Insight: Over half of consumers think disruption in retail is a positive thing – Clarity

New research conducted on behalf of marketing communications agency Clarity lifts the lid on consumers thoughts about disruption, finding that over half (58%) think it’s a positive thing.


With retail in a constant state of flux, in the main marketers tend to focus on the impact this is having on the brands themselves, with less focus on consumers and their perceptions and attitudes towards the changing retail landscape.

The research, commissioned for Clarity, surveyed 1,000 UK consumers, exploring their thoughts on the current retail landscape – with a view to helping brands understand perceptions of disruption in the sector and how to take advantage of it.

Increased competition is the factor most shoppers think is responsible for causing disruption (28%), closely followed by advancements in technology (25%) and raised consumer expectations (20%). However, over a third (34%) think there is no one cause of disruption.

Importantly, almost a third of respondents (31%) think that disruption in retail is life-changing and that they could never go back to the old way of doing things, women feel this more strongly than men (35% vs 27%). Despite this, shoppers do acknowledge the downsides to it too. Closing of physical stores (38%), low wages and job losses (29%) along with increased costs (20%) are cited as the top three concerns about disruption in retail.

When it comes to wider perceptions of retail, despite ongoing struggles on the high street, physical retail still has many fans. A quarter of people (25%) say there’s nothing that puts them off visiting a retail location. The instant gratification of physical retail tops the list of reasons encouraging shoppers to go in store (38%), followed by ease (26%) and the ability to trial and experience products (26%) – considerations that retail brands must take into account when assessing their physical presence and corresponding marketing strategy.

Interestingly, women are most inclined to embrace the changes that disruption is bringing to retail with 65% viewing it as a positive thing, versus 55% of men. When it comes to age breakdown, those aged 24 to 35 view disruption in the most positive way (70%). It’s worth noting that just under half (49%) of those aged over 55 believe the biggest downside to disruption is physical store closures, compared to less than a third of those aged 16 to 24 (29%).

These differences denote the changing habits of generations, with the younger demographic being used to a variety of different retail experiences outside of physical stores. As markets continue to shift and technology leads to further change, these results illustrate the need, when navigating a changing market, for brands to be aware of these different attitudes in order to tailor their communications.

Chris Morris, MD at Clarity said: “Disruption in retail is undeniable. It’s coming from all angles and consumers are increasingly aware of how it is impacting their shopping experience. These insights provide vital signposts for brands looking to navigate a complex landscape of change. Encouragingly, by and large shoppers think that it’s a positive thing, which suggests that brands should not shy away from addressing it openly and head on.”

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