INSPIRATION, INNOVATION AND SERVICE
In terms of how consumers start their shopping journeys and where they go for inspiration, we found quite a lot of consistency across the eight markets we surveyed. In every country, search engines came out top of the list, with a range in the percentage of consumers using them from 59% (US) to 38% (Belgium).
Browsing brand websites, using social media and browsing in store all then got a fairly even spread of the vote. Brand websites are particularly popular for discovery in Spain, with 47% of consumers picking them out as a preferred option. Social media and brand sites are least popular in the UK, gaining mentions from just a quarter of respondents for each. By contrast, browsing in store is particularly popular with UK shoppers (32%).
Asked what would encourage them to buy directly from the brand and not just browse their site, survey respondents in every country agreed that price was the most significant factor. This was particularly strong in the US (85%), Czech Republic (82%), Germany and Spain (both 80%). In a further sign that brand websites have work to do to win the attention of UK shoppers, only 66% said even a better price would convince them to buy direct, the joint lowest figure along with The Netherlands.
Elsewhere there were some interesting regional variations. In France (34%) and Spain (33%), access to the full product range are seen as particularly good reasons to shop direct on a brand site - again, British shoppers are the most unimpressed, with this cited as a factor by just 20% of respondents. Spanish shoppers (30%) also like the idea of getting exclusive products direct from a brand. This was least appealing to Czech consumers (18%), who instead were most enthusiastic about brand loyalty programmes (40%).
Leading on to attitudes to innovation and technology, it may or may not be a coincidence that UK shoppers were by some distance the least likely to say they expected to increase their use of digital shopping channels in the future - just 48% said they intended to, with the next lowest being the Czech Republic (59%). Spanish consumers came out as the most enthusiastic about their future use of digital commerce, with 78% saying they expected to increase it in the future.
The enthusiasm of Spanish shoppers for greater use of digital commerce also translates into greater demand for brands and retailers to be digitally innovative. Asked if they wished brands were more innovative, just under half of participants said yes from most countries. The exceptions were Spain (70%) and France (60%). And asked if they were more likely to buy from a digitally innovative brand, Spain again came out on top with 61% of respondents saying yes. The message, then, is clear - if you want to make headway in Spain or France, focus on innovation.
One interesting point is that we often hear that Amazon’s success is down to it leading the way on innovation in digital commerce. In that case, you might expect that the markets where Amazon has the biggest share are those where there is greatest demand for digital innovation from consumers. The contrast in our survey results between Spain and the US, the two countries with the highest percentage of Prime members and where almost half of all online spend goes to Amazon, suggests this might not be the case.
In the US, consumers were rather more muted about the prospects of brands being more digitally innovative - just 36% said that would influence their purchasing decision. And when asked if they were excited by the prospect of checkout-less stores like Amazon Go, more than half of Spanish consumers (52%) told us they were. In the US, where the Amazon Go concept originated, this fell to just 35%. Perhaps one final stat gives us a reason why - more than half of Spanish consumers (52%) told us they thought they were more digitally advanced than some online services they use, which fell to 34% in the US. Perhaps the conclusion is, Amazon’s success in Spain is indeed all down to a perceived higher value in innovation and technology. Perhaps in the US, it is more a matter of convenience.
RETAIL DOMINATION, VALUES AND SPEED OF DELIVERY
Let’s conclude, then, with a look at some of the services consumers told us really mattered to them, and what opportunities this presents to brands and retailers. Sticking with Spain, 58% said they were worried about Amazon dominating the retail space, again the highest figure across all eight markets. This was repeated by the percentage of Spanish shoppers who said ethics played an important role in where they chose to shop (71%) and those who said they tried to choose brands and retailers that were environmentally responsible. So, while the digital innovation of Amazon might appeal to Spanish consumers, there is a clear signal there that there are opportunities for other players with innovative, ethical and sustainable approaches. This was a theme that also emerged from the responses we got in France, Germany and to a slightly lesser extent the US (where sustainability was not such a key issue).
Consumers in the US, German and Spain were all also very enthusiastic about the idea of being able to order everything from one place, again offering insight into the success of Amazon in those markets. Brands and retailers should perhaps be paying attention to the countries where this was less of a concern - Belgium (44%), Czech Republic (53%), France (56%) and the UK (57%). We can perhaps infer that in these countries, consumers are more content shopping from multiple sources.
Finally, speed of delivery was ranked as a key measure of service in every country we surveyed, scoring above 75% in each and above 80% in most, placing it second only to price in the weight of importance consumers gave it. But if prompt delivery has become a universal expectation, there are some interesting differences in opinion on innovations in delivery services across the different markets. For example, asked if they would prefer a specified day for bulk deliveries of all orders, Spain (69%) and France (66%) again came out on top (we can speculate whether this links to the environmental concerns). In the US, meanwhile, with the joint highest percentage of Prime members, there was a surprisingly scant level of interest in sub-24 hour delivery - just 7% of consumers ranked it as a priority.
Ultimately, what these comparisons across countries demonstrate is that it would be unwise to view digital commerce as a single, unified market where a single, unified strategy will work. While the world has undoubtedly shrunk in the digital age, there is enough nuance and complexity left to mean that there is no substitute for detailed local market knowledge, even when you are looking to make inroads online.
If you’ve not got a copy yet, make sure to download The Future Shopper 2019 here to get the full picture of consumer attitudes and trends across international markets, leading with UK and US.
Written by Patrick Munden
Chief Growth Officer
Patrick is a renowned spokesperson for the digital commerce industry and an authority on online retail including peak trading, and the value of partnerships to inspire eCommerce growth.
A note about the Future Shopper 2019 survey
Research for this Future Shopper 2019 report was conducted by independent research consultancy Censuswide. A total of 15,188 consumers, who shop online at least once a month were surveyed, across 8 international markets, led by UK and US.