At Open we identify and examine customer issues. At DNA we deliver on that thinking.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein


How long will the store be open?

Gill Coltart February 2010

The evolution of customer expectations

In a world where we endorse and encourage the amalgamation of the digital and ‘real’ world experiences for customers to best effect, it is no surprise to see evolution of customer expectations about the nature and delivery of the traditional retail environment.

The accessibility, efficiency and breadth of the online retail world has created new expectations in the minds of customers – particularly around service – that are being translated to real world retail environments. 

In the broadest sense, off the back of a 24/7 online retail environment, many of us have developed an expectation that we should be able to visit the shop of our choice in a wider window of time over the day, and on any given day of the week.  Shop opening hours are evolving into a more accessible, convenient mix – many now opening into the evening, as well as full days across the weekend.  The recent debate over legislation preventing retailers opening over Easter also reflects the evolving expectations and demands of customers, against what use to be an acceptable level of accessibility to the retail environment.   

As with accessibility, the price that products are offered to customers online is fast changing expectations in the traditional retail environment.  The lower overheads and cost structures of online retailing, combined with higher volumes means organisations can potentially offer a lower retail price via the web and suddenly there is a shift in price perception.  An excellent example is Fatso - charging around $20 per month for the rental, delivery AND return of a couple of DVDs, while you’ll pay that per DVD at the local Video Ezy.

Customer expectations around delivery of items they’ve purchased has also been influenced by the online retail world, with Trade Me providing the yardstick.  With more than two thirds of Trade Me items sold being couriered to their buyers, it’s no surprise to see an increase in consumers value of immediacy of delivery.  The Christchurch furniture store Simply Furniture – the Retail Association’s Regional Top Shop winner – has embraced this change in expectations by customers and attributes its success to a level of service that ensures ‘80% of stock is available for delivery within 48 hours’.

Accustomed to browsing constantly revolving ‘shop-fronts’ and surfing trans-seasonal lines of products in the digital world, exposure to the breadth of stock in the digital retail environment must also be driving change in the minds of customers.  Customer expectations will no doubt evolve to demand the same of physical environments, creating the need for retailers to have a greater focus on stock mix and turns, as well as merchandising.

Without doubt, increased exposure to the benefits of the online retail world – accessibility, price competitiveness, efficiency of delivery and breath of stock – has begun to change the values and needs of consumers in the ‘real world’ retail space, and this is reflected in the evolution of the service offering in the traditional retail environment.  These changes are testament to a gratifying shift in the view of an increasing number of businesses – that the retail experience they offer should be led by the needs of the customer, not those of the business.


Frans Huysmans 19 April 2011 at 8:24am

While I agree the online environment is influencing consumer behaviour, I am also an advocate of counter initiatives, or 'go against the trends,' as a way of tapping into positive values which are more entrenched and possibly less prone to major shifts.
Citing the furniture market, of which I am a retailer, we have noticed younger customers enticed by the quaint' experience of old fashioned service, personal attention and individual care.
Shopping for larger priced items not only requires careful consideration but also patience to ensure customers are truly comfortable and satisfied with their choice, and will not experience, especially in times of recession, 'buyer's remorse.'
We have decided as a high profile luxury furniture brand to employ a combination of digital technology as a way of capturing advantage from new marketing forms, as well as intimate retailing for a more traditional customer approach.

Phil Muhpantaloons 19 April 2011 at 8:24am

Should this be a trend we like? In this time of mass global consumerism, with the abilty to purchase anything at anytime and expect delivery to your door within two days, with strip malls and longer opening hours helping feed the frenzy, is this all becoming just a little too much?
Today's niche trends become tomorrow's mass followings. The crowd is fickle and moves quickly. Once the fashionistas move on, so does the crowd. Anyone wearing Alexander McQueen certainly can't be wearing the 'latest'. Bars and restaurants have to make back their capex within 18 months before the crowd moves on.
We are loosing the ability to stop, to opt out, to put time where it's more important. Imagine if opening hours went back to 9-5 mon to fri. If you had to physically touch something before you bought it. Maybe the ever decreasing cycle of obselence was in itself obselete we'd all get back to smelling the roses.

What do you think?