To gain a deeper insight into the changes that have occurred with consumers and commerce, and to learn the nuances so brands can maximize engagements with shoppers, OMD and Omnicom Commerce Group (OCG) joined forces to survey 4,200 consumers in six markets around 80 future retail scenarios. The results appear in a recently released report aptly named Future of Commerce |The Why Behind the Buy.
Nothing has defined the economics of the pandemic era like the massive changes in shopping. From the initial run on toilet paper and paper towels to the reconfiguring of stores to accommodate curbside delivery and "shop from home" to the cross-generational transition to e-commerce, the very fabric of consumer shopping behavior was ripped apart and rebuilt in a matter of months. Yet given the global, regional and local differences of approach to the vaccine, the input around what to do and how to do it has not been consistent. Add to that the various waves of opening, lockdown, reopening and now the Delta variant, and it certainly appears the volatility around consumers' attitudes and shopping behaviors are unlikely to end anytime soon.
With this backdrop of uncertainty, OMD and OCG embarked on a longitudinal pulse research project, Future of Commerce | The Why Behind the Buy, to guide brands across these uncharted waters by getting under the headlines and providing real and nuanced consumer insights.
In interpreting the research study results, co-authors Sophie Daranyi, CEO of Omnicom Commerce Group, and Jean Paul Edwards, Chief Product Development Officer of OMD EMEA, viewed the responses through three consumer mindsets, referred to in the report as "Wow Right Now."
Wow: The importance of rich, interactive experience online and offline.
Right: Orchestrating value, price and purpose messaging in the right place at the right time.
Now: Delivering seamless ease through technology, channel integration and service delivery.
"Wow Right Now is an organizing framework to fundamentally inter- link experience and multi-channel relevance, together with technology to drive the ease and speed of delivery," Daranyi explains.
While the pandemic has radically changed shopping behaviors across all demographics, especially older demos that had been more resistant to e-commerce, the research study clearly showed a preference for ROPO (research online, purchase offline). Fifty percent of respondents said that researching products was the top reason for online shopping, while only 32% said that purchasing products was their goal.
However, even prior to the pandemic, brick-and-mortar retail was having severe challenges. "Some of the specific challenges of inner-city retail are linked to broader commercial and economic factors," Daranyi says. When it comes to overall physical retail, she believes that a complete reinvention is necessary. "One of the headlines of the report is that consumers think of shopping as a lifestyle," she continues. "It's a mix of socializing, leisure, events, entertainment, eating and drinking. To be successful, it has to be part of a broader ecosystem of experience and entertainment that a consumer is looking for. In the U.K., when Nike London reopened and had DJs, events and personalized experiences, there were queues around the block. We can no longer look at shopping in isolation, especially for locations like malls and city centers. We need to reinvent this ecosystem that shopping sits in to create a rich experience that shoppers enjoy."
Given the variants, the authors admit that there is no way of knowing what behaviors will look like six months from now, but Edwards says that there are tell-tale signs when you look at the differences between certain markets. "A big part of this is actually scenario planning," he notes. "You look at the markets that are doing better in the pandemic and see how their behaviors have changed, which may be a helpful indicator of what will happen when those markets that have done worse recuperate. Behaviors have been disrupted. Consumers have been forced to shop a different way, which means traditional cycles have been broken. The big unknown is will they stick with those behaviors? Will they revert back further in 'revenge shopping?'"
While reviewing the data from the research, Daranyi and Edwards uncovered a few results that stood out. One of those, says Daranyi, was around the persistent hesitancy in the minds of consumers to share data. "Sixty-six percent of people said that they're not prepared to share data with one brand, which we found to be higher than expected," she explains. "That's a high level of data hesitancy that the brands and retailers really need to consider and how they reframe the value exchange for consumers to be ready to share data."
Another somewhat surprising insight from the study was the similarity across generations of shopping online. "Gen Z and Baby Boomers were on the same level," Daranyi adds. "As marketers, we tend to stereotype behaviors. We say 'e-com' is rising, but what this is saying is that online and offline are of equal importance. There's not an online shopper or an offline shopper; they are the same person that wants the same thing. Generationally, there's much less of a gap than we'd assume."
For Edwards, one of the most surprising insights was the greater hesitancy of Gen Z to return to urban shopping than Baby Boomers. Edwards postulates that as Gen Z has always lived their lives online, they likely didn't see the need, especially as they may never have developed those retail behaviors of city shopping. "While this could be an alarming sign for retailers, it's also an opportunity to learn how to market to this cohort in a more integrated manner," he says. "For example, they are far less likely to use search to drive shopping choices (which they view as 'old' technology), but more likely to be influenced by social and some of the digital assistants such as Amazon Echo."
Future of Commerce | The Why Behind the Buy is a timely, thorough and actionable report for brands to activate on to prepare for the future of commerce. You can download it at no charge here.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.