PwC: Develop a multichannel strategy or die

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PwC survey urges retailers to keep pace with buying trends

Internet shopping has gone from “rare to routine” according to this year’s PwC report on consumer shopping trends.

The report, entitled Pick ‘n’ Mix – meeting the demands of the new multichannel shopper, found that almost one-third of consumers shop online at least once per week and 14% shop online more than once per week.

And the good news for digital retailers doesn’t stop there. PwC found that 60% of the 1,000 people that it surveyed were expecting to spend even more online over the coming two to three years.

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Retailers should study the detail of the PwC report, which lists a number of technological, business and behavioural trends that profoundly shift the balance of power between all retailers and all consumers.

Over the three years that PwC has been tracking shopping behaviour, the shift to digital retail has been profound. In 2007, only 4% of consumers bought online more than once per week. Last year, 14% did so.

The report identifies several distinct factors that have driven this shift, including:

• Broadband is reaching a critical mass and is no longer confined to the early-adopting youthful end of the market.

• Far more devices connect to the internet. Smart phones, tablet PCs, televisions and games consoles all allow people to shop online.

• Software is becoming easier to use and more sophisticated. For example, Tesco has just launched a new iPhone app that turns the handset into a mobile barcode scanner that keeps track of a supermarket shop.

• The best retailers are using every digital weapon in their arsenals to build closer relationships with their customers. Personalised e-mails and social networks are just part of an ever-improving set of marketing tools based on instant reach to the market and constant data gathering.

• These digital marketing tools are constantly used to push promotions and special offers. “Shopping around for a bargain is proving to be a ‘sticky’ behaviour and is likely to persist through the new austerity and beyond,” the report states.

• Consumers like reviews and act on them. They increasingly value and trust consumer reviews.

PwC warns that failing to develop a multichannel strategy that draws lessons from the best exponents could prove fatal for traditional retailers.

“Those that fail to do this run a very real risk of losing market share to competitors who have a sharper understanding of how consumer behaviours are changing,” the report concludes.

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