76% of UK consumers research or get inspiration online before they make a purchase, UM reports

Research released today by media agency UM has shown that the days of shoppers needing help from retail staff because they don’t know what to buy are coming to an end: 76% of UK consumers say they do research or get inspiration online before they make a purchase.

In some high-value categories, such as electronics/appliances (95%), home improvement (86%) and automotive (87%), this figure is even higher. But more than half even go online for inspiration before they buy groceries (56%) or pick up food or drinks from a sandwich chain or coffee shop (60%).

It also found that around a third of shoppers (35%) carry out their research online before buying online, but 41% actually do research online and then go to a store to make their purchase.

This phenomenon of researching online and buying in-store, called ‘webrooming’, is growing steadily, up from only 31% of shoppers in 2011. By comparison, only 3% of UK shoppers do the reverse, ‘showrooming’, so feared by retailers, where they get their inspiration and research in the store but then leave it to buy online.

In fact, almost two-thirds (64%) say they still enjoy visiting shops in person. When asked where they would prefer to shop if the retailer’s price was the same both online and in-store, people chose the physical store for 10 out of the 12 product categories surveyed.

The Retail Buying Study 2018 was conducted among 4,800 adults in the UK. It found that webrooming was most prevalent in the DIY/home improvement and automotive categories (64% and 51% of shoppers, respectively).

It also suggests that webroomers are also likely to spend more than purely online shoppers. When UK consumers were asked how much their last purchase cost, webroomers spent more than those who bought online in a wide range of categories, including fashion, new kitchens/bathrooms, toys/leisure and jewellery. The average last purchase cost was £924 for webroomers but only £604 for those who both researched and bought online.

Glen Parker, chief insight officer EMEA at UM, comments: “The appetite for in-store shopping is alive and well, but retailers should start thinking of webroomers as a key audience. The people who come into your store are likely to have done their research online and might even know more about the products than your own employees.

“Unfortunately, a lot of retail brands are still stuck in 20th Century thinking, and the significant numbers closing stores or going into administration highlights that fact. The in-store experience needs to change to reflect the omnichannel world we live in now. The internet is where we get our information, but the high street is still the place where many Britons want to shop.”

The UK findings are part of a broader analysis of consumer shopping habits and behaviours compiled by media agency UM for its Retail Buying Study 2018, which covered more than 50,000 shoppers in 11 countries across Europe.