Hey, retailers: Go digital-first, or risk being last

December 14, 2020
6 minute read
Cybersource Team
Cybersource Team
Global Experts

A growing share of consumers appreciate the certainty, efficiency, and safety of digital shopping channels, and these trends are informing the standards and expectations they have for shopping. Is your business ready?

The first edition of PYMNTS’ November 2020 Global Digital Shopping Index, done in collaboration with Cybersource, highlighted that merchants should ensure that the “consumers’ shopping journeys are seamless, secure, and efficient, regardless of whether they begin online or in the store.”

Delivering on consumers’ expectations

Based on a recent survey of 2,170 U.S. consumers and 500 U.S. merchants, the survey indicates that “the more consumers have been exposed to digital shopping tools, the less patience they seem to have for the frictions that have long accompanied in-store shopping, such as checkout lines and product shortages.”

To add to that, "top performers in the current retail market are not digital marketplaces, but rather merchants with both brick-and-mortar and online operations."

Source: Global Digital Shopping Index, U.S. Edition, p. 19.

“The largest portion of top-performing merchants, according to PYMNTS Customer Satisfaction Index, make 50 percent to 75 percent of their sales in-store versus online,” the Index states, adding that “top-performing merchants distinguish themselves by offering many digital features while also prioritizing customers’ convenience and security. At least 90 percent of leading merchants offer nearly all of the 27 digital features we examined.”

How the consumer buying journey has evolved

Physical retail has been watching its rearview mirror with justifiable paranoia ever since eCommerce went volcanic last spring. That’s always been the problem with rearview optics: Objects coming along from behind appear small and far away, then suddenly they fly past you.

Consumer buying journeys also find themselves locked in a driving analogy right now—this is one of the “two roads diverged” variety—as they increasingly elect to start and complete those journeys in just one channel. Digital-first folks prefer apps; experiential types love stores.

Shopping persona distribution shifts

Source: Global Digital Shopping Index, U.S. Edition, p. 11.

The Global Digital Shopping Index, U.S. edition, found that physical retail stores need to live up digital standards and “do more to imbue in-store shopping experiences with the sense of control, convenience and safety consumers have come to expect when purchasing online”.

“It is incumbent on merchants to ensure that consumers’ shopping journeys are seamless, safe and efficient, regardless of whether they begin online or in the store.”

Digital features make for better journeys

Diving right into the numbers from the Shopping Index, the widening perception gap between the quality of online versus physical retail experiences is an issue that stores need to deal with decisively.

“Our Consumer Satisfaction Index shows that online natives’ shopping journeys have the highest scores—158.7 overall on a scale with a median of 100. Mobile natives’ journeys follow closely behind. Brick-and-mortar shoppers’ scores are nearly two times lower,” per the new Index.

It continues, noting that “the specific digital features consumers favor reflect their desires to minimize the time spent inside stores. Curbside pickup use has notably grown from 10.8 percent of digital purchases in March to 15.5 percent in July. Other features' use similarly seems to be driven by a desire for safer and more efficient shopping experiences. The digital features that experienced the greatest usage increases since the pandemic’s onset included product availability tools, mobile order-ahead and contactless cards or digital wallet payments.”

More consumers are starting purchases in digital channels

Source: Global Digital Shopping Index, U.S. Edition, p. 3.

These are just some of the ways that stores seem to have lost the trail on consumer preference as FinTechs swoop in with cool new apps. Ironically, as much as digital-first is commanding perceptions in the year of COVID, consumers still have remarkable loyalty to the physical.

Bridging your digital and physical retail experiences

Making sense of a year like 2020 will take time. Consider this finding from the Global Digital Shopping Index: “Shopping inside stores remains the most common way consumers shop. This does not necessarily mean shoppers like it, however. Our research indicates that a growing share of consumers appreciate the certainty, efficiency and safety of digital shopping channels and that these feelings are informing the standards and expectations they have for shopping.”

Payments have also taken on singular importance amid greatly diminished foot traffic and heightened anxiety: Robust and integrated systems may not only ensure that customers have smoother shopping journeys but could also be the key that keeps them coming back.”

The highest satisfaction scores apply solely to digital shopping journeys and the digital natives who make them. “This group has the highest satisfaction score [of] 158.7 on a scale with a median score of 100. This is followed closely by mobile natives, who earned a score of 149.8. Brick-and-mortar shoppers have scores that are lower by roughly half, reaching just 78.9.”

Bridging digital and physical retail is easier and more cost-effective than it’s ever been thanks to the last several years of innovation, and this has been accelerated by the COVID crisis. That’s good news. And deeper insights into consumers’ preferences are now enhancing both online and brick-and-mortar environments, which is making the digital shift more manageable for all players.