Online shopping: a greater opportunity

Imagine you were looking for a new smartphone deal. You’re browsing the overwhelming number of tariffs. What would push you to buy? The amount of call time included in the contract? Or the data package on offer?

Smartphones have become pocket-sized computers. Generous data packages and fast connection speeds mean consumers can search for information, read reviews and buy products wherever they are. The impending arrival of 5G will only fuel this further.

RSM’s research shows that 86 per cent of consumers now own a smartphone. Each generation uses their device in a distinct way. While Baby Boomers are most likely to stick with core services, such as calls or texts, Gen X and Millennial consumers show a growing appetite for mobile commerce.

Slick, smartphone-enabled apps means smaller screens are no longer a deterrent to mobile browsing. Opportunities cut across categories, but banking, shopping for clothes and ordering takeaways are the top buying activities that Millennials and Gen X consumers carry out on their phones.

Who are today's consumers?

Over the next five to 10 years, technology-led Millennials will become the growth driver of consumer businesses. Their habits and preferences matter. Companies must take the time to ensure their online strategies not only connect with their offline offerings, but also encourage younger demographics to spend.

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Online reviews exert an enormous influence on buying decisions. The rise of consumer-orientated sites like TripAdvisor and Trustpilot means shoppers are now just as likely to act on recommendations from strangers across the world as those from their closest friends and family.

Who are today's consumers?

Looking ahead, it will not just be strangers influencing our purchasing habits. Consumers will increasingly act on the suggestions from in-home virtual assistants. As machines become more intelligent, they'll learn our buying desires and needs with razor-sharp accuracy.

Consumers are still acclimatising to the rise of robots. Just under half are open to the idea of installing a virtual assistant that makes shopping suggestions. And even fewer would act on these recommendations when buying retail products, deciding on leisure activities or booking holidays and weekends away.

There is little doubt that adoption rates will increase as the technology becomes more sophisticated. The movement has already taken root. Businesses that act now to incorporate virtual assistant innovations in their horizon planning will be the first to benefit when a critical mass of digitally savvy consumers is reached.

Fraud risks

While the digital world has led to new opportunities, it also brings new threats. Online purchases create a wealth of sensitive data that has become a growing target for cyber criminals.

The BRC estimates that cyber-enabled activity accounts for 53 per cent of reported fraud in the retail industry. It says these incidents cause an annual loss of £100m. And it’s not just retailers that need to stay alert – the threat is equally stark for L&H and tourism operators.

Shoppers have a clear expectation that websites and apps will keep their data safe. Our research shows that many actively think about fraud when booking online via a mobile, tablet or computer. Those that fail to keep consumers’ data safe will face considerable reputational and financial damage. 

Who are today's consumers?

Continued high-profile cyberattacks indicate that few have taken proper steps to protect consumer data. In May 2018, new rules will come into force that will significantly increase penalties for breaches. Those that do not follow the new General Data Protection Regulation could be fined up to €20m or 4 per cent of their annual global turnover.

Consumer businesses need to build the right infrastructure and trust if they are to offer secure, digitally enabled services. With reputations on the line for those who don’t protect customers’ data, companies must put security at the top of the agenda when adopting technology to improve buyer experiences.

Download our full 'Who are today's consumers?' report.