As the saying goes, ‘time is money’, and for cost conscious consumers grappling with the pressures of a turbulent economy and high costs of living, any opportunity to save is of increased value.
Convenience and tailored experiences simplifying shopping experiences are very much front of mind for consumers in 2022, particularly as they prepare for the holiday season and incoming sales periods offering them opportunities to cash in on deals and discounts. And a large part of delivering this experience comes from effective communication strategies, suggests Dave Scheine, Country Manager for Australia at B2C messaging platform Podium.
“Australia is home to millions of innovative local businesses, but in a saturated market it’s not easy to compete on price or product. Our research shows that many consumers now judge businesses based on communication, with many willing to pay more money for a more convenient experience,” says Scheine, “Support for local business is strong and inspiring in Australia, but consumers are clearly losing patience for businesses that fail to cater to their habits and preferences”
“As global economic headwinds circle, and Australian households become more cautious about their discretionary spending, every lead, interaction and sale takes on added significance for local businesses. Those who recognise how their audience is changing, then cater to their habits with convenient communications strategies, will be better placed to succeed.”
Scheine’s insights are boosted from findings in Podium’s 2022 B2C Communications Report, which found almost half of Australian consumers reporting their having less tolerance since the onset of the pandemic for businesses failing to offer simple, convenient or user-friendly means of communication. Such is the renewed importance of communication and its role in building more positive shopping experiences, greater than half of Aussies at 55 percent suggest that they would be willing to choose a business offering convenient, comfortable communication methods even if their products were more expensive.
“Customer expectations have changed drastically in the wake of the pandemic. Retail always was, and always will be, about providing in-demand products to customers through the best experience possible. Today, though, it’s about how these experiences are provided,” Scheine tells Power Retail, “Technology was adopted at such a mass scale in response to the pandemic, and now consumers expect the quick, convenient and personalised experiences that technology provides as standard.”
“Specifically, we’ve noticed a major shift in their expectations when it comes to communication. Consumers don’t want to be bombarded by phone calls or flooded with emails, they want communication on their terms. And if they don’t get that their loyalty can disappear entirely.”
Building this loyalty with consumers now, Scheine further identifies, is more important than ever as the high pressure economy continues to bite Aussie consumers.
“As global economic headwinds circle, and Australian households become more cautious about their discretionary spending, every lead, interaction and sale takes on added significance for local businesses. These economic pressures come at a particularly unwelcome time for retailers eager to use this peak season to make up for lost time,” says Scheine, “Consumers are being more considered in their spending, but also more considered in where they spend. If a business is inconvenient, they’ll go to a competitor, as our research shows.”
“It’s well known that customer retention is far more cost-effective than customer acquisition. If retailers can focus on building loyalty through convenience – in addition to their products – they’ll be better placed to weather financial storms and build deep, dependable and meaningful relationships with their customers.”
Further findings from Podium also suggest that how convenience is determined by consumers has changed in recent years, with retailers and businesses cautioned to familiarise themselves with the habits of their customers and adapt accordingly.
“One of the most interesting takeaways from the research wasn’t just about the desire for convenience, but what convenience looks like for Aussies today. One of the biggest changes comes in how Australians want to interact with local businesses,” Scheine adds, “The average Australian spends almost two hours a day on their smartphones, with one in four spending at least three. For Australian retailers, tapping into this affinity to – and reliance on – our smartphones, is a major opportunity. They’re already using SMS to interact with their friends and family, so it enables retailers to tap a channel their customers are already using.”
“Indeed, half of Australians (49%) say that businesses that use SMS to communicate appear more professional than those that don’t. Almost half (46%) have deleted an email from a business without opening it in the last 24 hours and two-thirds (62%) have ignored an unsolicited call from a business in the last week. If your business isn’t tapping the channels they’re using, your business is being ignored.”
The lesson for retailers is clear, with communication a vital component of convenience and convenience overall the yardstick by which a shopping experience is often measured in today’s retail climate. Understanding consumer preferences regarding communication, too, is important for retailers hoping to succeed. In its findings, Podium further discovered that 73 percent of Aussie consumers say that they will ‘blacklist’ businesses that spam them with repetitive or irrelevant marketing, while 70 percent report a preference for engaging with businesses who have a human presence rather than ones using bots or AI.
Between the pressures of the economic climate and the competitiveness of a retail market offering consumers no shortage of options, standing out as a business willing to engage and develop a relationship of transparency and convenience is arguably more important than it has ever been.
As Scheine concludes, “Ultimately, consumers now are pickier than they’ve ever been, but retailers should treat that as an opportunity not a challenge. When a retailer understands and caters to their customers’ needs and wants, the customers will likely respond with their loyalty.”
“And loyalty is the biggest competitive advantage a retailer can wield today.”
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