TECHNOLOGY

Study: More shoppers to participate in ‘voice commerce’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As the adoption of voice-controlled devices rises, so will the number of voice-enabled purchases.

This was according to “Walker Sands 2017 Future of Retail Study.” The report, which was conducted in late March, surveyed 1,622 consumers across the United States.

Nearly one in five consumers (19%) have made a voice purchase through an Amazon Echo or other voice-controlled device in the past year. Another 33% plan to do so in the next year.

With 46% of consumers reporting they prefer to shop online rather than in store, retailers face pressure to offer intuitive, responsive and personalized customer experiences, or risk missing out on sales. The introduction of channels, such as mobile and voice commerce, have created a tipping point, and more than three-quarters of shoppers (77%) now think the online customer experience will eventually surpass the brick-and-mortar customer experience, the study reported.

“In the age of the connected consumer, e-commerce has become about much more than online shopping or the point-of-sale,” said Dave Parro, partner and VP at Walker Sands.

“The proliferation of technology such as connected home devices, voice ordering and drones have dramatically shifted consumer expectations of retail,” he said. “Our findings suggest that the in-store experience is not going away, but rather there is a demand for a holistic commerce experience that is consistent, transparent and multichannel.”

The drivers of this new retail experience are:

• The Connected Consumer: Connected devices are an integral part of the consumer lifestyle, providing an endless variety of products and services available at the click of a button or with a simple voice command. While smartphone penetration has reached an all-time high (78%), emerging device adoption is also on the rise. For example, 27% of consumers now own some kind of in-home smart device, 24% own a voice-controlled device, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, and 18% own wearable fitness trackers. Meanwhile, 13% own a virtual headset and 9% own a personal drone.

Connected Commerce: Increased comfort with digital shopping has pushed e-commerce to new levels, and technologies like voice-driven commerce introduce a new layer of complexity for brands and retailers. Nearly a third of consumers (29%) shop online at least weekly, a number that jumps to 37% for Millennials. Sixty-six percent (66%) of consumers have made a purchase through a mobile app in the past year, and one in four consumers report they always or often shop via mobile app; 38% shop regularly on mobile websites.

The Changing Customer Experience: The “always-on” nature of Amazon has created a culture driven by speed and price. Free (80%) and fast shipping (54%) remain the top incentives for consumers to purchase more online. Still, in-store shopping remains an important part of the experience for the youngest generation of shoppers (ages 18-25), and a majority (58%) prefer to shop in a physical store (compared to less than half of 26-45 year old consumers).

“The walls between channels will continue to fall as voice-controlled and connected home devices reach widespread adoption and the commerce experience becomes fluid,” said Erin Jordan, account director and lead of the retail technology team, Walker Sands. “Brands and retailers need to understand the always-on nature of consumers and identify the best way to add value through a consistent experience.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Customers most satisfied with these appliance retailers

BY Marianne Wilson

Best Buy ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the $24 billion-plus appliance market.

That's according to the J.D. Power 2017 Appliance Retailer Satisfaction Study. With a score of 857, Best Buy came out on top, ahead of Lowe's (840), The Home Depot (839), Hhgregg (831) and Sears (828). Overall satisfaction with appliance retailers in 2017 is 838 points, up from 821 in 2016.

The study found that having sales staff greets customers promptly has the greatest impact on customer satisfaction. The other key performance indicators (in order of importance) are having the salesperson thank a customer for the purchase; and a neatly arranged appliance display. When each of these top three indicators are met, 50% of customers say they "definitely will" repurchase from the retailer. When only two are met, that percentage drops to 29%. When just one KPI is met, the percentage drops even further to 17%.

“Staying true to such sales basics as customer greeting, appreciation and clean displays are proving to be important aspects related to increased customer satisfaction," said Greg Truex, senior director of the at-home practice at J.D. Power. "By training staff to be attentive to both customer and visual details, retailers may be able to keep those loyal customers and increase sales as the market increases over the next few years."

From the initial in-store greeting to receiving assistance from a store employee, timeliness is the key to customer satisfaction, as the expectation for these interactions to occur is two minutes or less. Customer satisfaction drops significantly from 881 (on a 1,000-point scale) to 834 when the initial greeting takes more than two minutes.

It is also critical for store employees to respond in a timely manner when a customer asks for help. Similarly, overall satisfaction declines significantly when a customer waits more than two minutes to be assisted, compared with waiting less than two minutes (830 vs. 870, respectively).

Following are some loyalty findings of the study:

• Among delighted customers (overall satisfaction scores of 901 and above), 69% say they "definitely will" repurchase from the retailer, compared with the overall study average of 39%.

• Nearly three-fourths (74%) of delighted appliance retailer customers say they "definitely will" recommend the retailer to others, compared with the overall study average of 43%.

• Among delighted customers, the average number of positive recommendations is 4.0, compared with the overall study average of 2.7.

Now in its 10th year, the Appliance Retailer Satisfaction Study measures customer satisfaction with appliance retailers by examining seven factors (in order of importance): sales staff and service; store facility; price; delivery service; sales and promotions; merchandise; and installation service. The study is based on responses from 2,822 customers who purchased major home appliances from a multiregional appliance retailer within the previous 12 months.

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TECHNOLOGY

Vineyard Vines uses social media data to drive sales

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The brand best known for its smiling pink whale logo is improving pricing, design and buying decisions by using an innovative data source.

By partnering with First Insight, Vineyard Vines will leverage the company’s online social engagement tools to gather real-time product pricing and sentiment data from its customers. This information will then be analyzed by First Insight’s predictive models.

Results will enable Vineyard Vines to more quickly and accurately make design, buying and pricing decisions that improve sales, margins and inventory turnover both in stores and online. Specifically, “the voice of the customer” will help the retailer increase speed to market with the right styles, targeted to their core customer.

“Through First Insight’s predictive analytics, we will gain visibility into our customers’ preferences in a way that hasn’t been possible for us before,” said Mike Gaumer, president of Vineyard Vines.

The retailer validated the solution’s return on investment (ROI) by measuring a direct increase in online conversions and full-price sales. “Ultimately, First Insight is helping us deliver on two of our corporate goals; building great relationships with our customers and driving profitable sales,” Gaumer added. “By bringing winning products to market that align with the needs of our distinct customer base, we will increase traffic both in-store and online while engaging our customers more effectively.”

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