It’s the million dollar retail question.
Why do consumers choose a particular merchant for their digital shopping? Product? Price? Selection?
It’s trust. And, overwhelmingly so.
At least that’s what the August Vantiv Omnicommerce Tracker research revealed. MPD CEO Karen Webster caught up with Jason Hatfield, Vantiv’s head of product, to get to the bottom of those questions to better understand what makes consumers tick throughout their digital shopping journey — and why, in that journey, trust trumps even value when it comes to providing consumers what they want most.
Catch what Hatfield had to say about why consumers demand trust above all else out of their digital retail experience (just like they do in store), why that experience has to be ubiquitous across all channels and why consumers trust brands most that they know will make their digital shopping experience the same whether they’re shopping in store, online or in app.
KW: In the August edition of the Vantiv Omnichannel Tracker, we spoke a lot about trust and the impact of trust on how consumers make decisions about brand relationships, retailer relationships and how they start their shopping journey. Why is trust so important? And even more important than other things, like value?
JH: I’m glad you brought up value because I think there is a corollary there. I think we all see the news like everybody else does. There’s a lot of talk about breaches and hacks and identity thefts these days. I think there’s a lot of nervousness on the part of consumers.
When we go home, we’re just consumers then, too. I see in myself a lot of the interesting behaviors that I do are centered around trust as well. I notice that I’m willing to pay a premium at a certain level — maybe not a huge one but a small one — to shop with a brand, or a store, that I trust on the Web.
KW: Retailers like to experiment with new innovations and now with payments innovations. If the consumer trusts the brand, or retailer, in one instance, they’re probably a lot more likely to try something new from them because of that trust. Do you agree?
JH: With a lot of these newer methods of attracting business, there has to be a foothold with a customer. The consumer has to be able to trust that they are dealing with the same person, so to speak. If they’re trying out a merchant’s shopping app, they have to believe that they’re seeing the same items [as online or in store], the same availability and inventory, the same pricing, and that they’re going to be treated with the same services (like shipping and returns) whether they’re online, in an app or in brick-and-mortar. All of that is built upon the fact that they trust the brand to treat them equally no matter how the retailer approaches them.
KW: How well do you think retailers are doing at delivering that consistency across the many channels that the consumer is shopping?
JH: I think it’s a mixed bag. I’ll tell you a little anecdote that happened just in the last year. I needed some jeans, got a fantastic offer, I hopped online, I bought them, they got shipped to me. Tried them on, they didn’t fit. And it was just more convenient to take them back to the local store. When I got there, I tried on another pair, found the pair that fit, brought them up to the register and wanted to do an exchange. I was told that it could not be done. They explained that the online store is a completely different situation, and what’s worse, they wouldn’t even honor the price I had gotten on the Web in the store, and they wouldn’t let me do an exchange. So, I ended up just returning the jeans and walking out with nothing.
We’re payments industry people, and even beyond that I understand all the interworking of those systems that makes it complicated on them. Even then, I was surprised. I was absolutely floored that I don’t get treated the same way online as I do in the store. And it was a big disappointment.
Then, on the flip side, there are some that get it very right. There are some that just do a fantastic job of blending their brand and their brand story across mobile and social and the Web store and in store — and you see a very consistent brand message. And you know everybody is speaking the same language and thinking about the customer as a multi-channeled customer, as opposed to whatever single channel they may be focused on at the other brands. You can see it happening. So, I think it’s a mixed bag. Even in my own experiences, I see plenty of both.
KW: Obviously, you weren’t the first customer to have ever done that. So, this is something they know they need to address but, for whatever reason, haven’t been able to. Why is that? What’s holding them back?
JH: As these various channels emerged in importance for the retailer. They had business systems that needed to be added on to — and maybe they preferred a Web solution from another business that was entirely different than that that powers their brick-and-mortar business. And now we’re laying mobile and social on top of it.
The funny thing is, the larger the business, the harder it is to get these things integrated. Retailers are often trying to piece together multi-million dollar systems, and that can be very, very complicated. I totally sympathize, but consumers don’t know and all they feel is frustrated.
So, the core is being able to integrate those systems: pricing, inventory, services like shipping and returns. It can be a technical complexity —but the retailer’s day-to-day consumer expects that this is all one functioning system behind the scenes.
KW: You mentioned social, which is obviously a very important part of engagement for any business, and retail is clearly on that bandwagon in a big way. What are you seeing in terms of trends that brands are using to engage consumers? But, more importantly, to close the loop of engagement and actually drive sales?
JH: I think you hit it right when you say engagement. You know everybody’s first foray into social media — whether it was Facebook or Twitter — was trying to capitalize on flash sales and quick offers and things like that. That’s fine, and that’s a great place to start. But I think the retailers that are really savvy now are really looking at social media not so much as a direct order driver but as an opportunity to do a lot of brand building, to do a lot of storytelling about their brand.
That’s why I think that Instagram is so fascinating. The platform is uniquely suited to kind of building that brand story and telling that drives engagement. Some people, me included, don’t follow friends as much on Instagram as they do businesses. But a lot of the businesses that they do follow are lifestyle brands — so featuring the things that are a part of hobbies and cultures that the consumer wants to be a part of.
Instagram does a fantastic job of building that brand, telling the story, showing the consumer what the lifestyle and the culture looks like from their perspective or other customers’ perspectives. Instagram is not out there just selling products; they’re invested in the same sorts of interests that the consumer is. And, that kind of social media is how savvy brands are using social to build trust and engage their consumers.
For more on omnichannel trends click here to take a look at our Vantiv OmniCommerce tracker powered by PYMNTS, a monthly recap of the developments within the omnichannel ecosystem.