During the last few years, retail has changed. A lot. According to IBM, COVID-19 accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years. This has caused brands and retailers to change up how they do things — and consumers to change their expectations. To learn more about where retail currently stands, and where it’s headed, we hosted our first ever State of Retail research report.
Respondents from our retail research are almost evenly split on whether the pandemic changed their shopping behaviors and preferences. But more said yes (51%) than no (44%). Regardless, the pandemic has certainly cemented user-generated content’s permanent place in today’s state of retail and spurred the rise of always-on commerce.
State of Retail research key takeaways
Our State of Retail research report entailed surveying over 8,000 consumers from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Australia, and Canada, and over 500 decision-makers who work in retail from the same countries. Here’s what we discovered.
1. User-generated content is more important than ever
After having to rely predominantly on online shopping for the last few years, shoppers have become completely reliant on ratings and reviews, photos, and videos from their fellow shoppers. Aka, user-generated content (UGC). Over half (56%) of respondents said that UGC will be a deciding factor in their future purchasing decisions.
50% of respondents said that they want to see UGC displayed on brand and retail websites, as well as their social channels. When asked the reason why, they said:
Brands and retailers are on the same page here and know exactly how valuable UGC is to their customers. The vast majority (78%) also know that customer reviews and visual UGC are currently important in generating sales. When asked what the most influential elements of their advertising efforts are, they ranked:
- Written reviews (56%)
- Customer visual content (38%)
- Social media influencers (30%)
2. Consumers want access to UGC in-store
Consumers are excited about the potential technology has to enhance their shopping experience. And there seems to be a pattern in the type of technology they’re interested in. They all allow for UGC in-store.
We already know from our recent Shopper Experience Index, an annual report into consumers trends, that consumers want to see UGC in-store. There’s a high demand to combine the physical and digital worlds into a united phygital presence.
Our retail research has further confirmed this and taken it. The most popular answers when respondents were asked what technologies they’re most excited to see implemented are:
- QR codes that can be scanned for a contactless checkout (38%)
- QR codes that can be scanned to read reviews (34%)
- Virtual displays shpwcasing other customer reviews, photos, and videos (32%)
- Availability of live/up-to-date star ratings in-store based on customer feedback (31%)
- Interactive digital screens (29%)
3. Enhance the customer experience with new technology
For years, brands and retailers have been obsessed with ensuring their online shopping experience can measure up to the in-store one. Now, consumers want brick-and-mortar stores to have the same conveniences they enjoy online. About one in three respondents from our survey said they expect brands and retailers to make more effort to enhance the customer experience.
Even standing in the store aisles and physically holding a product, shoppers want to hear what others like them have to say about it, and digital displays would help solve that.
While many see the future state of physical retail including things like AR technology, our retail research tells us that brands and retailers need to prioritize is tech that solves consumers’ increased demand UGC. No matter where they shop.
Thankfully, around a third of brands and retailers said those were the types of technologies they plan to integrate into the in-store experience in the near future.
The state of retail in 2023 and beyond
Regardless of where they shop, and at what point in the buying process, consumers want to still be able to easily access authentic user-generated content. You need to embrace the fact that UGC has become as integral to your business success as your website or physical storefront themselves.
Shoppers need that authentic content to feel inspired to buy from brands and confident in their decision to purchase.
Our retail research is just the beginning. Learn more about shopper preferences in our global consumer survey below.