THE EXPECTATION GAP IN THE RETAIL EXPERIENCE

Last month Dubai played host to the Middle East Retail Forum, an annual unique forum where retailers and their associates come together on a common platform to discuss critical issues and trends shaping the future of Middle East retail industry and share their experience and exchange industry knowledge.

One of the interesting output reports we came across online was by digital agency FITCH, titled “The Joy of Shopping: It’s all in the mind”. An examination of what consumers want from the shopping experience, the findings are based on a 2012 survey in which 7,250 shoppers in seven markets – China, India, Brazil, Russia, USA, UK and UAE were polled. Referred to as the first quantitative global study of shopper mindstates, the survey explored today’s shoppers from a number of critical angles: 1) degree of involvement in the shopping experience, 2) satisfaction levels with current shopping experiences, 3) perceived channel preference across: store, website, app & social media, and 4) the gap between their current and ideal imagined shopping experience. To give a bit more of a truer context, polling questions were limited to three categories: electronics, groceries & fashion.

Below is a summary of some of the report findings:

Despite the entrance of e-commerce, sluggish world economies, people’s enthusiasm for the world’s favourite pastime remains high.

The electronics category enjoys the highest levels of enthusiasm for shopping across genders & income classes.

Shopping enthusiasm is felt most strongly in emerging markets. This is largely attributed to burgeoning middle classes and their enjoyment of the opportunities brought by higher disposable incomes and expanding retail choices available to them.

Shoppers in mature markets, US & UK, are less likely to describe themselves as enjoying the experiences. It is in these markets that retailers need to explore ways to re-engage customers.

Despite the emergence of e-commerce platforms and evolving use of digital tools, bricks & mortar stores are in no danger of going away anytime soon. Customers still view the physical store as the most preferred shopping channel.

People do a lot more shopping “in the mind” and don’t restrict their browsing and buying to physical stores. Retailers should work to develop an integrated and rich range of experiences that can satisfy the shopper’s need to dream about and explore new product choices as we as efficiently locate their final choices.

Readers interested in viewing the full report can do so here. In a destination like Dubai which has successfully leveraged itself as a strong player in the shopping tourism industry, ongoing surveys such as this offer useful insight on how retails brands and even shopping mall brands can continually inspire & satisfy their customers. Shoppers want to be inspired, whether they are shopping for Saturday evening’s dinner, or something to wear for a first day at work. As shoppers gain more access to brand & product knowledge and evolve their behaviours, retailers need to invest in keeping pace and matching or surpassing the shopper’s expectations.