How data is shaping shopping behaviours

Offer, keybord, online, e-commerce, buy, bidThe boom globally in online shopping combined with the growth of consumer data collection and analytics is reshaping retailer practices and consumer attitudes and behavior around the world.

But as consumers adapt to the new technologies associated with shopping, they are also expressing concern about these same trends. They say they value shopping as an experience and not just as a transaction, and are concerned about the expanding role of data in shaping and limiting this experience.

A new study, Truth About Shopping, has looked at global consumer attitudes and behavior related to all areas of shopping, including online, mobile, and instore purchasing; views about data and privacy; and preferences about the shopping environment and experience.

“We’re seeing a variety of behavioral reactions in how shoppers around the world are responding to the growing science of shopping through the expanded use of technology and data,” said Laura Simpson, global director of McCann Truth Central.

“There are ways in which they are embracing it thoroughly, and other ways in which they’re doing so warily,” she said.

“Today’s challenge in the retail environment is, how do you keep the art of shopping alive in the age of algorithms? We believe that focusing on the art of shopping is essential to balance the science of shopping.”

More than half (52 per cent) of people said shopping is too impersonal these days and they are concerned about the reliance on algorithms to dictate their purchases.

Fifty seven per cent worry that they’ll discover fewer new things if companies always show them exactly what they’re looking for. Despite this, Simpson, says this also presents sellers with new product offering and merchandising opportunities, because 66 per cent of shoppers are looking to be inspired while they are shopping.

“They want the very human and personal touch amidst a wave of algorithm-based personalisation,” she said.

This desire for a personal touch does not mean that consumers aren’t looking to retailers to seamlessly blend technology into the physical experience, according to India Wooldridge, VP deputy director at McCann Truth Central.

“When we look at our data, consumers are open to an even more seamless experience in stores than we see today. They are ready for the smart store of the future,” she said.

“For instance, 71 per cent would welcome interactive walls that enable you to try on clothes without changing, however, it is important to remember that such technology cannot come at the expense of really getting to know the customer.”

Wooldridge points out that mobile is an area where there is a particularly strong need to create more of a sensorial experience.

Of consumers who have shopped on their mobiles in the past six months, 49 per cent can see themselves shopping exclusively on their mobile in the future, underscoring mobile’s important role in the future of shopping.

On the other hand, mobiles are emerging as the new window shopping, with 70 per cent of consumers saying they think mobiles are good for browsing, but not for buying. This perception is highest in Mexico and the US.

Brands that are able to tailor their mobile platforms to offer rich, inspirational content, as well as quick, on the go transactions, based on the consumer’s momentary requirement will be able to tap into mobile’s full potential.

In line with these trends, the study found consumers express a mixture of greater awareness, concern, and sci-fi-like interest in the future of shopping.

The study found that 84 per cent of people globally are aware that companies track the websites they visit to recommend products they may like. At the same time, shoppers accept this tracking as long as they understand the trade off – 65 per cent of people said they are willing to share data if they can see the benefit to them.

The over reliance on the science of shopping does worry the majority of consumers. Overall around the world, 71 per cent worry about the amount of information that online stores know about them, however, because things are changing at such a rapid pace and people are focused on the technological benefits, there are some contradictory attitudes that emerge with regard to privacy. For example, 59 per cent of people around the world would be open to a store that is able to recognise you when you walk through the door.

Nearly half of people globally say that they can see themselves potentially using fingerprints or retina scans as payment authentication in the future, and nearly a sixth of people globally say they can see themselves potentially using payment technology embedded in their body.

Additionally, a lot of personal behavior is already changing because of the new world of shopping experience. Shopping at midnight and even mid-dinner, have become acceptable.

According to the study, 39 per cent of people say that being able to shop in the middle of the night is the biggest emotional benefit of online shopping, while a quarter of people globally believe it is acceptable to excuse yourself from a meeting or dinner in order to go log on to an online flash sale.

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