Understanding and keeping pace with what drives people to shop and buy online is critical to succeeding in the digital world. In response to demand for greater insights regarding the online customer, a new report by KPMG International analyses the online shopping preferences and behaviours of more than 18,000 consumers in 51 countries, by geography, generation and product category.
“Today’s consumer no longer goes shopping, but is shopping, all the time and everywhere. And in a truly global online marketplace, competition is no longer limited to local shops during regular business hours. Consumers can easily buy from retailers and manufacturers located anywhere in the world—or from those with no physical retail locations at all,” comments Mohsin Begg, Business Development Manager for Consumer Markets and Technology at KPMG in South Africa.
“Increased competition, combined with consumer demand for richer experiences, means that retailers need to rethink their online strategy. For many retailers, creating an online shopping experience enhanced by technology such as augmented and virtual reality or 3D is becoming at least as important as providing convenient and personalised ordering, payment and delivery options.”
The number of online transactions made by survey respondents averaged 17 purchases per year, or 1.25 per month. Generation X consumers (born between 1966 and 1981), averaged nearly 19 transactions per person per year, and they made more online purchases in the past 12 months than any other age group. In fact, Generation X consumers made 20 percent more purchases than the ‘tech-savvy’ Millennials (born between 1982 and 2001).
Begg comments: “Stage of life and income levels are certainly primary factors driving both online and offline shopping, and Generation X consumers, many of whom are more established in their careers and may be building homes and families, are likely buying more consumer goods than the younger Millennials overall. As Millennials continue to enter the workforce and adulthood, however, their online shopping activity is expected to surge and even far surpass the levels currently exhibited by older generations.”
And while it may be presumed that the more traditional Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) are less inclined to shop online than younger generations, the survey revealed that in fact they shop online just as frequently as Millennials. Furthermore, Baby Boomers were more likely to spend more per transaction than the younger consumers (average purchase for Baby Boomers was US$203, US$190 for Generation X and US$173 for Millennials).
When comparing the impact of online versus offline touch-points that create the first trigger moment, of note is that 52 percent of consumers cited at least one offline channel as a source of initial awareness, and 59 percent cited one or more online channels.
Retail websites or online shops were the most common source of initial awareness, cited by nearly a third of consumers, and online advertisements were cited by 15 percent. At the same time, physical shops were the second most popular source of awareness, cited by 22 percent of consumers.
Millennials were not only more likely than the older generations to be influenced by online sources such as social media or peer reviews—they were also more likely to be influenced by offline channels. Millennials were 25 percent more likely than Baby Boomers to have seen their most recent online purchase in a shop, nearly 50 percent more likely to have talked to a friend about it, and more than twice as likely to have seen someone with it.
Begg comments: “E-commerce is not an online-only affair. Both online and offline channels are effective in creating consumer awareness and demand, especially when used together. Furthermore, despite the rise of online shopping, e-commerce still makes up a relatively small percentage of total retail spending. Retailers’ brick and mortar strategies need to continue to evolve to attract customers into their stores, and to compete with online retailers opening their own physical outlets. Increasingly, we are seeing innovative marketing strategies, as well as new technologies such as smart shelves, robots, self-checkout, and interactive and virtual reality, being deployed in stores, as retailers strive to compete on all fronts.”
The number one reason that consumers said they shop online is for the convenience of shopping at any hour on any day (cited by 58 percent as a top reason). This is followed by having the ability to compare prices (54 percent), or to find online sales or better deals (46 percent). All age groups reported the same top three drivers. However, when it came to locating harder to find items, Baby Boomers reported having a higher motivation for shopping online (26 percent of Baby Boomers versus 20 percent for Gen X, 17 percent for Millennials, and 20 percent overall).
When asked what is most important when deciding where to buy an item online, consumers were most likely to buy from the website with the lowest price they could find (57 percent) followed by websites with enhanced delivery options (43 percent) or easy return policies (40 percent). There was a notable difference between generations when it came to the importance of being able to see online whether a product is in stock. Millennials were the least concerned about being able to see real-time product availability (cited as important by 28 percent) versus 36 percent of Gen Xers and 37 percent of Baby Boomers.
When it came to earning trust, consumers said that protecting their data and information was most important (63 percent). Although Millennials were the generation least concerned about data protection, it still ranked high as a priority for earning their trust (cited by 56 percent of Millennials, 66 percent of Gen Xers and 71 percent of Baby Boomers).
Begg notes: “While most companies are of course making a concerted effort to protect their customers’ personal information, frequent media reports on data breaches around the world continue to make consumers anxious and keep the issue top of mind.”
Excellent customer support was the number one loyalty-earning attribute, cited by 65 percent of the respondents. The second-most successful loyalty strategy was providing exclusive promotions and offers (cited by 45 percent), followed by loyalty or membership programmes (37 percent). These top three loyalty drivers were consistently effective across all generations, with Baby Boomers placing a higher importance on customer support (74 percent) than Gen Xers (66 percent) or Millennials (59 percent).
Taking a deeper look at the differences by generation, younger consumers tend to be more loyal to companies that offer personalised interactions (customized promotions, anticipation of needs, having a sense of community, one-on-one engagement in social media, online games and other interactive experiences, as well as concierge services).
Begg notes: “The more traditional attributes like excellent consumer support, loyalty offers and membership programmes will remain important for all companies to consider as part of their mix. The challenge will be for companies to find ways to also offer more personalised services to satisfy Millennials who, in 10 years, will be the mainstream consumer. One-on-one engagement will become an expectation for the majority of the market.”
Overall, 31 percent of the consumers responding to the KPMG survey said they shared a product review online. The Millennials were the most likely to post a review (34 percent) followed by Gen Xers (29 percent) and Baby boomers (28 percent). Furthermore, nearly all (92 percent) reported reviews were positive.
Begg observes, “The growing trend for consumers to post positive reviews is driven by factors including the rise of social media, where consumers subtly compete with their peers by publicly sharing their latest purchases and experiences, the rise of bloggers, whose business models are based on providing product reviews that drive affiliate clicks, and sellers, who proactively solicit ratings from happy customers.”
Consumers responding to the survey said they were most likely to post feedback directly to sellers’ websites (47 percent) followed by posts on Facebook (31 percent) then on a manufacturers or the brands websites (18 percent). This was consistent across all age groups, with Millennials also frequently posting on WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.
“The implication for companies is that user-generated reviews are being posted on sites that are increasingly out of their sphere of control or influence. Companies need to integrate these social media sites into their marketing and customer strategy,” Begg concludes.
KPMG International commissioned Intuit Research to conduct a survey of global online shoppers about their purchase behavior, purchase drivers, and perceptions and attitudes towards online shopping.
The sample consisted of consumers aged 15 to 70 years old that made at least one online purchase in the past 12 months and who were within the top 65 percent of income earners in their country.
The survey was conducted using an online questionnaire. A total of 18,430 qualified responses were received from 51 different countries. Within each country, the sample was weighted to the same age distribution to ensure that country comparisons showed behavioral differences rather than those caused by differences in demographic make-up of the population surveyed in each country.
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Business Development Manager CMT
KPMG South Africa
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The views and opinions expressed herein are the personal opinions of the interviewees and authors based on their personal experience working as Auditors in the industry and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of KPMG International or any KPMG member firm.