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Consumers Seek Seamless Online and In-Store Shopping

May 3, 2013

• Consumers want to browse online and buy in-store and retailers who provide them with a seamless shopping experience—whether they are shopping in a store, online or through a mobile device—will win their loyalty and gain a competitive advantage that drives sales, according to Accenture.

Based on a poll of 750 consumers in the US and an analysis of how top retailers operate across multiple sales channels, the Accenture Seamless Retail Study found that 49% of consumers said the best thing retailers can do to improve the shopping experience is to better integrate in-store, online and mobile shopping channels. Also, 89% of consumers said it is important for retailers to let them shop for products in the way that is most convenient for them, no matter which sales channel they choose.

Consumers remain bullish on the in-store shopping experience, according to the global consulting company, as 94% of participants found in-store shopping easy. Other channels? Not so much. While 74% said online shopping is easy, only 26% found shopping via mobile phone is easy.

“Seamlessness is a tall order for most traditional retailers,” said Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “In many cases we have found a significant gap between consumer expectations and reality, but we believe seamlessness is achievable. Traditional retailers must take stock of their operational capabilities. They require a presence at every stage of the customer journey to deliver a consistently personalized, on-brand experience from discovery through research, purchase, fulfillment and beyond to product maintenance or returns.”

Regardless of their original shopping touchpoint—in-store, online or mobile—consumers expect their interaction with retailers to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience, according to the survey. The research also indicates that consistency weighs heavily on the consumer experience. For example, 73% of consumers expect a retailer’s online pricing to be the same as its in-store pricing, and 61% expect a retailer’s online promotions to be the same as its in-store promotions.

Yet, a benchmark analysis by Accenture of the top retailers globally indicated that while 73% offer the same promotions online as in the store, only 16% offer the same prices online as they do in the store.

Additionally, 43% percent of consumers surveyed expect a retailer to offer the same product assortment online as they do in the store, but only 19% of retailers actually offer the same product assortment, according to Accenture’s analysis of top retailers.

The survey found that as online shopping continues to grow, there is a mutually beneficial relationship between stores and online channels. For example, in the six months prior to the survey, 73% of respondents indicated that they participated in the practice of “showrooming”— browsing at least once in-store and then buying online. But 88% said they relied on “webrooming”— browsing first on the internet then buying in-store.

Of the consumers who had showroomed in the six months prior to the survey, 41% said they are doing that more than they were the year before. Additionally, the survey found that 43% of all U.S. consumers plan to shop more online and 23% plan to shop more with their mobile phones in the future.

Accenture conducted the online survey of 6,000 adult consumers in eight countries, 750 U.S. consumers, in November 2012.

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Oh, HENRY! Which Consumers Are Increasing Their Spending?
• While the financial news is full of reports of rebounds in retail and consumer spending, it is the affluent consumer who is increasing his or her spending. According to Unity Marketing, much of the increase coming from those making $100,000 to $249,999 per year, a segment known as the HENRYs (High Earnings, Not Rich Yet). 

Unity’s findings come in the firm’s Luxury Report 2013, which covers five years (2008-2012) of affluent consumer behavior in the luxury market.

“The most important shift in the economy at large is the growing importance of the affluent (top 20% of U.S. households by income which represent about 24.2 million households) in driving the recovery,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing. “The middle-class and lower-income folks have greatly reduced spending power, due to declining household incomes, tax changes and unemployment, so the affluent are the heavy-lifters behind all the news about retail and consumer spending growing.  If you dig a little deeper into the numbers, you find it is the affluent behind all the good economic news.”

By 2012, the HENRYs had exceed their 2009 spending levels by 3.4%, according to Unity Marketing. Even though HENRYs individually have a far lower spending threshold than ultra-affluents, there are about 10 HENRY households for every ultra-affluent. With 21.8 million households, the HENRY segment is a critically important part of the consumer market, noted Danziger’s firm.

While the HENRYs have picked up the pace of high-end purchases since 2009, the ultra-affluents, those at the top 2% of incomes of $250,000 and above, have gone in the other direction. Ultra-affluents spent 14.1% less on luxury since 2009 and in 2012 their spending reached its lowest level in five years. 

Looking to the future, Unity Marketing expects affluents to remain strategic in their purchasing by making tradeoffs that will maximize the luxury return on their investment. They will continue to make strategic choices about which purchases will give them the most pleasure and which situations demand a true luxury brand purchase. For example, ultra-affluents purchased more mass-market beauty brands (L’Oréal Paris, Olay and Cover Girl) than luxe brands (Clinique, Lancôme, Chanel) in 2012 and their purchase overall of mass beauty brands reached its highest level since 2008.

“Affluents are still cautious about spending on high-priced luxuries and are being strategic, like swapping high-priced Chanel lipstick for Cover Girl,” noted Danziger.  She says they are also indulging in more “premium” class goods and services, which is below luxury, but better than mass.

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Americans Still Wary of ‘Greenwashing’
• According to a March 2013 Harris Poll of 2,276 U.S. adults interviewed online, concern for the current state, and future, of the environment is on the rise (38% in 2013 vs. 31%in 2012), just as economic indicators point to all time stock market highs and a solid housing market recovery. However, as Americans start to feel better about reaching into their pockets, they still may not be ready to dish out the extra green on organic items. In fact, more than half (59%) agree that labeling food or other products as organic is just an excuse to charge more, according to the poll data.

“What surprised us most was that while Americans are showing more concern for the environment, they aren’t necessarily willing to pay more to do anything about it,” said Mike de Vere, president of the Harris Poll. “While Americans feel better about the economy, many are wary of the ‘greenwashing’ concept that gives companies a chance to cash in on consumers who want to help the planet but are confused by all the eco-friendly jargon.”

Going green continues to be a gray area, as consumers try to decide where it makes sense to incorporate it into their lives.
According to the survey, 48% think washing dishes by hand is more environmentally friendly than using the dishwasher. However, a study from scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany found that the dishwasher uses only half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and less soap than hand-washing an identical set of dirty dishes.

Americans are divided on how easy, or not so easy, it is to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, with nearly equal percentages of U.S. adults perceiving it as difficult (49%) and easy (47%), according to the poll. When asked about sentiments toward going green, 80% said they will seek green products, but only 30% are willing to pay extra for them, and 60% of Americans prefer to use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies because of the chemicals contained in traditional cleaning products
Men are the most skeptical about organic, with 63% agreeing that the labeling of food or other products as organic is an excuse to charge more, versus 54% of women, according to the poll.

Overall, efforts to be green seem to have leveled off, with nearly two-thirds (63%) making the same amount of effort to be environmentally conscious as a year ago, up considerably from 2009 (51%).

The poll was conducted online within the US between March 13 and 18, 2013 among 2,276 adults (aged 18 and over).

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Kitchen nightmares?

• Can you name the top six places in which foodborne illness-causing germs (think salmonella, listeria, E.coli and mold) can hide when kitchen tools and appliances are not properly cleaned? The folks at the  NSF Applied Research Center sure do (see photos below).

“Germs often gather in places we don’t think about cleaning, which is why NSF’s Home Product Certification program tests the cleanability of the products that bear the NSF Certified for Home Use mark, in addition to testing performance and durability,” said Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist who is senior project manager for NSF’s Consumer Products Division.

NSF International recently formed an alliance with Healthy House Institute (HHI) to educate consumers on a variety of home health and safety topics. Through the agreement, NSF will provide content for the HHI website on food safety, hand washing, nutritional supplements, green living and proper cleaning and maintenance of home appliance products.

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