IBM: Future Consumers to Seek Self-Service, Personalization
IBM launched its Smarter Commerce initiative in March 2011 to help companies respond to shifting customer buying patterns. IBM has estimated that the Smarter Commerce initiative is a $20 billion market opportunity in software alone. Smarter Commerce helps organizations that are struggling to meet the demands of rapidly shifting customer buying patterns in the era of mobile and social networks. This new digital marketplace requires companies to respond rapidly to customer demands by automating their buying, marketing, selling and service processes. Meanwhile, the study found that consumers are looking for a consistent brand experience, from start to finish, across all brand touch-points. Cost and quality prevailed, where the two most important considerations for recommending a retailer were "sells quality merchandise" (94 percent) and "offers fair/competitive prices" (93 percent). However, three of the next most important criteria were the items they want to buy are in stock (91 percent); the retailer delivers a positive overall experience, whether it's in the store, over the Web or via any combination of channels (90 percent); and that the retailer provides a convenient return process (85 percent). In the study, IBM asked a series of questions about the three phases of the brand experience: pre-purchase, purchase (checkout/payment) and post-purchase. Moreover, a surprise in the findings was the importance of the post-purchase process in molding the brand relationship and influencing brand advocacy. This phase includes product shipment, delivery, installation, customer support, problem resolution and returns. For example, the survey found the following:
- Nearly three-quarters of the respondents cited a retailer's ability to deliver a positive post-purchase experience as important to very important for them to recommend a retailer to others.
- Nearly double the respondents chose the post-purchase experience as more important than the pre-purchase experience in forming a lasting opinion of a retailer (64 versus 36 percent).
- The post-purchase phase has the greatest potential to damage the brand relationship (46 percent), compared with the purchase and pre-purchase phases (38 and 16 percent, respectively).
- The post-purchase phase even has the ability to help a retailer recover from a poor pre-purchase experience, with 52 percent of respondents indicating that a positive post-purchase experience is likely to very likely to overcome a poor pre-purchase experience. For those aged 13 to 19, 67 percent consider it likely to very likely to save the day.
"In general, the post-purchase experience has been taken for granted by too many retailers, and this study confirms that retailers will need to focus on delivering heightened post-purchase capabilities, such as omni-channel in-store pickup or return of online or mobile orders to win over tomorrow's consumer," IBM's Stelzer said in a statement.