I am about to launch my new E-Commerce business in a few weeks, thus I screen everything I see that touches on this subject and even more though when it covers Fashion as a market segment.
When I saw this new study published by my former colleagues of Cap Gemini “the Digital Relevancy” I first thought: that’s just another of those ROPO (Research Online Purchase Offline) studies that highlights the fact that the same consumers who use the web to research product information also go to physical stores. Many studies conclude on the fact that today the consumer has more knowledge about the product he wants to purchase than the sales person and that the POS experience needs to be improved, otherwise there will soon be no reason anymore for consumers to go to brick’n'mortar stores.
The reality, however, is much more complex than this and so I was positively surprised by the approach of this study conducted by the consulting firm. I always try to find a way to be rude when I write here, but in this case I could not find anything to criticize. The study is free and can be downloaded as full version or as executive summary. Just do it. It’s very comprehensive and fast to read.
Robust and exhaustive study
Cap Gemini disclosed the methodology as well as the market research firm (ORC International in the UK) that was in charge of the data collection and analysis. From what I can tell it’s a robust sample and well thought-through approach they took. The study covers 16 countries, including mature markets, such as some Nordic countries, the UK, France and Germany and many developing markets like China, India, Brazil and Russia.
Each country is represented by a managed sample of 1.000 consumers. The statistical method for creating the consumer segmentation is not mentioned, nor the method for collecting the data, but let’s assume that ORC has done a good job at it, and the results can really be seen as trustworthy (I worked 4 years as a supplier for market research companies and I can say it’s not always the case).
The Relevancy Approach
The study is called the Digital Shoppers Relevancy, a very well picked title. First of all, it doesn’t stop at the simple assumption that online and offline co-exist in today’s world, but it goes beyond that and structures the shoppers journey into 5 phases: Awareness, Choosing, Transaction, Delivery, After-sales.
Further on, they differentiate the use of digital devises in each of the phases and for different locations (at home, in store or mobile) and look at different demographics.
They identified 6 shopper segments that they called: Social Digital Shoppers (25% of all respondents across all countries), Digital Shopaholics (18%), Occasional Online Shoppers (16%), Rational Online Shoppers (15%), Value Seekers (13%), Techno-shy Shoppers (13%).
The representation of each of those segments varies from country to country. One of the studies’ findings is that in mature markets like Finland, Sweden, UK or France the presence of value seekers and rational shoppers is highest, whereas in developing countries like China, India, Brazil or Mexico the presence of Social Digital Shoppers and Shopaholics more predominant and “rational” behavior almost non existent.
That’s probably why price comparison and shopbots never took off in those markets. And it might imply that the above mentioned ROPO behavior applies more to mature countries, whereas in the newer (and much larger) economies shopping is just more social.
But the study did not stop here. Cap Gemini also differentiated the segmentation for markets and looked into the 5 following verticals: Electronics, fashion, health & personal care, food, DIY.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that electronics is leading the digital parade, while the social media rule for apparel, shoes and other fashion purchases. On the other extreme food and DIY is still purchased a lot in physical stores. But this doesn’t mean that for the later two verticals digital media is not so important. It simply indicates that the consumer’s habits and subsequently the expectation towards the use of digital tools is different whether you’re looking to buy a pair of shoes or a way to fill your fridge with healthy, fresh food.
The study analyses this vertical market approach on a country by country basis and differentiates the typical shoppers profiles. Everyone can draw his own learning here.
When reading the study, you find a few random quotes the researchers use to illustrate the customer expectations. I just picked a few of them that I found interesting, essentially because I know that many of you are working on projects and startups that are addressing some of those points. If you’re not, then Cap Gemini serves you a few ideas to be developed.
Comments made by surveyed consumers regarding their expectations include
- The need for on-stock information in physical store when doing online product research,
- Standardization of clothing sizes (aka help to fit clothing),
- More transparency and upfront pricing information including taxes,
- Normalized presentation of product information (example: real battery life of a smartphone and not the maximum life that is never achieved),
- More 3D product presentations,
- Digital membership and loyalty cards,
- Using mobile telephone numbers as customer number,
- Propose precise delivery hours,
- Offer the possibility to return products to physical stores
…and many more.
My first conclusion as I already mentioned above: I encourage everybody who is operating in consumer markets to read this study. It’s an easy read, it’s free to download (not even email required) and well thought through, and I believe methodologically robust. If somebody has a negative comment, please let me know, and we’ll add the “rude” argument here.
Cap Gemini extracts some key findings from this study, such as
- Proximity matters when it comes to personalization
- Separating hype from reality is critical for social media and mobile apps
and summarizes the conclusions with two main points:
- Across all countries and segments, they predict an increase of digital shopping with an improved digital experience. By 2014 they say 60% of the interviewed consumers expect a further integration of digital and non-digital channels and expect this “to become the norm”.
By 2020 they see many physical stores turn into showrooms where consumers can see, touch and feel products and then place orders on digital devices to be delivered at home.
- The second conclusion touches on the need to have a stronger differentiated approach. There is no one-size-fits all recipe that can be applied to all countries, markets an segments. An analysis of your shoppers journey is required to identify the relevant pattern and then optimize your strategy and use of digital tools.
With this study they’ve provided good arguments to hire Cap Gemini to develop your Digital Shopper strategy – provided of course you can afford the services of a french CAC40 company.