Retailers and Customers Don’t See Eye to Eye on Returns or In-Store Experiences

Brands also seen as missing the mark on shipping and convenience, leaving opportunity on the table, according to Oracle Retail global survey

Drones and driverless cars would be “awesome” if they speed deliveries, consumers say

Retailers are not meeting customer expectations, and in many cases are missing on the fundamentals, according to a new 15,800 respondent global consumer study by Oracle Retail. Case in point, the two sides dramatically disagree on how easy it is to return purchases. While 57 percent of the 210 retailers surveyed noted that returning products is ‘very easy,’ the same share of consumers disagree and rate the return process as a ‘complete hassle’ or at least could be easier.

Shoppers and retailers are also split on what constitutes their most important in-store experiences. More than half (56 percent) of consumers rate convenience, such as having their size in stock, as the top priority, while only 34 percent of retailers noted it as such. Consumers also rank discovery, as in space to experiment and try new products (36 percent) and expert advice (22 percent) as important when shopping in-store. This was much higher than retailers who indicated these attributes at merely 18 and six percent, respectively.

When asked how retailers are preparing to deliver against ever-changing consumer shopping needs, “faster shipping” reigned supreme. Consumers not only agreed but were open to different ways their order could arrive as long as the delivery is fast and cheap. Ninety-two percent of consumers said they would like/love “free one-day delivery by whatever means is most expedient—drone, driverless car, messenger, etc.” This represents a significant increase in positive sentiment toward new delivery models as compared to previous research.

The one caveat—it better get there when expected. The price for late deliveries according to 13 percent of consumers is they would never order from that retailer again.

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“Consumer expectations are perpetually in flux, with each positive experience setting a new bar for success in retail,” said Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Retail. “No matter if they’re enjoying the convenience of ridesharing, browsing through a seamless in-app experience or walking into a brick-and-mortar storefront, customers expect the same caliber of service in all interactions, upping the stakes for retailers as they compete with rival brands and new business models.”

Seamless, Convenient Shopping with a Tech Twist

Today’s shoppers don’t view online and in-store as discrete channels and expect the same level of ‘perceived convenience’ no matter where they shop. In fact, 51 percent of consumers associate convenience with a great shopping journey, regardless of channel. In North America, convenience has been raised to new levels, with 57 percent of respondents in the region valuing convenience above all else, compared to 50 percent in Europe.

Consumers are definitely open to new technologies to help improve the convenience of their shopping experiences. More than half (54 percent) of respondents love the idea of ‘online technology that allows you to view a digital version of yourself to try on products (e.g. sunglasses, clothes), and in United Arab Emirates (UAE), the appetite for this is even higher at 67 percent. UAE similarly leads the EMEA region in interest in VR technologies, with 68 percent saying they would embrace VR to ‘browse a virtual closet online and pick out items like you would in a store’ compared to 53 percent of global respondents. A further 41 percent of global respondents would be interested in ‘online subscription fashion services that automatically send you items in your style and you return the ones you don’t like,’ with North America and EMEA trailing other regions at 29 and 31 percent, respectively.

Delivery on Demand

Consumers are increasingly open to whatever gets orders to their door the fastest, with more than 90 percent seeking free one-day delivery by whatever means is fastest, including drone, driverless car or a messenger. This is more than double (43 percent) the number of consumers who felt these delivery mechanisms would be “awesome” when asked just last year.

Consumers equally value choice, with the majority (86 percent) agreeing that retailers should offer the ability to choose the most convenient delivery option at the time of ordering. While 87 percent of retailers recognize choice is important to consumers, the need is not yet being met, with 47 percent of consumers reporting that the delivery option they want is ‘sometimes, rarely or never’ available.

Online-only retailers are winning on this front as 61 percent of consumers feel that “the delivery option they want is always available” compared to 52 percent for traditional retailers and 46 percent for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. When asked if “items always arrive when they say they will,” 52 percent of respondents say this is the case with online-only retailers, compared to 49 percent for traditional and DTC brands. Although online-only retailers are currently in pole position, traditional retailers and DTC brands aren’t far behind, signifying progress and opportunity.

Rewards for Loyalty

Creating personalized experiences is no longer just about dynamic content or ‘special offers.’ Consumers are seeking preferential treatment based on their relationship with the brand. Roughly half (48 percent) say that offers or discounts which are better than what anyone else can get based on their loyalty to that retailer are ‘absolutely essential.’ Loyalty also relies on transparency to succeed: roughly half (52 percent) of consumers have greater trust in retailers who respond immediately in the event of an issue or recall, and 47 percent are more likely to trust emerging brands with if they are ‘honest and authentic.’

While honesty from retailers is highly valued, consumers say it can be hard to come by—just one in five (21 percent) Generation Z and Millennials consumers completely trust what retailers tell them. When issues arise with products they’ve purchased, 66 percent of consumers expect to be notified right away, and this rises to 72 percent amongst Baby Boomer consumers.