Last week, Retail Dive published the results of an exhaustive survey “on the psyche of the American consumer and the evolving role of the brick-and-mortar store.” The publication surveyed hundreds of U.S. consumers, with the stated goal of understanding of how today’s shoppers view and engage with both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce retail stores.
It’s worth reading, but here are the main takeaways:
Consumers still see benefits of in-store shopping
And for three main reasons.
One, 62% of those surveyed want to examine products in-person before making a purchasing decision, especially if the product is particularly expensive and/or a non-every day purchase. Think large household electronics, kitchen appliances, living room furniture, and high-end clothing.
Two, 49% of those surveyed said they chose the store over the web because they want to take home items immediately. This, of course, could change in the very near future, particularly since Amazon continues to ramp up its same-day delivery service. But for now, for almost half of U.S. consumers, nothing beats the instant gratification offered by brick-and-mortar retailers.
And finally three, 20% of consumers said they prefer the in-store return process. It appears the idea of printing a shipping label, packaging a return, and delivering it to the post-office is comparatively daunting compared to a simple trip to customer service. No wonder Amazon has invested in reducing return friction.
Online is popular for both research and purchasing
The funny thing is, even if consumers end up making an in-store purchase, chances are they’ve done preliminary comparison shopping online. E-commerce now touches the majority of purchases, and to what degree, largely depends on both the product category and the age of the shoppers.
According to the survey: “Meanwhile, online shopping is the clear winner in apparel and accessories, electronics and appliances, entertainment, and personal care and beauty products. For these categories, fewer than two in five consumers say they’re more likely to shop in stores than online. While consumers overall are increasingly turning to digital shopping, differences exist between ages and genders. Generally speaking, shoppers in the 35-44 year age range are the least likely to shop in stores for several categories. Meanwhile, younger (18-24) and older (65+) consumers lean more heavily toward in-store shopping.”
Shoppers also go to stores before buying online
Just as shoppers perform preliminary research and price-checking online, so to do they visit stores before making a purchasing decision. Over fifty-five percent of respondents indicated they visit brick-and-mortar locations before buying online.
From the survey, “Our latest survey findings show that 56% of shoppers say they visit stores — at least occasionally — to first see, touch and feel products before buying them online. What’s more, roughly a third make this practice habit, reporting that they always or frequently go to stores to see or try out items before buying on the web. One in 10 shoppers say they always visit a store to see items they then buy online.”
On the surface, the notion that consumers both research and comparison shop online and in-store seems slightly contradictory. But in reality, it highlights the interconnectedness of today’s retail experience. The line between e-commerce and traditional brick-and-mortar retail is increasingly blurred, and retailers would be wise to develop inventory optimization strategies that seamlessly blend the two.
To read the full report, click here.