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Sydney, Australia - 27 Mar 2012: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced the Australian results of the 2012 Smarter Consumer Study – the largest study of its kind – which looks at the purchasing trends, habits and expectations of more than 28,000 consumers globally, including more than 1800 from Australia. Over the last three years, the study has tracked the annual evolution of the ‘empowered consumer’.
This year the study shows that Australian consumers are ambivalent about their financial outlook, with only 56% citing they are positive about their income situation, and therefore still exercising frugality in their purchasing decisions. The study revealed that attitudes towards discretionary spending remain largely conservative with 47% of Australians searching for items which are on sale and only 10% indicating they will spend more in general.
Ian Wong, Retail and Consumer Products Industry Lead for IBM Global Business Services A/NZ, says that consumers are spending their shopping dollars with only a few selected retailers that they trust.
“Trust is a key theme that comes out of this year’s Smarter Consumer Study. There is a set of values – convenience, community, and trust – which underpin how consumers engage with retailers both online and offline. They then share their experiences within their well-connected communities – communities of ‘we’. These communities of ‘we’ are having a massive influence on consumer expectations, preferences and therefore, spending.
Retailers should no longer be focused on whether their customers are being loyal to them, but whether they are being loyal to their customers – this is a new shift for many,” said Wong.
However, some retailers are progressing in the right direction. In 2011, respondents said they trusted friends and family the most when making a purchasing decision (51%) and trusted retailers the least (3%). Interestingly in 2012, trust in retailers more than tripled to 10%, indicating that a small but rapidly growing number of retailers are successfully engaging with consumers in a more proactive and transparent way.
These insights are relevant not only to the retail industry but also to sectors that have a retail or customer facing focus such as banking, insurance, telecommunications, and energy and utilities.
The study also showed that Australian consumers are leading the way in adopting new ways of buying online, with 17% saying they are willing to use three or more technologies in the shopping process. The study found that 90% of Australians believe that social networks save them time in shopping (compared to 85% of consumers worldwide), while 40% of Australians want to use websites for comparative shopping. However, Australians still value the ‘touch and feel’ element of the shopping experience and say that the store is still the preferred channel to make a purchase.
“It should come as no surprise to retailers that digital technologies and the Web are impacting the industry in a major way. However in Australia, the physical presence of a retailer is still very important, so it’s not about eradicating bricks and mortar in favour of online. Brands that are truly succeeding are the ones that are delivering a consistent, positive, and personalised experience for customers across various channels – online, mobile, in-store,” he said.
“Cross-channel retail is proving to be a powerful force in generating competition and innovation, both of which will result in a healthier retail sector,” said Margy Osmond, CEO, Australian National Retailers Association. “The study shows that it’s a consumer’s market and retailers need to show loyalty back to customers across all channels of engagement,” she said.
“Retailers in Australia are acting on their understanding of the importance of having a cross-channel platform which delivers consistent, positive and personalised experiences to customers. This is a positive progression from last year,” concluded Wong.
In late 2011, the IBM Institute for Business Value surveyed more than 28,000 consumers around the world to understand how they make purchasing decisions, what influences their spending habits and how technology plays a role in their shopping experience.
The IBM Institute for Business Value then partnered with the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, Italy – a university that runs a well-respected retail management program. SDA Bocconi employs a proven methodology, the Castaldo Retail Trust Model which uses 137 variables to calculate and score a retailer or brand’s ‘trust’ level from a consumer’s point of view. Variables include the retail environment; retail personnel; promotions; assortment; national brand quality and private label quality and their influence on customer satisfaction; perceived value; advocacy and spend. The retailer’s trust variables are then plotted in a diagram that reveals the effect that one trust variable has over the other.
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