How Are Consumer Preferences Shaping Retail?  

With more and more retail store closures up and down the country, it is clear that shopping habits and preferences are fundamentally changing the landscape of the UK retail industry.

Mandy Holford, Director of Customer Services at Echo-U, explains how consumers are choosing to shop today.

Shopping online continues to be a popular option

In 2018 we’ve seen an increase in store closures across the UK, including high street retail giants, as retailers make the shift to accommodate for the customer’s preference to shop online. Benefits of price, choice and convenience have prompted a rise in popularity in online shopping from 11.6% in 2012 to 24.1% in 2017. It couldn’t be more important for retailers to take action now to provide customers with an experience to suit customer preferences, in other words they need to future-proof their businesses.

Despite this, there is still a need for in-store experience

We may have seen a rise in online shopping but stores still have a role to play, with in-store shopping seeing growth from 40% in 2015 to 44% in 2018. With the multitude of options available online and the convenience of shopping from home, naturally there will be fewer physical stores as retailers struggle to meet the demands of increased competition for in-store customers. But the high street is by no means dead just yet.

As people look for a great experience whilst they shop

One thing that customers do appreciate is the social and sensory aspects of in-store shopping and advice from sales assistants in person. However, the customer wants the in-store experience to complement their online activity with the store. For example, they want to be able to order something online that they see in-store, whether that is a new sofa or a new car. Customers also want to get those free samples and discounts online as well as in-store. A successful retailer will be thinking of the customer’s journey and how they can link everything offline and online into the best service experience they can possibly give.

 Shoppers know that they are valuable

Now more than ever, customers are realising their value to retailers. In an already highly competitive market, customers are taking a sophisticated approach to shopping and will only settle for connections with brands that cater to their preferences and offer incentives to maintain their loyalty. Because of this, retailers are investing in areas such as brand, technology and AI to stand out and compete in the competitive landscape.

…and they are looking to their peers for recommendations

Social media is the number one choice for inspiration, whether that is a customer looking for advice from their peers or their favourite influencer. Customers are now researching what everyone else thinks of a product before buying and retailers can benefit from this by investing in their online presence and social media platforms.

Expectations for 24/7 service

The online world of shopping and courier delivery has offered shoppers the opportunity to receive goods quickly, in some cases on the same day. They now expect reliable and fast service 24/7, with free returns, one-hour delivery window and instant customer service responses. These expectations are prompting the need to invest in innovative technology for the retail industry to meet growing demands.