IBM Study: All consumers looking for a consistent experience, from start to finish

Armonk, N.Y. -- The consumer of the future will be more mobile, social and self-sufficient, willing to share details on themselves and their preferences in exchange for highly personalized relationships with their favorite stores, according to a new IBM consumer survey. The study also found that consumers’ willingness to advocate for a particular retailer is becoming multi-faceted, with consumers looking for a flawless experience, whether it’s when they’re researching, purchasing, or receiving delivery.

The findings of the survey of 1,200 U.S. men and women ages 13 to 60 provide insights into the demands of the next generation buying audience and highlight the areas where retailers could influence brand advocacy.

For example, today's teenagers say they spend their time shopping on their mobile devices whether they are at home, on the move or in-store. They also prefer to use more self-service features and participate in communities and forums via social networks with consumers with similar interests. Teens expect their retailers to know them and all their transactions and deliver ads and promotions to them through social networking sites.

The study compared consumers aged 13 – 19, or “digital natives,” with today’s current shoppers, respondents in the 40-49 year old group. The survey found the digital natives to be almost four times as likely to consider it important for a retailer to provide a mobile app to use on their smartphone or tablet (52 versus 14%) and twice as likely to consider it important for a retailer to establish a forum for like-minded consumers to share ideas with each other (54 versus 26%).

“The next generation of shoppers – the digital natives – view brand interaction in a different way, expecting retailers to deliver a seamless, omnichannel brand experience across all touch points,” said John Stelzer, worldwide industry lead for Retail Smarter Commerce, at IBM.”



This study, part of IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative, found that consumers are looking for a consistent brand experience from start to finish across all brand touch points. Cost and quality prevailed, where the two most important considerations for recommending a retailer were: “sells quality merchandise” (94%) and “offers fair/competitive prices” (93%). However, three of the next most important criteria were: the items they want to buy are in stock (91%); the retailer delivers a positive overall experience whether it’s in the store, over the web, or via any combination of channels (90%); and that the retailer provides a convenient returns process (85%).

In the study, IBM asked a series of questions about the three phases of the brand experience: pre-purchase, purchase (checkout/payment), and post-purchase. The real surprise in the findings was the importance of the post-purchase process in molding the brand relationship and influencing brand advocacy. This phase includes product shipment, delivery, installation, customer support, problem resolution and returns. For example, the survey found: Nearly three-quarters of the respondents cited a retailer’s ability to deliver a positive post-purchase experience as important to very important for them to recommend a retailer to others.

“In general, the post-purchase experience has been taken for granted by too many retailers, and this study confirms that retailers will need to focus on delivering heightened post-purchase capabilities, such as omnichannel in-store pickup or return of online or mobile orders to win over tomorrow’s consumer,” added Stelzer.