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Consumers seek connection as part of the online retail revolution

Buy from the Bush

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The recently released PWC Total Retail Survey 2016 report has highlighted the growing trend for consumers to seek a sense of community in their online shopping experience. The report, titled They Say They Want a Revolution: Total Retail 2016, identifies eight key factors in what it calls a “watershed” moment in the evolution of online commerce.

“Our Total Retail survey results, together with 2015 fourth-quarter retail results around the world, point to 2016 as a watershed for many of the trends that have been percolating over the past few years,” the report says.

One of the eight key insights of the report – which is based upon a survey of 25,000 shoppers from across five continents and 25 countries/territories, including Australia – is the desire consumers harbour for a more personalised and community-based experience from online shopping, which tapped into the “unmistakable desire to be a member of a specialised retail community”.

“Today, the word ‘community’ often implies a virtual or digital community, particularly when applied to Millennials. But retailers in the past few years have been responding in a host of ways to consumers’ quests for connection, exclusivity, customization, and membership,” the report says.

Loyalty programs have been a major component in the strategy used by retailers to connect with customers, according to the report. However, the report says loyalty programs are declining in popularity as they often fail to hit the mark with consumers searching for a deeper connection:

So consumers’ willingness to be part of a retailer community that brings tangible benefits is clear. But, in many ways, loyalty programs have grown stagnant through a failure of imagination, and don’t really build a community. Getting a certain level of award points due to spending a certain amount of money at a retailer doesn’t connect customers to like-minded consumers in any significant way.

Marketplacer CEO Jason Wyatt says the findings of the report show online retail has been evolving into a space where customers wanted the element of trust engendered by shopping communities.

“It makes sense people are gravitating towards communities of trust and shared interests,” Wyatt says.

“It’s really about the online experience evolving to a point where shared interests and that sense of belonging will play an even bigger role. When people come to a marketplace they know they are dealing with retailers who can deliver what they want from an online shopping experience. This is about moving beyond the basic e-commerce model to something new.”

He says online marketplaces such as Bike Exchange and House of Home have become compelling destinations for online shoppers because of their niche offerings.

Among the main findings of the survey in regard to Australian shoppers were:

  • 37% said their buying behaviour was influenced by online reviews
  • 34% said they compared prices using their mobile in store
  • 62% said they were likely to buy from an offshore online retailer on price
  • 35% said local items would increase their preference for Australian-based retailers

These are the report’s eight key insights:

  1. To understand future global shopping behavior, look to China.
  2. We may live in the age of value – but price is still king.
  3. Store traffic doesn’t matter as much as overall customer conversion across channels.
  4. Retailer talent (finally) matters.
  5. Mobile devices have turned the corner as purchasing tools.
  6. Today’s consumers look to community.
  7. Social media is the ‘great influencer’.
  8. There is room for retailers to grab the ‘leading innovator’ mantle.


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