IBM: Enthusiasm for online retail outpaces behaviour

29 January 2015

In a recently released study IBM finds there is a discrepancy between consumers’ stated behaviour preference and their actual behaviour. This discrepancy is present both in their preference for online consumption as well as their willingness to share information. According to IBM this shows that retailers can grow further by closing the gap.

Digital retail channels
Digital channels provide businesses with a plethora of ways of reaching their customers, as well as increasingly large numbers of ways of collecting (or, through analytics, discerning) many of their customer’s preferences and interests, their location, responses to prior communications, browsing and purchase behaviour, relevant social messaging and so much more to infuse context into their messaging. By better understanding their customers, businesses are better able to tailor contextual messages that best fit the customer. Access to the customer’s information may therefore been seen as beneficial for the sales process. For consumers digital channels also offer many benefits, such as the possibility of comparing products and prices and to find the best buy.

Online retail - IBM Institute for Business Value

IBM recently released a study into consumer sentiment and their preferred channels used while shopping, titled ‘Shoppers disrupted: Retailing through the noise’. The IBM Institute for Business Value analysed survey data from over 110,000 responses in 19 countries between 2011 and 2014.

Consumer enthusiasm outpaces behaviour
The main conclusion of the study is that there is a divergence between the stated behaviour preference of consumers and their actual behaviour, related to the digital/physical retail division. While 43% of consumers say they prefer to shop online, only 29% actually made their last purchase online. In some product categories such as youth apparel or home décor, there is a nearly 20% gap between the percentage of people that say they enjoy shopping online and the percentage of people who actually made their last purchase online in those categories.

43 percent of consumers prefer shopping online

When it comes to sharing information, the survey underlines another discrepancy between statement and behaviour. 28% of the respondents are willing to part with more and more personal information, such as current location information, for trusted businesses. However, according to IBM, this could be much higher as 42% of consumers say to see the potential benefit of sharing their location with retailers.

sharing of location via GPS

More than half of the respondents (54%) see the benefit of sharing mobile for text with retailers, but only 42% would actually share this information, although this number went up from 38%.

Sharing mobile for text with retailers

The results of the study, according to IBM, signal that retailers have an opportunity to better meet consumer expectations online. “With consumers switching seamlessly from online to the store it might appear that retailers have finally struck the right balance, but IBM’s study identifies a significant gap between what shoppers want from retailers and what they are getting today,” explains Sarah Diamond, General Manager at IBM Global Business Services. “Retailers may not be doing enough to meet consumer expectations shaped by digital experiences outside of retail -- from location-based services to preference-based apps. The good news is that this gap also indicates the potential of growth for retailers who can meet those consumer expectations.”