Consumers want more retail stores to be more interactive and personalized online, a new survey from IBM has found.
"It's a smarter consumer out there today, one who is really willing to engage with the retailer," said Shannon Miller, a business development lead for IBM's Global Business Services.
The company surveyed 32,000 consumers online to find out how much interactivity they want from the retail outlets they frequent. For the survey, they interviewed participants from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, China, India and Brazil.
The survey had found an overwhelming interest in more online customization services.
"These consumers are instrumented. They have a lot of devices and a lot of ways of accessing the retailers," Miller said. "As a result, they are creating more data for the retailer, but also getting more information for themselves. And that has made them smarter."
For example, 75 percent of those surveyed want their mobile phones to tell them where the nearest store of interest is located, and 68 percent want to see if the goods they are seeking are in stock at nearby locations. Also, 79 percent of the respondents want to be able to print coupons off of Web sites.
Moreover, the survey found that consumers wanted different things from different media channels, Miller said. From the Web, consumers wanted to check prices and print coupons. From in-store kiosks, they wanted product information and the ability to order out-of-stock goods. And from their mobile phones, consumers wanted to know of nearby stores and a way to check if an item is in stock.
"Retailers can tailor their strategy for each of these technologies to address what the consumers are asking them to do," Miller said. Such work might pay off too, according to the survey: If retailers could provide greater interactivity of this sort, then 61 percent of consumers would spend more money with the retailer.
While such features may seem appealing, they will require an immense amount of work to set up, Miller admitted.
"There are some foundational things a retailer has to do in order to share the data across the enterprise and get to what the consumers told us they wanted," Miller said. For one thing, the customer data and the product must be on the same platform, so that analytics can personalize the buying experience.
Regardless of how the consumer interacts with the retailer, the retailer is able to consolidate the data and personalize dialogue with the consumer, Miller said, adding that few companies have gotten to this level of integration yet.
With this in mind, IBM has launched a new virtual practice, called the Retail Center of Competency, to help retailers integrate analytics, merchandising systems and customer care into one infrastructure, Miller said.
IBM was not the only company unveiling a new retail-focused service at the NRF conference this week. Microsoft and Accenture also unveiled their new joint service to help high-end retail outlets consolidate their digital marketing and sales channels, a package called Style Star.