Customer Is Still King and Looking for Loyal Retail Subjects: PwC

Annual Total Retail Study highlights the importance of full consumer experience

TORONTO, April 29, 2015 /CNW/ - According to the Total Retail Survey – Canadian Respondents, released today by PwC Canada, the most successful Canadian retailers will be the ones that understand their customers best and create a total retail model that generates an exceptional retail experience for the consumer, both online and in-store.  Canadian retailers need to change their strategies, operating models and infrastructures to not only offer a multiple channel experience, but also be able to evolve as the needs of their customers evolve.

"Making the transition is always easier said than done and many retailers are unsure how to start," said Ted Salter, ‎Partner, Consulting and Deals in the Retail and Consumer Sector at PwC Canada (@TedSalter).  "However, this is not a phase and retailers that do not address these issues will risk becoming irrelevant, especially as the buying power of the younger generations increases."

The annual PwC survey spoke to Canadian consumers about their shopping habits and preferences.  In Canada, a number of disruptors stood out as challenges that Canadian retailers must address in order to thrive in the evolving retail environment, namely the in-store model, mobile technology and social media.

Change the In-store Model to Address How Customers Want to Experience Your Products

While online sales are growing each year, there is no indication that the physical locations will become extinct.  Instead, these two experiences become an omnichannel shopping journey for the consumer with online simply an extension of the in-store experience.  This is because consumers still want to be able to see, feel and touch some of the products they buy (59%), get the product immediately (53%) or have certainty on size and suitability (33%).  Conversely, online shopping is more about better deals (53%), shopping at any time (43%) or simply convenience (38%).  Technology is a key way for retails to enhance the shopping experience, whether it is checking inventory at all other stores (38%), self-checkout (33%), free access to Wi-Fi (26%) or real-time personalized offers (22%).

"Today the store's role is to augment the total value to the customer by providing an engaging tactile experience," concluded Salter.  "That experience is very different between brands and must be entirely driven by how the consumer wants to experience the brand and interact with the products being sold."

Harness Mobile Technology to Help Customers during Pre-purchasing

While Canadians lag behind global consumers in terms of purchases with their mobile technologies, they do use them before they purchase to compare prices (45%), research products (45%), locate stores (30%), find coupons (25%) or access loyalty programs (23%).  These access points provide a great opportunity for retailers to extend their value proposition to consumers.  There is much more information that retailers can include on websites and loyalty apps than can be found on a price tag.

Mr. Salter noted, "Mobile technology and smart phones especially are blurring the lines between traditional and non-traditional shopping channels.  These technologies provide endless information to consumers at their fingertips and can ultimately drive where they shop, not just what they buy."

Build Genuine Connections with Customers Using Social Media

Social media is becoming more and more pervasive and it is critical the retailers understand how and where their customers are using social networking.  Of the Canadians surveyed, 60% have interacted with products and brands through social media.  More importantly, 46% of those said such interactions have led them to make more purchases.  The research also showed that Canadians will visit a social media site for a brand or retailer if there was a defined personal benefit and the strongest lure was a deal (52% of respondents attracted to a site by potential deals, promotions or sales).

"Social technology allows retailers to target and tailor their message, which is key in converting interaction to purchase," said Salter.  "The challenge that many retailers face is the changing nature of social technology – what worked for last quarter's campaign may be of no use for this quarter.  Monitoring and online intelligence become critical for retailers to ensure their social media strategies stay relevant and engaging for their customers."

Other Highlights from Canadian Respondents Surveyed include:

  • Most have not used their mobile phone (66% vs. 52% global) or tablet (64% vs. 54% global) to make an online purchase
  • 75% browse online before making a purchase in-store
  • 94% use traditional payment methods (credit/debit cards and cash)
  • Only 24% envision using a digital currency in the future (vs. 39% globally)
  • 32% follow some of their favourite brands or retailers on social media
  • 27% use social media to research brands, including feedback from others
  • 22% have discovered new brands on social media
  • 54% make online purchases at least once a month
  • 78% have been shopping online for at least three years

Survey Methodology
PwC's Global Total Retail Consumer Survey included more than 19,000 respondents in 19 territories over six continents. The survey aims to understand and compare consumer shopping behaviors and use of retail channels in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Denmark, Hong Kong, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Middle East, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States. The survey was conducted between August and September 2014.

PwC also interviewed numerous retail executives, in addition to executives from other industries, for inclusion in its report.  The full survey report with supporting graphics can be downloaded at http://www.pwc.com/ca/totalretail. Copies are also available from the media contacts including related charts and information graphics to help illustrate your stories.  For more information, please visit: http://www.pwc.com/ca/totalretail or follow us on Twitter at @PwC_Digital.

Follow PwC on Twitter at @PwC_Canada_LLP and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pwccanada.

About PwC Canada
PwC Canada helps organizations and individuals create the value they're looking for. More than 5,800 partners and staff in offices across the country are committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax, consulting and deals services. PwC Canada is a member of the PwC network of firms with more than 195,000 people in 157 countries. Find out more by visiting us at www.pwc.com/ca.

© 2015 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership. All rights reserved.

PwC refers to the Canadian member firm, and may sometimes refer to the PwC network. Each member firm is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.

SOURCE PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers)

For further information: Jonathan Hicks, T: 416 869 2449, Email: jonathan.hicks@ca.pwc.com

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http://www.pwc.com/ca

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