Salesforce: Digital sales channels show impressive growth

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Shoppers are increasingly willing to share data for personalized benefits.

Between 2019 and 2021, three specific digital sales channels saw their transaction share sharply increase.

According to the new Salesforce Connected Shoppers Report, between 2019 and 2021, three types of digital channels grew transaction share by nearly 40%: Brand websites and apps, retailer websites and apps, and online marketplaces. Emerging channels like delivery apps, social media, and messaging platforms also had their share of transactions increase by more than 20%.

For the fourth edition of the Connected Shoppers Report, Salesforce surveyed 1,600 global shoppers and more than 1,000 retail executives. In addition to transaction share growth, the study also examined the overall popularity of various digital channels for different shopping activities.

When it’s time to make a purchase, mobile wallets, email, and social media are the top digital destinations. Social media, influencers, and messaging apps are the most popular methods for digital product discovery. For digital customer support, 28% of surveyed consumers utilize chatbots and 23% use social media.

Salesforce data indicates transactions through brick-and-mortar stores decreased 27% between 2019 and 2021. Yet, 82% of a total $23 trillion worth of sales that occurred in 2020 took place in physical locations. The top reasons respondents visit a physical store are to touch and feel the merchandise, have access to purchases immediately, and avoid shipping fees.

However, nearly one in three respondents have researched a product online using a mobile device while in-store, and one in four have scanned a QR code to learn more about a product.

The recently released 2021 Salesforce Holiday Insights study predicts there will be 7% year-over-year overall growth in global digital commerce for November and December, slowing down from 50% year-over-year growth in 2020 and 10% growth in the U.S. (slowing down from 43% year-over-year growth in 2020).

Shopper expectations around loyalty programs are also evolving. While the study shows points-based programs are currently the most popular type of loyalty program, data suggests that millennial and Gen Z respondents value exclusive access to limited products and experiences nearly two times more than silent generation/baby boomer respondents.

Respondents are also interested in earning rewards for more than just transactions. Many are willing to take actions such as downloading an app (57%) or writing an online review (47%) and exchanging certain personal information — like their birthday (67%) or phone number for text messages (51%) — for more personalized experiences and benefits.

While 66% of consumer respondents expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, only 32% of surveyed retail executives say they have the full ability to turn data into personalized prices, offers, and products in real-time across channels and touchpoints.

One major reason for this disconnect is that the average retail organization uses an estimated 44 different systems to engage customers across touchpoints. However, 55% of retail executive respondents say their organization is in some form of the planning stage for a platform that enables corporate users to access and operationalize customer data across marketing, commerce, and service.

Other interesting findings include:

  • Over half (54%) of surveyed retail executives are planning to replace their legacy system with a cloud solution by 2024.
  • Eight in 10 surveyed shoppers will abandon a retailer after three bad experiences.