woman choosing utensil dishes in a store supermarket customer convenience

For 2020, specialty retailers should focus on understanding how consumer expectations are evolving. Reducing friction throughout the buying process will help them improve the customer experience and their internal processes and operations.

The way people shop has changed dramatically over the past decade. Consumers are 87% more likely to perform extensive online research before purchasing at a brick and mortar store. This makes their shopping experience more convenient and reduces friction during the buying process.

Convenience: An Important Piece of the Equation

Convenience is at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to shopping. In the past, customer convenience focused on location, selection, and price. These are still important, but the list has grown to include product discovery, credit availability, and sustainability. Here’s a little more in-depth look at each one.

1. Product Discovery

Retail and social media are more entwined, so much that people look to social media for recommendations on products, brands, and services when they begin their research. Consumers will also look for videos and images that show exactly what the products look like and how they perform. The idea here is to engage with their discovery. In order to reduce friction in this process, a retailer’s website should give a potential customer everything they need to make a decision. Along the way, the customer may become aware of better choices to suit their needs. This builds more excitement and surprise for the consumer, which adds to their experience in deeper and more meaningful ways.

2. Purchasing Options

Consumers are facing some major challenges in the coming year. The first is a lack of wage growth. This is compounded by the phasing out of tax cuts, so disposable income will be less for the average American. Then, there’s economic uncertainty due to trade tensions. All of these affect consumer spending in negative ways. That’s why consumers are looking for more purchasing options, such as layaway and credit availability. They are able to commit when they know that the options for financing are there. Retailers offering the convenience of either one will rise above their competition.

3. Sustainability

It’s a trend that can’t be ignored any longer. Manufacturers know it because consumers are doing more than just requesting it, they’re demanding it. In the news recently, many of the major retailers are implementing “Green” programs and processes to meet this need. How can small or middle-market retailers be more “Green?” It starts with implementing sustainable internal processes while offering products and brands that adhere to sustainability practices. Unfortunately, not everyone will implement a “Green” program for sustainability, but the ones that do will gain a major advantage. First, they get to implement a new store concept, which is great for older, more established brands. Second, they will engage with more people actively seeking “Green” brands.

Exceeding Expectations

Specialty retailers stay competitive in today’s marketplace by exceeding their customers’ expectations. The key to this is customer convenience. How convenient is it to shop at your store versus the competition? By creating a frictionless purchasing experience, specialty retailers can overcome many of the hurdles they face in the coming year.