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Salesforce’s Connected Shopper Report: Digital, Physical & Service Crucial

Salesforce's Connected Shopper Report- Digital, Physical & Service Crucial

The News: Salesforce recently released the Fifth Edition of its Connected Shoppers Report. Retailers are facing many challenges such as shipping costs, increased competition, supply chain difficulties, shifting customer expectations and behaviors, and inventory management. In the midst of this challenging scenario are efforts to provide a positive customer experience. This edition of the Salesforce Connected Shopper Report revealed consumer expectations around digital channels, how the physical store experience matters, and the importance of customer service and relevant loyalty programs. More information on the Salesforce Connected Shopper Report is found on the company’s website.

Salesforce’s Connected Shopper Report: Digital, Physical & Service Crucial

Analyst Take: The Connected Shopper Report, recently published by Salesforce, points to several factors which should be important to retailers as they craft their customer experience strategy and invest in solutions.

Shopping Trends: Digital or Physical?

Not surprisingly, both digital and physical are important in different ways, and a mix of the two is what retailers are starting to see, as well as an expansion into other channels.

The well-known CX mantra of “meet your customers where they are” is not just a nice to have, but is driven by consumers’ desire to have multiple ways to be supported and act on their buying journey. Purchases are now relatively split between physical and digital with 49% of transactions happening in physical stores. This is expected to fall to 44% in the next 2 years. The Salesforce data shows a big shift in shoppers who have not only researched a product via social media, but who have completed a transaction.

Salesforce Connected Shopper 01
Source: Salesforce

Fifty-nine percent of shoppers have completed a transaction on social media, up from 15% in 2021. The use of messaging apps like WeChat and Facebook Messenger also rose steeply. Thirty-six percent of shoppers said they had bought this way, up from 11% in 2021. Customers are also using digital while in a physical store, with 60% using their mobile device for actions such as researching and price-comparison, scanning a QR code, or checking out. Overall, this expansion is great in terms of more ways for purchases to roll in, and giving customers options for interactions, but the hard thing for retailers is that customers expect an easy experience on all these avenues of contact.

While the pandemic fueled an increased usage of digital channels, consumers still want the experience of walking into a store. According to the research, the reasons cited for going to an actual storefront include:

  • Touch and feel the merchandise
  • Get merchandise immediately
  • Avoid shipping fees for purchases
  • Take advantage of in-store discounts
  • Enjoy the shopping experience

This physical experience is an area in which retailers are working on differentiation, which could include activities such as personal shopping, exclusive products, and deals.

Customer Service Is the Strongest Tie to Experience

In the retail segment, there are many factors that are harder to control, such as supply chain and shipping issues, or perhaps policies put into place at a corporate level. When asked about what constitutes a poor shopping experience, more than half of respondents (53%) cite poor customer service. Almost three-quarters (74%) say it takes no more than three bad experiences for them to abandon a brand. Customer service is the top differentiator in this list of factors.

Customer service is a factor that is potentially a bit more in control at the local, physical store level with associates who are well trained and empowered to support a good employee experience.

Salesforce Connected Shopper 02
Source: Salesforce

When it comes to support, retailers need to offer a variety of channels, with 57% of shoppers preferring a digital channel for questions or complaints.

Tactics for Leveling Up Customer Experience

The Salesforce research pointed to areas that retailers are focusing on to support an improved customer experience.

Personalization: The use of generative AI is catching the attention of retailers to create product recommendations and personalized bundles. The ability to create personalized communications is also rising in importance, and 93% of retailers are investing in personalization and making strides in using customers data for this purpose. In 2 years, the percentage of retailers that say they have full ability to use customer data to personalize shopper engagement has almost doubled from 32% in 2021 to 57% in 2023.

Many retailers are adopting or researching unified engagement platforms to help with the goal of turning data into personalized experiences and create a more smooth and less disjointed experience for customers.

Loyalty Programs: The data reveals that retailers achieve value in loyalty programs, using them to encourage repeat business and retain customers. However, Salesforce data indicates a marked drop in the number of loyalty programs shoppers belong to, dropping 21% since 2021.For those who are members of loyalty programs, 58% indicate that being a member makes them more likely to buy from a brand or retailers.

Loyalty programs may be able to help with some of the expectation gaps that exist between what customers are expecting and potential policy changes. For example, customers like liberal return policies. Many retailers (88%) plan to have stricter return policies over this coming holiday season. Amazon recently announced it is testing out a $35 free shipping minimum for people who are not members of its Prime Loyalty program.

The report includes very interesting data from Salesforce, emphasizing several themes that seem to be on repeat play for CX lately, especially in the retail segment, such as the need for improved and deeper personalization, the importance of customer service, and the merging of digital and physical CX. Another important CX key to keep in mind is ensuring that the customer feedback is constantly being ingested and fed into the data that is driving improvement in personalization and customer service.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

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Author Information

As a detail-oriented researcher, Sherril is expert at discovering, gathering and compiling industry and market data to create clear, actionable market and competitive intelligence. With deep experience in market analysis and segmentation she is a consummate collaborator with strong communication skills adept at supporting and forming relationships with cross-functional teams in all levels of organizations.

She brings more than 20 years of experience in technology research and marketing; prior to her current role, she was a Research Analyst at Omdia, authoring market and ecosystem reports on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and User Interface technologies. Sherril was previously Manager of Market Research at Intrado Life and Safety, providing competitive analysis and intelligence, business development support, and analyst relations.

Sherril holds a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from University of Colorado, Boulder and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University.

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