Selling to the Smart Shopper of Today

Selling to the Smart Shopper of Today

March 15, 2016
Author of Mastercard Write Up

Author: Eric Schneider, Region Head, Asia Pacific, MasterCard Advisors

Consumers around the world are increasingly shopping in a variety of ways and we are starting to see the rise of the Omnishopper – the consumer who transcends channels – and in some cases borders.

As the connected consumer is being deluged with more options and opportunities, retailers need to understand the change that is happening and how to stay ahead of the evolving shopper experience. Retailers are required to think fast and act on their feet as these new technologies shape behaviors and habits quickly.

While the omnishoppers’ current affinity for in-store retailing trumps e-commerce growth, any retailer worth his salt knows that no customer is immune to change. To some extent, the current customer is the retailer’s to lose, which is why retailers need to be set up to win.

This starts with throwing out channel-specific strategies and truly embracing the customer of today—complex, multifaceted and connected. Shifting focus from “channel only”—whether mobile, online or in-store – to “channel + customer + experience”.

The MasterCard Retail CMO’s Guide to the Omnishopper sets out to analyze and understand the shopping expectations of an omnishopper. The report combines survey data from thousands of shoppers around the globe with transaction-based insights from MasterCard. And the findings are interesting.

The Appeal of (Mobile) Technology

A recent MasterCard Spending Pulse report indicated that e-commerce currently struggles to represent even 10% of total retail sales globally, but that a smart device is still involved in 80% of all purchase-making decisions.

This use of technology in shopping is almost universal. Consumers are using technology not just before the shopping process to research online and read blog or product reviews but also during the shopping process, such as price checks via smartphone apps as well as “click and collect” services to buy online and pick up in-store.

Consumers prefer shopping tools that allow them to pull information and organize it. Therefore the onus is on merchants to make this information accessible for discovery. Merchant transparency about this information can build trust and a personal relationship with the consumer, which is key to establishing a reputation and track record that create the return shopper. 

Across the region, variations exist in how consumers use and perceive technology for shopping, thus merchants have to develop processes and applications that cater to diverse audiences – there is no one size fits all.

Indeed, mobile technologies have also emerged as a powerful tool for shop owners of all sizes. As a fast, easy and inexpensive point-of-sale device that can be used literally anywhere, mobile technologies have the potential to open up new channels of economic growth for merchants and enable them to meet the demands of consumers. We’re committed to making this possible for any merchant, from the largest big box retailer to the smallest street vendor, around the globe.

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Mobile technology is also changing the way the consumer shops. This is driven in part by the rising smartphone ownership rates not just in Asia Pacific but around the world. Smartphone usage is contributing to the move towards m-commerce. Nevertheless, rising smartphone adoption doesn’t always necessarily correspond with rising m-commerce figures. 

Case in point: developed markets like Singapore might have the highest rates of smartphone penetration, but is markets like the Philippines and Thailand that are leading the charge in m-commerce. In fact, according to Euromonitor International, m-commerce is expected to reach US$9 million in both Philippine and Thai markets by 2018. This is due to a young, digitally-connected population, better payment options and a bigger variety of vendors in this space.

Setting the Stage for Commitment

Jersey City, New Jersey, USA --- USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Close up of woman's hands using multiple devices --- Image by © Tetra Images/Corbis

Image by © Tetra Images/Corbis

The omnishopper survey indicates that price is not the primary factor in omnishopper purchases. Omnishoppers are looking for a fair price and high quality. They’re not obsessed with the lowest price.

On the upside, retailing does not have to be a race to the bottom in the omnishopper world. On the challenging side, keeping the omnishopper for the long term will demand a new customer strategy that goes beyond traditional loyalty.

The omnishopper has become smarter and more discerning in behavior and in mapping the path to purchase. Eight out of 10 consumers say they are better shoppers now than they were two years ago. Our analysis calls for a new, more intense level of customer strategy, called “commitment marketing.” It will be one of the most important long-term initiatives any retail executive will undertake during the next business cycle.

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Commitment marketing is a new level of customer strategy where engagement is essential to start the conversation and information exchange, and loyalty is the next phase in formalizing and rewarding repeat business. But in a market where consumers are researching more and buying from fewer retailers, loyalty cannot be the highest level of a relationship. Commitment marketing is a strategy by which a retailer creates commitments that increase the intensity of consumer relationships and revenue. Those commitments can be operational (subscriptions, experiences, fees) or altruistic (community efforts, philanthropy). At best, they combine both elements.

Case in point: A prime example of the success of content marketing is Amazon. With an annual subscription fee, consumers get shipping privileges, unlimited photo storage and exclusive access to books and film content. This in turn has netted Amazon an estimated 44 million customers with monetary commitment, which is nearly half of its total customer base.        

Security Matters

Man inputing data on laptop and holding mobile phone in another hand.

The rise of an omnishopper is facilitated by the ability to pay securely anywhere and on any device, including contactless payments, mobile wallets and other technologies that create more seamless user experiences for shoppers and efficiencies for retailers. Our research shows that roughly two-thirds of consumers say they carry less cash than they did five years ago, so it’s no surprise that 30% of consumers say they spend 30% less in stores that don’t accept payment cards.

However, as new and exciting payment methods emerge, it’s even more crucial that they are built on a solid foundation of security. With fraud remaining as a major concern for consumers and merchants, our ability to enable safe and secure transactions across devices extends to merchants of all sizes.

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To stay one step ahead of fraudsters, we are investing in a host of new technologies including tokenization and biometric authentication because payments need to be secure yet simple to use.

Case in point: Merchants are looking for secured ways to protect a customer’s card information. Tokenization brings the EMV technology to the online and mobile world as people connect with and transact out of their devices. With tokenization, merchants will receive a set of alternate card numbers to store, which are not the primary card numbers and will expire after one time use. If there is a data breach, the card number is not usable outside the ecosystem; therefore both merchants and cardholders have less to worry about. 

Finding and Keeping the Omnishopper

We see four areas to prioritize and invest in to keep retail businesses focused on the omnishopper:

  • Shopper Data and Advanced Analytics: Retailers can never have enough data about the customers they have, as well as the customers they don’t have. It’s an unending task. Investment in the ability to make sense of that data is what needs to be increased.
  • Technology: This investment area splits into two parts: analytics technology and shopper technology. Shopper technology, such as automatic notifications and in-store kiosks, adds interaction points to the customer experience. It adds (or detracts from) reputation and trust levels. It is a “get it right the first time” initiative. Analytics technology relates to shopper data. Retailers need to invest in the specific technologies that will produce voice-of-the-customer, social sentiment, customer and operational dashboards, as well as survey and competitive intelligence.
  • Talent: All the analytics and technology available will need human intelligence to make them actionable. While most retailers have personnel in place with line responsibilities for individual channels and products, very few have executives who track directly to customers and customer segments. In short: Hire a chief customer officer and give that executive resources and accountability to move the customer value needle.
  • Content: Omnishoppers are expanding their sources of information, and they want more—at all stages of the path to purchase. This knowledge leads almost perfectly to an aggressive content strategy, but retailers need to invest first in understanding the kind of content that will work and second in creating and distributing that content. For commitment marketing to be communicated and gain traction, content strategy is a huge and necessary investment.

Investing in these four areas will address the more complex issues. It will improve the customer experience. It will improve online-offline integration. It will make innovations in payments easier to communicate and consequently drive adoption. Most of all, it will keep retailers focused on the only thing that matters: the customer. The omnishopper.

About MasterCard Omnishopper Report 2015

MasterCard used a two-pronged approach to survey the behavior of the omnishopper. First, we tapped into MasterCard’s aggregated and anonymous transactional database to determine the number of retailers the average customer purchased from over the past five years. This analysis was based on the leading markets where such information regarding the shopping habits of 150 million consumers could be accessed according to local regulations on data.

Second, we conducted a global survey of 10,000 omnishoppers across 11 countries, including China. The survey was aimed at defining the behaviors and attitudes of consumers who purchase both online and offline within at least a 30-day period. The complete data presentation can be accessed at:

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