Consumer Expectations for Retail and How You Can Meet Them


Brick-and-mortar retailers must offer unique in-store experiences that can’t be copied online. Online retailers are expected to supply free, fast or low-cost shipping. PWC points out that 73% of consumers highlight that customer experience is a significant factor in purchasing decisions. These are constantly changing and evolving. That’s true for online stores and brick-and-mortar businesses. Patrons are looking for personalized shopping experiences and ethical, sustainable practices.

consumer expectations

Consumer Expectations in Retail

People are looking for value, quality, and convenience. They want their past interactions and preferences catered to. Online shoppers expect honest customer reviews, high-quality images, and comprehensive product descriptions.

The same consumers want a quick checkout in a brick-and-mortar retail store. They expect in-store employees to be well-trained and able to provide personalized assistance. PWC points out that 73% of consumers highlight that customer experience is a significant factor in purchasing decisions. For more insights on enhancing customer experience, you can explore these customer service tips.

consumer expectations

The Shift in Consumer Expectations

The rise of online shopping has changed what consumers expect. 

  • Technology like mobile shopping apps means consumers expect instant access to products and services.
  • Customers expect immediate service and support from voice-activated assistants and chatbots.

Beyond the technology, customers expect free shipping, a standard expectation for online purchases. They want to shop from websites that are easy to navigate with intuitive interfaces. The rise of online shopping also means people expect sustainable packaging options. 

consumer expectations

What Consumers Expect in Retail and How to Meet These Expectations

The following section will dig deeper into customer needs and expectations in the retail sector. Plus, we will highlight some strategies small businesses can use to address them, drawing from recent marketing research.

consumer expectations

Provide Personalized Customer Service in a Retail Store

 Providing personalized service in a brick-and-mortar store builds client loyalty and satisfaction, which means repeat business. Here are a few strategies that work.

  • CRM systems can leverage customer preferences and purchase histories for unique interactions.
  •  Loyalty programs offer promotions and personalized rewards.
  • Brick-and-mortar stores can host in-store events catering to regular customers. 

Employees can be given the power to make on-the-spot decisions catering to a customer’s needs. CRM systems can leverage customer preferences and purchase histories for unique interactions. To understand how this can be effectively implemented, refer to these customer service tips.

consumer expectations

Enhance In-Store Experiences

Enhancing the in-store experience can use technology like touch screen kiosks.  These let customers see product demonstrations and tutorials, browse products, and even read reviews.

Product Walls

 Interactive product walls display products digitally so customers can learn more about the items.

App Integration

Mobile app integration allows for tailored product recommendations. In-store beacons and store apps can be combined to send recommendations to customers’ smartphones while in the store.

 Sales associates can have tablets loaded with consumers’ preferences and purchase histories.

consumer expectations

Streamline the Shopping Process

Streamlining both in-store and Internet shopping experiences should include the following: 

Online Enhancements. 

  • A user-friendly web design is at the top of the list. It must be optimized for mobile with easy-to-click buttons and a layout adapting to different screen sizes.
  •  The website needs to have clear categories and be easy to search. Don’t forget the shopping cart software.

Additions For Physical Stores  

  • Self-checkout options allow customers more efficiency and reduce wait times.
  •  Provide clients with the option to buy online and pick up in-store. 

Efficient software for shopping carts should integrate with inventory management systems in your existing website. Ensure that the checkout process has different options for digital wallets, buy now pay later services and credit/debit cards.

consumer expectations

Offer Competitive Pricing and Promotions

Personalized promotions and competitive pricing can increase the bottom line for physical and online stores. To make your pricing competitive, you should stay informed about your competitor’s numbers and adjust. Dynamic pricing strategies allow you to stay on top of market demand.  Bundling products or offering discounts is an incentive to buy more.

 You can send personalized emails by studying a customer’s purchase history. Loyalty programs offer rewards based on preferences and behaviors.

Use Customer Data for Better Service in Your Retail Business

Using data can help your retail shop personalize a shopping experience and improve customer service. Retailers can get insights into individuals’ behaviors, purchasing habits and preferences.

Data analytics also help retailers understand peak shopping times and the most popular products for allocation and inventory management. Understanding data allows for predictive analytics so a small business can make decisions on new products, services and inventory. 

consumer expectations

Foster a Strong Online Presence for Retail Businesses

Retail businesses should have an excellent online presence, including e-commerce options and online marketing strategies. Some of the more popular e-commerce options include Shopify since it has a user-friendly platform. Squarespace is designed for simplicity. Magento serves enterprise-level e-commerce.

Regardless of the platform, search engine optimization (SEO) is essential. Quality content and keyword research are necessary here. Blogs, videos and infographics are all examples of good content marketing strategies. Don’t forget about social media marketing that utilizes platforms like Facebook and Instagram. 

AspectDescriptionImplementation StrategiesBenefits
Website DesignCreating an attractive, user-friendly website.Ensure mobile responsiveness, fast loading times, and clear navigation.Enhances user experience and encourages longer visits.
SEO OptimizationImproving search engine rankings.Use relevant keywords, optimize meta tags, and create quality content.Increases visibility and organic traffic to the website.
Social Media EngagementActive presence on social media platforms.Regularly post engaging content, interact with followers, and run promotions.Builds brand awareness and customer loyalty.
E-commerce IntegrationOffering online shopping options.Integrate an e-commerce platform into the website for online sales.Expands sales channels and reaches a wider audience.
Content MarketingSharing valuable content with customers.Blog posts, videos, and infographics related to your products and industry.Establishes brand authority and helps in SEO.
Online Reviews and ReputationManaging online customer reviews.Encourage customer reviews and respond professionally to feedback.Builds trust and influences purchasing decisions.
Email MarketingKeeping in touch with customers via email.Send newsletters, promotions, and personalized recommendations.Nurtures customer relationships and drives repeat business.
Digital AdvertisingLeveraging online ads to reach customers.Use Google Ads, social media advertising, and retargeting campaigns.Targets specific audiences and drives traffic and sales.
Analytics and InsightsMonitoring online performance.Use tools like Google Analytics to track website and social media performance.Provides data for informed decision-making and strategy refinement.
Customer EngagementInteractive communication with customers.Live chats, customer surveys, and social media interactions.Enhances customer service and gathers valuable feedback.

Fostering a strong online presence allows retail businesses to connect with a broader audience, engage effectively with customers, and boost both their brand visibility and sales in the increasingly digital marketplace. Quality content and keyword research are necessary here. Keeping up with the latest marketing research can provide valuable insights for improving your online presence.

consumer expectations

How Retailers Can Adapt to Changing Consumer Expectations

Retailers can use some of the same strategies whether they run an online or physical store. For example, omnichannel retailing is about integrating a website, mobile app and physical store. Other technologies like virtual reality can provide an interactive shopping experience in-store or online.

Innovating the Retail Experience

Physical retail stores can use digital signage and AI-powered personal shopping assistants. Unique store layouts engage customers. Think of a bookstore with a reading nook.

Using Customer Feedback to Adapt to Consumer Expectations

Retail companies can use customer feedback to improve an existing product line or tweak a new one. Information is used to make the shopping experience engaging. Customer feedback can also shine a spotlight on market trends and shifts in buying behaviors.

Using Feedback to Enhance Customer Experience

Here are a few methods that work for retailers looking to collect and use customer feedback.

  • Surveys and questionnaires can be embedded in QR codes at different physical locations. These can be printed or linked to online versions.
  •  Online retailers can use pop-up surveys.

Customer feedback can also shine a spotlight on market trends and shifts in buying behaviors. Stay informed of the latest trends by following marketing research.

Implementing Changes Based on Customer Insights

The first step is to gather data through social media, surveys, focus groups, and direct customer interactions. It gets analyzed for patterns, common themes and issues.

Action plans involving redesigning store layouts or enhancing online platforms are developed. Loyalty rewards work.

consumer expectations

Balancing Online and In Store Offerings

A strategy should have consistent messaging and branding. Make sure that color schemes and logos are the same. Syncing inventory systems in physical and online stores allows products to be tracked in real-time. 

Integrating Online and In-Store Experiences

The Omni-Channel approach provides an integrated shopping experience that spans online and offline venues.  CRM systems and data analytics are two of the technologies used.  An example includes a store allowing customers to shop online and pick up their purchase at a physical retail space. Customers can shop via a mobile device or desktop. They can go right into a brick-and-mortar location or shop by telephone. 

consumer expectations

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the current consumer expectations in the retail industry?

Current consumer expectations in the retail industry include a seamless omnichannel shopping experience, personalized customer service, fast and reliable delivery options, and easy return policies. Consumers also increasingly expect sustainable and ethical practices from retailers.

How can retailers provide a seamless omnichannel experience?

Retailers can provide a seamless omnichannel experience by ensuring consistency in pricing, product availability, and customer service across all platforms, including physical stores, online shops, and mobile apps. Integrating inventory management systems and using customer data analytics can enhance this experience.

What role does personalization play in meeting consumer expectations?

Personalization plays a crucial role in meeting consumer expectations by making the shopping experience more relevant and engaging. Retailers can achieve this by using customer data to offer tailored recommendations, personalized promotions, and targeted marketing communications.

How important is delivery speed and reliability for consumers?

Delivery speed and reliability are extremely important for consumers. Quick and dependable delivery services improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Retailers can meet these expectations by offering various shipping options and partnering with reliable logistics services.

What strategies can retailers use to simplify return policies?

Retailers can simplify return policies by offering hassle-free, no-questions-asked returns, providing free return shipping, and enabling easy return processes in-store or through convenient drop-off points. Clear communication of return policies is also key to customer satisfaction.

How can retailers incorporate sustainable practices to meet consumer expectations?

Retailers can incorporate sustainable practices by using eco-friendly materials in products and packaging, reducing waste, and implementing sustainable supply chain practices. Transparency about sustainability efforts and offering sustainable product options can also meet consumer expectations.

What are effective ways to enhance in-store shopping experiences?

Effective ways to enhance in-store shopping experiences include providing excellent customer service, utilizing technology like augmented reality for product demonstrations, creating a welcoming store atmosphere, and offering exclusive in-store promotions or events. Personalized in-store experiences can also significantly enhance customer engagement.

Image: Envato Elements


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Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.

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