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Consumers want it all: Retail industry reshapes to meet shopping and sustainability preferences

by | Jan 20, 2022 | Public Relations

Hybrid shopping—mixing physical and digital channels in shopping journeys—is on the rise as shopping habits consumers adopted out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic are becoming routine. New research from IBM Institute for Business Value finds retailers must become more agile to meet customers where they are, integrating digital and in-store experiences.

At NRF 2022: Retail’s ‘Big Show’, the firm, in association with the National Retail Federation, released their second global study, Consumers Want It All, which reveals rising consumer preferences for sustainability and shopping journeys splintered across multiple digital, physical, and mobile touchpoints.

Consumers want it all: Retail industry reshapes to meet shopping and sustainability preferences

Key findings:

  • 72 percent of respondents say they use the store as all or part of their primary purchase method.
  • Top reasons respondents choose to visit a store include touching and feeling products before buying them (50 percent), picking and choosing their own products (47 percent) and getting products right away (43 percent), though what in-store shoppers are looking for varies by product category.
  • 27 percent of respondents report hybrid shopping is their method of choice, and Gen Z consumers surveyed are most likely to be a ‘hybrid shopper’ compared to other age groups.

Consumers want it all: Retail industry reshapes to meet shopping and sustainability preferences

The study also shows that sustainability has become increasingly important to surveyed consumers’ purchase decisions and brand preferences since 2020.

  • Purpose-driven consumers, who choose products/brands based on their values like sustainability, are now the largest segment of consumers surveyed (44 percent).
  • 62 percent of respondents are willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact, up from 57 percent two years ago.
  • Half of respondents say they’re willing to pay a premium for sustainability—an average premium of 70 percent. This is roughly double the premium from 2020.
  • However, there’s a gap between intention and action—only 31 percent of respondents say that sustainable products made up most or all of their last purchase.

Consumers want it all: Retail industry reshapes to meet shopping and sustainability preferences

“While many surveyed consumers still place high value on the traditional in-store shopping experience, they also now expect the flexibility to build their own shopping journey – according to the behaviors prevalent to their age range, available tools and the product category they are looking to purchase,” said Mark Mathews, vice president of research development and industry analysis at the National Retail Federation, in a news release. “This ‘hybrid’ approach is a fundamental shift in consumer behavior.”

“The survey shows over the last year, sustainability became increasingly important to consumers, though there’s still a gap between their intentions and actions due to lack of information in the buying process,” said Luq Niazi, global managing director of IBM Consumer Industries, in the release. “Increasingly, it’s becoming essential that retail brands demonstrate sustainable choices and options in each step of the customer experience.  At the same time, hybrid shopping has taken hold in most categories, particularly in home goods and apparel; and while stores continue to play the predominant role in grocery, hybrid shopping is growing in these categories too.”

Consumers want it all: Retail industry reshapes to meet shopping and sustainability preferences

Niazi added, “Despite the impact of COVID-19, our experience with clients shows many leading retail brands are continuing to rapidly transform operations, customer experience and supply chains with technologies like AI, hybrid cloud and blockchain to help serve these multiple customer preferences.”

Consumers want it all: Retail industry reshapes to meet shopping and sustainability preferences

Download the full report here.

The IBM IBV, in association with the National Retail Federation, conducted a global survey of more than 19,000 respondents across 28 countries in September 2021 to better understand the new normal of customer behavior. 

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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