How retailers can keep up with modern consumers: Q&A

  • Opinion
  • May 14, 2015
  • Vend
How retailers can keep up with modern consumers: Q&A

Shoppers of today are more well-informed and empowered than ever. The rise of ecommerce, social media and mobile devices are putting a tonne of information (and options) at your customers’ fingertips and are enabling them to get the knowledge and products they need however and whenever they want. They’re researching, shopping, and buying across multiple channels, and retailers must find ways to keep up. 

As part of Vend’s Retail Success webinar series, retail expert Chris Petersen, CEO of integrated marketing solutions, shares this thoughts in the Q&A below on the changing shopping habits of consumers and what retailers can do to stay competitive.

How are consumers of today different from those in the past? 

What’s changing retail is the changing behaviour of consumers. Consumers are now shopping anytime and everywhere, and that changes everything from a retailer’s perspective because the consumer is basically shopping all of the time.

And what’s key here is not only have consumers changed how they shop and where they shop, but they’ve also changed their expectations. They’re expecting that they can get a wider choice online and they’re expecting that they can benchmark prices. What that means for brick and mortar stores is that consumers have much higher expectations when they go into a shop - they’re now expecting higher levels of service and they want experiences that they can’t find online.

There’s also the fact that consumers these days are quite comfortable using smartphones. For most of the world, the smartphone is the screen of choice; it’s highly mobile, which enables showrooming and all of those concepts around that.

But what’s interesting is statistics have shown that more people webroom than showroom. There’s still a very high percentage of people buying products in store when it’s a considered purchase. 

However, people aren’t going to stores to gather the fundamentals. When they walk into the store, they’ve likely already researched the features, recommendations and price comparisons of what they want to buy, but they’re going down there to have an experience with the product.

That’s a great overview of what’s changed. Now could you tell us about consumer habits or expectations that have stayed the same?

I think there’s still a habit of shopping being social. People don’t get that on the web. We sometimes forget that it’s not just a quest for a product or a price—there’s a social dimension of shopping. We still see people visiting the big shopping centres where there’s a social component that’s enjoyable and is part of the purchase decision. I think that part of shopping has stayed the same.

And there’s still the expectation that a store would have associates that people can talk to. Shoppers still go to stores because there are people there. However, while that’s still the same, the expectation of what that person does in the store is now heightened or increased, in terms of the consumer perception of value.

I also think there’s the perception of personalisation. Consumers still go to stores because of the personal experience. You can get a personal custom fit, a personal recommendation, a personal experience through physical retail. You can’t really get that online. 

What are the things retailers can do to cater to modern consumers?

It depends if the retailer is pure ecommerce, if they’re store-only or if they’re omnichannel. In general though, I think retailers need to have more touch points. 

Shopping now is a journey, not an event. In a sense, shopping is a process. Maybe not when you’re buying chewing gum or something simple, but if you’re buying a dress, or shoes, or something you’re interested in, it’s a journey. 

That journey typically starts online. And that doesn’t just mean retail websites. It can mean online guru sites where people talk about products. Mommy bloggers, for example, are a huge source of information that people turn to before heading to ecommerce.

Because of this, retailers need more touch points and they also need to engage consumers sooner. That’s the first thing retailers need to do.

The second thing is provide information beyond product features and specs. Most of that is very quick and easy to get when consumers are comparing prices or products, so what consumers are looking for now is use scenarios, how it applies, consumer testimonials—in other words, information beyond the product.

The third thing is assistance everywhere. So if I’m an ecommerce site, I’ll be looking at things like chat boxes or offers of assistance. I’ll look into things things that ecommerce players can do other than just offer an electronic catalog.

I can probably give you six or eight more of these, but the big ones are a) engage early with customers; b) give them more than product features; and c) personalise their shopping journey.

In terms of offline retail, what can retailers do to convert and engage customers in-store?

One of the things retailers have to understand is that online always wins in terms of the breadth of the store. In the past, a lot of retailers focused on stocking more things in the store. In other words, more is better.

But that’s no longer the case. Now, the retailers that seem to be winning are the ones that curate assortments. What that means is carefully selecting the top styles, showing the top models, or offering a showcase of “good, better, best” instead of trying to stock every color or every single SKU.

Another thing is to recognise that the consumer may want to check things online or via mobile while they’re in-store. A good example of this is John Lewis. They’re engaging consumers in the store, and enabling them to use an app, website, or touchscreen. That way, if they have any questions or can’t find what they need, they can look it up, engage with the staff, or engage by themselves.

Another huge component is staffing. Retailers tend to view labour as a cost, not a selling asset. So they end up reducing hours, training, and labour costs, when what they should be doing is to recognise that sales associates are key to providing a compelling in-store experience and adding sales to the basket.

If you’re looking for more insights on the changes surrounding consumers and retailers, Chris will be hosting Vend’s upcoming Retail Success webinar, The Great Retail Disruption — Omnichannel is the New Normal at 8:00am NZ time on 20th May. It’s free for anyone to attend, simply register your interest here

 Chris Petersen, PhD, CEO of Integrated Marketing Solutions, is a strategic consultant who specialises in retail strategy, customer experience, and retail metrics. He has built a legacy working with Fortune 500 companies to achieve measurable results in improving their performance and partnerships. 

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


The beauty of it: From start to success with cosmetic mogul Rowena Roberts

  • News
  • June 14, 2019
  • Courtney Devereux
The beauty of it: From start to success with cosmetic mogul Rowena Roberts

Rowena Roberts had zero experience in retail when she propositioned Estée Lauder to allow her to open a MAC Cosmetics store in New Zealand. Now, over 18 years later through her business Red Honey Cosmetics, she has sold luxury brands Jo Malone London, Bobbi Brown and MAC in New Zealand successfully. The cosmetics mogul talks to us on the most important aspects of running her businesses, and why no one should ever be afraid to do the literal dirty work.

Read more

Spread the word: Pic’s Peanut Butter World opens

If all the world’s a stage, Pic’s Peanut Butter World is no peanut gallery.

Sponsored Content

Past the typical: Well Hung Butchery

Well Hung butchery, located in Milford, is a new shining example of how retail fit outs are becoming less about what you sell and more ...


Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Regional rollercoaster
What does retail look like in 2019 for ...
Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Fisher & Paykel makes record result on strong sales

  • News
  • June 13, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Fisher & Paykel makes record result on strong sales

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare has made a record full year profit with more than $1 billion in sales

Read more

Farro co-founder launches Waste-Not Kitchen charity

  • News
  • June 13, 2019
  • The Register team
Farro co-founder launches Waste-Not Kitchen charity

A new charity, Waste-Not Kitchen, has launched with the aim of feeding Kiwis in need with meals created from surplus retail meat that would otherwise go to landfill in a one-for-one model. Farro co-founder Janene Draper and her sister Leysa Ross are behind the initiative.

Read more

Wellington book sector gets shared working space

  • News
  • June 13, 2019
Wellington book sector gets shared working space

Booksellers NZ has made its latest venture to supporting writers in the industry, teaming up with the New Zealand Book Council to form Whare Pukapuka, a shared working space in Wellington.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit