Whether online or in-store, 82% of U.S. consumers say they expect a retailer’s prices to be the same when they are shopping, according to a survey of shoppers and 32 top retailers by marketing group Accenture.
"Our findings highlight a clear gap between the cohesion consumers expect from their shopping experience and what they seem to be getting," Dave Richards, global managing director of Accenture's retail practice, noted in the release.
This report may be a wake-up call to retailers who still view omni-channel business as two operations, according to industry experts. In fact, a benchmark analysis by the marketing firm found that just one-third of U.S. retailers have consistent pricing for more than 80% of the items assessed.
Wal-Mart Stores is among the retailers who changed its policy last year to include online price matching from its own site as well as from a list of major e-commerce competitors. The retail giant outlines its policy on its website: “We’re committed to providing low prices every day, on everything. So if you find a current lower price from an online retailer on an identical, in-stock product, tell us and we’ll match it.”
There are a few exceptions which are listed on the website. Wal-Mart also notes that the final discretion on the price match rests with the store manager.
Bill Gerads, retail expert with #OnShelf in Bentonville, told The City Wire he expects more retailers will figure out a way to offer like-pricing to appease consumer demand.
“Some are already working on ways to ensure that the online price is the same as the stores. Consumers have all the information they need in their smart phones or at home on the computer. I have seen consumers looking at items in the store and pull the same item online to validate the price or walk over to the electronics department and use a computer in the store to look up pricing,” Gerads said. “I have done the same and most of the time the store will match the price online at the register. It does require due diligence to ensure you are receiving the same price.”
Frank Riso, principal with Riso & Associates, said retailers will have to learn that they cannot manage inventory with two different price models using their stores as pick-up and return centers.
“It has taken at least 10 years for retailers to realize that the consumer only knows the brand and not the channel. Wal-Mart is learning and others will too that consumers don’t see the difference between online and in-store,” he said.
Carol Spieckerman, CEO of Bentonville-based newmarketbuilders, told The City Wire that “online-to-offline price comparisons have the potential to escalate into consumer-alienating standoffs but they certainty don’t have to.”
Instead of instituting prohibitive rules and restrictions, Spieckerman said retailers should create programs that manage exceptions efficiently and from a customer-centric perspective.
“Wal-Mart has successfully taken this approach with its price matching and Savings Catcher solutions. Why not extend this concept into managing omni-channel pricing strategies? At the very least, store associates should be empowered to address customers who care about, and call out, price discrepancies, with the burden of proof on the customer like presenting a screen shot or live online like-for-like price challenge when in the store,” she said.
Speickerman said the difference could be refunded on a gift card, ensuring that Wal-Mart captures a future sale regardless and one that likely will exceed the value of the gift card.
The Accenture survey also asked respondents what they expect from their in-store experiences. Surprisingly, the respondents ranked physical stores as the No. 1 shopping experience in need of an upgrade. The cited the need for easy ordering of out-of-stock merchandise and free Wi-Fi as the most necessary improvements.
The report found that two-thirds of U.S. retailers let sales staff order out-of-stock items for shoppers and less than half have free Wi-Fi in stores.
Almost half of U.S. respondents said they would like to receive real-time promotions on their phones while they're in a store, but only 28% of retailers are able to deliver that service, according to the report.
In addition, just 42% of shoppers found it easy to complete a purchase using a mobile device, while 53% of retailers benchmarked had optimized their websites for tablets.
When it comes to delivery options it looks as if retailers and consumers are not on the same page. The survey found that 59% of global shoppers said they would pay a fee for same-day delivery, compared with 36% who said they would pay a fee for next-day delivery. This compared to retailers who more than half already offer next-day delivery, but just 15% offer same-day service.