Let’s play a game of two truths and a lie: retail edition. Which of the following statements is untrue?

  1. Most Millennials start shopping with a specific brand in mind.

  2. Gen Zers make as many purchases in a physical store as they do on online marketplaces.

  3. The experience a company provides is as important as its products.

For a few helpful hints, check out this video.

 
 

If you went rogue and said they were all true, you win (trick question, sorry). If you’re surprised that I changed the rules, buckle up, because the rules of shopping have changed, too. To understand how shoppers are behaving differently, we launched our broadest consumer study to date: the Connected Shoppers Report. Read on to discover what 10,000 consumers around the world had to say about their evolving approaches to shopping.

 

How are shopping habits evolving?

Shopping today is more than a transaction at a checkout counter. It’s a spectrum of activities including research and discovery, browsing and buying, and receiving service. How these activities unfold, however, has transformed in four key ways: 

 

1. From analog to digital

Today’s purchases are increasingly digital, especially for repeat buys where shoppers are already familiar with the product. In fact, 75% of repeat purchases occur digitally. This trend isn’t limited to websites, either. Brick and mortar stores digitize their offerings and, in the case of some retailers like Boggi, empowered associates now deliver connected and personalized experiences.

 

2. From discrete to embedded

Consumers no longer need to decide, “I’m going shopping today.” Shopping is increasingly embedded in everyday life via the apps, services, and platforms we already use — like chat. This mode of communication is especially popular among Millennials and Gen Zers when talking with friends — or getting customer service. No need to wait on hold — 26% of consumers use chatbots, chat, or instant message for customer service. In today’s retail landscape, brands and retailers come to you.

 

 

3. From linear to distributed

Shopping now takes place across a web of different digital and physical touchpoints. On average, consumers use 7.6 different channels to communicate with companies. So whether playing a video game or scrolling through social feeds, shoppers can browse and shop anytime and anywhere on a wide variety of channels and devices. Today, it’s Instagram, YouTube, and WeChat. Tomorrow, it could be TikTok or even Minecraft.

 

4. From product to experience

As product categories become commoditized, meaningful shopping experiences — like connections to animal rights causes in a Lush store or personalized serums from Kiehl’s — are paramount. Shoppers definitely agree: 83% say the experience a company provides is as important as its products/services. This carries even more weight with Millennials and Gen Z.

 

So, what does this mean for loyalty?

With shoppers switching brands as quickly as they switch channels and devices, customer devotion is too difficult to maintain. Yet with 62% of Millennials starting their shopping journey with a specific brand in mind, that loyalty is brands’ to lose. So how can brands and retailers maintain mind- and wallet-share?

The answer is in providing tailored engagement. Shoppers increasingly seek a relationship with brands, and a large part of that involves feeling understood and special. Indeed, the #1 trait of shoppers’ favorite brands is that it “caters to my unique needs” followed by #5, favorite brands “truly understand who I am.” Pet supply company, PetSmart, does just that by putting users' pets at the center of the retail experience. Personalized emails and product recommendations featuring furry family members help shoppers feel acknowledged and valued.

Think you know what shoppers want? Think again. Our Connected Shoppers Report can provide you the blueprint for serving the connected and influential consumer.