Despite all the buzz around showrooming and mobile shopping, retailers will be relieved to know that brick-and-mortar stores are still important for 90 percent of shoppers, according to a study published by the e-tailing group and online local media company Local Corporation.
The study analyzed responses from more than 1,000 consumers to explore consumer shopping behavior across a growing array of mobile devices, including consumer preferences and plans for researching and purchasing multiple categories of products.
Initial findings reveal today's consumer takes a highly personalized path to purchase, utilizing multiple devices, from PCs to smartphones to tablets. About 60 percent of respondents reported that they have researched products and services several times a month using a mobile device, while PCs still play an important role in the shopping process.
"The path to purchase has changed very quickly over the past few years, from a relatively predictable, linear progression with less channels and options, to something much more fluid and personal," said Sherry Thomas-Zon, vice president of local shopping, Local Corporation. "The challenge for national brands and retail marketers is to keep pace with consumers as they move among devices and locations and to provide timely, compelling, engaging information that guides them to the purchase."
How consumers are using smartphones and tablets
Although the physical store is still an important part of the shopping experience, the study results show that retailers will be challenged to follow consumers across an increased number of connected devices and shopping journeys. The survey highlights how savvy consumers take the reigns of their shopping experience even within the brick-and mortar-store. It found that:
- Almost two out of three shoppers use at least one device to research and transact while shopping and 28 percent use two devices at a time.
- More than one in three shoppers has made at least one purchase via their mobile devices over the past six months, and tablet shoppers have an even higher propensity to purchase with their tablet, with one in four having purchased six times or more in the past six months.
- 47 percent of consumers confirm they use their smartphone to search for local information, including information about the local store they want to visit.
- Prior to visiting a store, they use smartphones to conduct further research including looking for competitors' pricing, checking for sales, previewing products and reading reviews.
- 46 percent of shoppers look up prices on a store's mobile site where they intend to shop and 42 percent check inventory prior to shopping in the store.
"We learned that once again the customer is in control and will consume information in ways that are convenient for them," said Lauren Freedman, president, the e-tailing group inc. "They are increasingly leveraging mobile devices to power their browsing and shopping activities. Retailers and brands have to be flexible and adjust to these behaviors and be able to deliver not only timely but relevant, localized information."
Using technology to keep consumers in the store
One way brick-and-mortar retailers can motivate consumers to make purchases is the store is by offering them everything they're getting from their smartphones and tablets, Thomas-Zon said. Those include:
- Competive pricing: Retailers can't be afraid to show competitors' prices. Of course, they will want to match them as well.
- In-store product ratings and reviews: Digital Signs and kiosks at the shelf could feature the latest product reviews. Shoppers should be able to scan bar codes to access more info.
- Access to coupons: Kiosks should feature loyalty programs where consumers check in and get coupons.
"Retailers have to find solutions," Thomas-Zon said. "You are now hearing about retailers with associates with tablets to help aid the sale. It's pretty clear from study that a lot of focus has been on what influences purchases, but the last mile needs to be a solution around keeping (consumers) in the store. What can you do to help the consumer to finish the purchase and feel confident so they don't walk out?"
Read more about retail kiosks and digital signage.
Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.