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Multichannel customers vs social shoppers: What you need to know

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3rd Nov 2011
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Marie Myles uses Experian data to shed further light on two important demographics - multichannel customers and social shoppers.

The evolution of technology over the course of the 21st century has created a unique challenge for retailers. Today’s consumers are better informed, more discerning and more focused than ever before. They want to shop where they want, when they want and how they want, giving retailers little choice but to adjust and meet their demands.
Some retailers have adapted to the explosion of new channels faster than others, some have done it better than others and some have chosen to keep a firm grip on the traditional methods. While the uptake has varied amongst retailers, we have finally reached a point in time where a multi-channel approach is no longer an option but a necessity - those who fail to adapt will find it increasingly difficult to grow their business.
That is by no means to say that there is no place for traditional bricks and mortar in modern retail; quite the opposite in fact. The rise in popularity of services such as click & collect (adopted with great success by the likes of John Lewis and Sainsbury’s) shows that consumers still love walking into a store, but their purchases are increasingly influenced by online research and peer to peer recommendations. Those influences may be absorbed from retailers’ or manufacturers’ websites, marketing messages or recommendations from friends or via social networking and other online sources.
Who is the multichannel customer?
So, who exactly are these multichannel consumers? According to recent research from Experian, they now account for nearly a third (31%) of the population and consist of four distinct groups. While these groups can be generalised as young, urban and reasonably affluent, each have their own unique motivations for multichannel retailing.
These include family units under some degree of financial pressure and therefore keen to find the best deal, those who are influenced by the ethical and environmental credentials of the respective product or brand and base their purchase decision on research done online, and of course the young, tech-savvy professionals whose lack of spare time makes the internet a primary source for shopping and managing their personal life.
If retailers can harness multichannel activity – the time consumers spend researching or buying products online – they will increase their understanding of their customers and improve both conversion rates and profitability. Joining together this insight into consumers and their shopping behaviours will give retailers a single customer view, allowing them to market their products more effectively. To maximise these opportunities retailers must ensure websites are user-friendly to ensure a high quality online service and make it feasible to collect customer data. Similarly, websites must be compatible with mobile so that consumers are able to browse and buy whilst on the move.
Finally, it is vital that retailers try to actively monitor and influence the reputation of their brand within social networking communities as it is through these channels that they and their products are actively discussed and reviewed on a daily basis.
These ‘social shoppers’ now make up 15% of the population and can be defined as those whose purchases are heavily influenced by websites such as Facebook and Twitter. This could be anything from simply seeking online feedback on a prospective purchase from friends or followers, checking what products are ‘trending’ on Twitter, or even searching for deals from their favourite brands that are offered exclusively through social media channels. Social shoppers often have more limited disposable income meaning that they like to spend their money in an informed way, looking both for quality as well as value for money and convenience.
Experian Hitwise data shows that food, technology and fashion are the sectors benefitting most from this new type of shopping, with Tesco, Apple and Topshop amongst the most popular websites visited by this group. Social shoppers represent a significant proportion of visitors to these websites: 18% of visitors to Tesco.com are social shoppers. This provides a significant challenge to marketers to ensure their online websites are fully compatible with social media.
What is key with multichannel, is to remember that no two customers are the same. Everyone has their own behaviour when purchasing products and services; it is up to retailers to gain a better understanding of their customers’ on and offline journey and target them appropriately. In its ultimate form this would manifest itself in insight led, optimised and coordinated cross channel activities – the right place(s), the right time and with the right message. Taking this approach will lead to better in-store footfall and overall sales.
Marie Myles is director of analytics & consulting at Experian Marketing Information Services.
 

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