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KPMG survey details what online shoppers really want

A new report by KPMG International analyses the online shopping preferences and behaviours of more than 18,000 consumers in 51 countries, by geography, generation and product category.
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“Today’s consumer no longer goes shopping but is shopping, all the time and everywhere. Moreover, in a global online marketplace, competition is no longer limited to local shops during regular business hours. Consumers can easily buy from retailers and manufacturers located anywhere in the world — or from those with no physical retail locations at all,” comments Dean Wallace, industry leader for consumer markets and technology at KPMG in South Africa.

“Increased competition, combined with consumer demand for richer experiences, means that retailers need to rethink their online strategy. For many retailers, creating an online shopping experience, enhanced by technology such as augmented and virtual reality or 3D, is becoming at least as important as providing convenient and personalised ordering, payment and delivery options.”

Behaviour basics

The number of online transactions made by survey respondents averaged 17 purchases per year, or 1.25 per month. Generation X consumers (born between 1966 and 1981), averaged nearly 19 transactions per person per year, and they made more online purchases in the past 12 months than any other age group. They made 20% more purchases than the ‘tech-savvy’ Millennials (born between 1982 and 2001).

“Stage of life and income levels are certainly primary factors, driving both online and offline shopping, and Generation X consumers, many of whom are more established in their careers and may be building homes and families, are likely buying more consumer goods than the younger Millennials overall. As Millennials continue to enter the workforce and adulthood, however, their online shopping activity is expected to surge and even far surpass the levels currently exhibited by older generations.”

While it may be presumed that the more traditional Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) are less inclined to shop online than younger generations, the survey revealed that in fact they shop online just as frequently as Millennials. Furthermore, Baby Boomers were more likely to spend more per transaction than the younger consumers were (average purchase for Baby Boomers was US $203, US $190 for Generation X and US $173 for Millennials).

Online or offline?

When comparing the impact of online versus offline touch-points that create the first trigger moment, of note is that 52% of consumers cited at least one offline channel as a source of initial awareness and 59% cited one or more online channels.

Retail websites or online shops were the most common source of initial awareness, cited by nearly a third of consumers, and online advertisements were cited by 15%. At the same time, physical shops were the second most popular source of awareness, cited by 22% of consumers.

Millennials were not only more likely than the older generations are to be influenced by online sources, such as social media or peer reviews, they were also more likely to be influenced by offline channels. Millennials were 25% more likely than Baby Boomers to have seen their most recent online purchase in a shop, nearly 50% more likely to have talked to a friend about it and more than twice as likely to have seen someone with it.

“E-commerce is not an online-only affair. Both online and offline channels are effective in creating consumer awareness and demand, especially when used together. Furthermore, despite the rise of online shopping, e-commerce still makes up a relatively small percentage of total retail spending. Retailers’ brick and mortar strategies need to continue to evolve to attract customers into their stores and to compete with online retailers opening their own physical outlets. Increasingly, we are seeing innovative marketing strategies, as well as new technologies such as smart shelves, robots, self-checkout and interactive and virtual reality being deployed in stores, as retailers strive to compete on all fronts.”

Why and where they shop online

The number one reason that consumers said they shop online is for the convenience of shopping at any hour of any day (cited by 58% as a top reason). This is followed by having the ability to compare prices (54%), or to find online sales or better deals (46%). All age groups reported the same top three drivers. However, when it came to locating harder to find items, Baby Boomers reported having a higher motivation for shopping online (26% of Baby Boomers versus 20% for Gen X, 17% for Millennials and 20% overall).

When asked what is most important when deciding where to buy an item online, consumers were most likely to buy from the website with the lowest price they could find (57%) followed by websites with enhanced delivery options (43%) or easy return policies (40%). There was a notable difference between generations when it came to the importance of being able to see online whether a product is in stock. Millennials were the least concerned about being able to see real-time product availability (cited as important by 28%) versus 36% of Gen Xers and 37% of Baby Boomers.

Earning trust

When it came to earning trust, consumers said that protecting their data and information was most important (63%). Although Millennials were the generation least concerned about data protection, it still ranked high as a priority for earning their trust (cited by 56% of Millennials, 66% of Gen Xers and 71% of Baby Boomers).

“While most companies are of course making a concerted effort to protect their customers’ personal information, frequent media reports on data breaches around the world continue to make consumers anxious and keep the issue top of mind.”

Keeping consumers loyal

Excellent customer support was the number one loyalty-earning attribute, cited by 65% of the respondents. The second-most successful loyalty strategy was providing exclusive promotions and offers (cited by 45%), followed by loyalty or membership programmes (37%). These top three loyalty drivers were consistently effective across all generations, with Baby Boomers placing a higher importance on customer support (74%) than Gen Xers (66%) or Millennials (59%).

Taking a deeper look at the differences by generation, younger consumers tend to be more loyal to companies that offer personalised interactions (customised promotions, anticipation of needs, having a sense of community, one-on-one engagement in social media, online games and other interactive experiences, as well as concierge services).

“The more traditional attributes such as excellent consumer support, loyalty offers and membership programmes will remain important for all companies to consider as part of their mix. The challenge will be for companies to find ways to offer more personalised services to satisfy Millennials who, in 10 years, will be the mainstream consumer. One-on-one engagement will become an expectation for the majority of the market.”

Rise of sharing feedback online

Overall, 31% of the consumers responding to the KPMG survey said they shared a product review online. The Millennials were the most likely to post a review (34%) followed by Gen Xers (29%) and Baby boomers (28%). Furthermore, nearly all (92%) reported reviews were positive.

“The growing trend for consumers to post positive reviews is driven by factors including the rise of social media, where consumers subtly compete with their peers by publicly sharing their latest purchases and experiences; the rise of bloggers, whose business models are based on providing product reviews that drive affiliate clicks; and sellers, who proactively solicit ratings from happy customers.”

Consumers responding to the survey said they were most likely to post feedback directly to sellers’ websites (47%) followed by posts on Facebook (31%) then on a manufacturers or the brands websites (18%). This was consistent across all age groups, with Millennials also frequently posting on WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.

“The implication for companies is that user-generated reviews are being posted on sites that are increasingly out of their sphere of control or influence. Companies need to integrate these social media sites into their marketing and customer strategy,” Wallace concludes.

To view the full report, go to



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