Published December 21, 2021 | Last Updated December 2, 2023
What Did 2021 Shoppers Really Want from a Retail Experience? (The Survey Says...)
When retailers think about what’s important to today’s consumers—ones who have weathered almost 24 months of pandemic store closures and product shortages—a couple of expectations instantly come to mind.
One is getting the best price (and value) possible, and the other is being able to purchase online. That first is hard to argue because who doesn’t love a bargain? While seemingly obvious, however, the second expectation—that shoppers prefer shopping online—actually presents a bit of a head-scratcher.
Reflect Systems recently surveyed 1,600 Americans. We found that 60% of respondents prefer to making their purchases online. What’s unusual, though, is that prior to the global pandemic that forced so many of us to work, play, and shop from home, that percentage was already 60%. Where was the anticipated rise?
This made us wonder: If we were forced to do everything—including shopping—from our couches, why has this key retail shopping statistic not changed before, during, or after such a disruption?
The answer? Despite the conveniences of online shopping, people still like the in-store experience—they just want it to integrate a few of the online advantages they’ve become used to. Read on to find out which of these characteristics are most influential with today’s consumers. (You’ll also find a few other eye-openers revealed by our survey, as well as some ways to use in-store tech to bring shoppers back to brick-and-mortar.
Do-It-Yourself experiences with self-service options are “must-haves”
One of our key findings was that nearly half (46 percent) of respondents said they prefer a more DIY shopping experience with multiple self-service options. Consumers have become used to the feeling of being “in control” that self-service online shopping delivers (not to mention the time savings). Consequently, they miss this feeling when they enter a physical retail store.
How do they expect brick-and-mortar to deliver on this? The most prominent responses include strategic use of digital signage. While most retailers know digital signage is a must-have to catch shoppers’ attention, there’s more to it than that. A full 83% of respondents said informative digital screens would save them time during shopping trips—one thing they love about shopping online. Three-quarters said they would actually shop more in person if the stores employed interactive screens that provide detailed product information, location, comparisons, and reviews—again, something they can easily get on ecommerce sites.
While these are just a few of the statistics we compiled from the data collected in our survey, they point to a common finding. Even though 60% of consumers say they prefer online shopping, a retailer’s ability to closely mimic what shoppers love about online and marry it to the best part of the in-person experience—that is seeing, touching, and trying the actual product—is what will bring shoppers back to the stores.
Is the Future of Physical Retail DIY? Our survey report is available now.
So, what shoppers want isn’t always about the lowest price or products being available online, although those are obviously important factors. While they’ve grown more and more accustomed to the personalized “DIY” online shopping experience, shoppers still want to physically interact with products. The data shows that retailers with the right in-store technologies can create experiences that lure buyers back into the store. These retailers, therefore, have an enormous opportunity to put customers in the driver’s seat, put the product information they want right at their fingertips, and to drive up customer satisfaction and sales revenue, too.
We invite you to download the full report of our findings and conclusions about shopping preferences in 2021 and beyond. In it, you’ll also discover the extent to which millennials (and even younger generations) demand in-store self-service experiences even more than their older counterparts. Finally, we’ll explore how today’s shoppers of all generations expect retailers to use their digital signage to deliver on their expectations. Those brick-and-mortar retailers that do so will be able to capture, recapture, and hold the attention of both existing and new customers alike.