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Study: Some Retail Execs Underestimate Impact Of Diversity, Inclusion

inclusion, Muslim shopper

A new report by First Insight Inc. finds that 92 percent of senior retail executives surveyed felt that consumers would continue to buy from their company even if they created and offered a controversial and offensive product, if they pulled it from the shelves quickly and issued a public apology. In comparison, only 27 percent of consumers responded that they wouldn’t mind and would continue shopping at that retailer. Further, 19 percent of consumers said they would stop shopping at that retailer or brand forever vs. the 5 percent predicted by senior retail leaders.

The study points to a significant perception gap between senior retail executives and consumers on the impact of diversity and inclusion themes on shopping behavior. When asked about the importance of diversity factors when choosing which retailers or brands to shop, only 61 percent of consumers felt extended sizing was important vs. 82 percent of senior retail leaders. Similarly, only 44 percent of consumers felt brand influencers representing diverse viewpoints were important vs. 77 percent of senior retail leaders.

“According to the results of this survey, consumers may be more understanding and forgiving of retailers as they ramp to meet rising inclusivity and diversity expectations than previously anticipated by most senior retail leaders,” said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and as retailers and brands continue to work to align with new expectations of today’s consumer, whether it’s through extended sizing, cultural inclusion, hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, or responding to and learning from mis-steps, retailers need to continue to be sensitive to the needs of the consumer. The data also shows that senior leaders need to stay invested in their day-to-day operations, and stay connected with the voice of customers on quality and pricing of items.”

Other significant findings of the surveys include:

  • While both consumers and senior retail leaders were aligned on the importance of women and minorities in senior leadership positions (50 percent vs. 54 percent, respectively), 75 percent of senior retail leaders said they do not plan to hire a chief diversity officer compared to 54 percent of consumers who felt it would benefit them.
  • While cultural inclusivity, which includes modest styles, hijabs and head coverings, was ranked the least important diversity factor impacting shopping behavior by both groups, it was more important to consumers (46 percent) than to senior retail leaders (38 percent).
  • While senior retail leaders believe 33 percent of purchases are made in-store and 67 percent are made online, in close alignment with consumers (37 percent and 63 percent, respectively), results show a significant disconnect on the number of purchases being made via mobile devices monthly. According to the report, 75 percent of senior retail leaders believe consumers are making purchases on mobile devices more than six times a month. However, only 42 percent of consumers say the same.
  • Fifty percent of consumers surveyed believe prices of products online are increasing. However, only 38 percent of senior retail leaders answered the same. Further, 60 percent of consumers felt that in-store prices were increasing, compared to only 35 percent of senior retail leaders. Of note, while significantly more senior retail leaders believe in-store pricing is increasing this year vs. 2018 (20 percent), they are still significantly disconnected with consumer beliefs (60 percent of consumers felt in-store pricing was increasing 2018).

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