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IBM: Retailers must adapt for the smart consumer


IBM: Retailers must adapt for the smart consumer


It is not news to retailers that the way consumers shop has changed, but few retailers are making the changes necessary to capitalise on today’s smarter consumer, according to a report from IBM.

‘Capitalising on the Smarter Consumer’, from IBM’s Institute for Business Value, describes the modern day shopper as a super consumer who trusts friends over retailers and knows what they want before they hit the shops, changing the role of the salesperson from sell to serve.

According to the report, the in-store shopper no longer wants to be told what to buy; they want to be empowered to make their own decisions and to make the purchase as quickly and easily as possible.

One of the key reasons behind this shift was identified as a lack of trust – only 13% of consumers believe product information from retailers and manufacturers, and one in two wouldn’t give a retailer their primary email address if asked.

These changes to the consumer psyche have accelerated the shopping process from browsing through shops, finding something and buying it in a continuous sequence, to a process that becomes a series of moments where the consumer dips in and out wherever and whenever it suits them.

“What was once an uninterrupted flow is becoming a series of moments – the moment the consumer first becomes aware of a new product, the moment he or she researches it, the moment of purchasing it and the moment he or she takes possession of it. These moments may be separated by days or weeks,” the report reads.

“This process has not only become more fragmented, it has also become compressed. The retailer’s window of opportunity to influence a potential customer is shrinking from hours to minutes.”

To capitalise on this style of purchasing cycle the report suggests retailers make it as easy as possible for consumers to complete the shopping process by providing the right services and letting consumers choose how they interact.

For instance, more than 40% of the people surveyed want to check product prices wherever they are and get promotions based on the items they scan. A growing proportion of consumers want to buy products online and have them delivered on the date they specify. And 50% are willing to use a personal mobile device to avoid the checkout lane.

The findings also reveal that today’s consumer purchases for a wider range of family members, whether or not they share a roof. Over 20% of respondents said they regularly bought clothing, groceries, consumer electronics and personal care products for their parents.

The report identifies two key strategies for retailers looking to capitalise on smart consumers:

1. Recognise that they have become active, not passive, participants in the purchase cycle and give them the facilities they need to participate in the process while making them feel like it is your pleasure to serve them, and

2. know when consumers are buying products for themselves, when they are buying products for others, when they are experiencing life-changing events and when and where they want to make the purchase.


The IBM Institute for Business Value executive report, ‘Capitalising on the Smarter Consumer,’ is available here.


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