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Despite the continued prevalence of online shopping, more consumers are planning to make purchases this year from brick-and-mortar stores, according to a new study by Accenture, which finds 21 percent of shoppers plan to increase their in-store purchasing, up from 9 percent last year.
However retailers must improve the overall shopping experience to best take advantage of this trend, the study finds, as 40 percent of respondents ranked improving the in-store shopping experience first, compared to 16 percent who said the same of online shopping.
According to Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice, “Retailers have an opportunity to increase in-store sales but only if they make the experience worthwhile for consumers.”
Donnelly adds that physical stores must differentiate themselves from the online pure-plays, while offering many of the conveniences that consumers look for online. “The lines between the different shopping channels are blurring, but the good news for traditional retailers is that the store continues to play an important role,” he says.
Bringing Online In-store
Shoppers want to take advantage of seamless retail services in-store, according to the study, with 19 percent saying they use “click and collect” services -- reserving or buying online and picking up in-store – compared to 12 percent who said the same in 2012. Likewise, 14 percent of shoppers are buying in-store and having the product shipped to their home, compared with last year’s 7 percent.
Additionally, 31 percent find the ability to check product availability online before traveling to the store as the service that would most improve their shopping experience. Eighty-nine percent said they would either travel to a store to make a purchase or buy online if retailers offered real-time information on product availability.
Consumers are “webrooming” more than “showrooming” across all product categories, except grocery. Accenture’s study finds that 78 percent of shoppers had webroomed (shopping online and purchasing in-store) in the last 12 months, while 72 percent had showroomed (shopping in-store and purchasing online for a better price), during that same period.
Offering the ‘Seamless’ Experience
The Accenture study found that a growing number of shoppers expect a retailer’s product offerings to be the same across different shopping channels – 51 percent in 2013 compared to 43 percent in 2012. More than half (57 percent) also expect promotions to be the same across channels and 69 percent expect prices to be the same.
The survey finds, however, that many retailers are not providing a seamless customer experience in some key areas. Only 31 percent of shoppers said that their customer accounts were completely connected across in-store and online channels, and just 32 percent said that they were able to earn and use loyalty points across multiple channels. In addition, the proportion of shoppers who believe they will secure a better price online rose from 21 percent to 31 percent.
And although convenience is still the biggest driver for shopping online or with a mobile phone, respondents ranked this as less important in the latest survey, compared to 2012 – falling to 54 percent from 62 percent in the previous year. And more shoppers (43 percent) find purchasing with their mobile phones easy, compared to 23 percent in 2012.
“Delivering a seamless experience across all retail touch points remains both a key challenge and prime opportunity for retailers today,” said Donnelly. “Those retailers able to integrate the physical store with the rest of their digital capabilities, and who also use analytics to support new models of customer engagement and personalized service, can gain a true competitive advantage.”