common
- Physically taking the item to the drop-off spot
- Is the return being sent to the retailer or supplier?
Nearly a quarter of those surveyed say the returns process is the most frustrating step of the buying cycle. Yet only 12 percent said they expect technological innovation to solve these issues.
Compare that 12 percent to the nearly half who say they expect tech to solve pre-purchase issues. That sounds like buyers want this issue fixed higher-up the chain to make returns unnecessary in the first place.
Imagine the restocking fees and shipping costs for a 176,000-lb, 122-ft long Starstreaker-12a… let alone the drop-off nightmare a ship like that would create. Archaic earthly issues shouldn’t be hindering galactic jet setting.
The Wrap Up
Consumers are embracing the expanding role technology plays in the buying process – and they expect tech to be part of solutions for their biggest issues with that process, as well. Real-time, accurate data will be the foundation of modernizing these areas of concern.
Especially in the warp ship business.