Shoppers are diversifying the way they shop for and buy goods, becoming increasingly open to buying both online and in-store depending on their needs at time of purchase.
That’s the key finding of a new IBM survey of 26,000 global consumers released at the 2013 National Retail Federation convention.
While more than 80% of shoppers chose the store to make their last non-grocery purchase, only half are committed to returning there next time they buy, researchers found.
IBM said its research shows consumers are in a transitional state. According to the study, 35% are unsure whether they would next shop at a store or online. Nine percent are ready to commit to making future purchases online. Of all eight product categories tracked in the survey, the two most popular categories chosen by consumers for an online shift are consumer electronics and luxury items, including jewellery and designer apparel.
“Today’s consumer is sophisticated and opportunistic, navigating between store and online environments interchangeably to meet their shopping needs of the moment,” said Jill Puleri, global retail leader, IBM Global Business Services.
“To satisfy clients, retailers must deliver a consistent, convenient shopping experience across each consumer touch point, extending from the store to online and back again. The key is using data and analytics to better understand the behavior and preferences of shoppers to close the sale.”
Understanding the challenge and opportunity of showrooming
The IBM study also found nearly half of online purchases in studied categories resulted from ‘showrooming’, a burgeoning trend in which consumers browse goods at a store, but ultimately buy them online.
Significantly, nearly a quarter of these online shoppers intended to buy their item in the store, but ultimately purchased online – primarily due to price and convenience.
Retailers must better connect their store and online presence to capture the sale to showroomers. Today, online-only retailers account for one-third of showroomer purchases.
Younger, male and affluent shoppers are most likely to showroom. Although a global phenomenon, there is a higher incidence of showrooming in China (26%) and India (13%) than the US (7%), for example.
Strategies for success
The IBM study reveals consumers are seeking a truly integrated shopping experience. Retailers must better connect their online and physical stores, blending benefits into both at various points in the shopping cycle – from research to purchase – to build brand loyalty and repeat sales, said researchers.
In the store, retailers must infuse digital experiences, enable store associates with the technology to save the sale and embrace consumer-owned technology. Online, retailers most optimise their websites for various devices.
The IBM Digital Analytics benchmark found 70% more consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site on Cyber Monday in 2012 than 2011. However, the latest study found only 3% of shoppers are using retailers’ mobile apps.
IBM said its Retail Analytics solutions can provide the fact-based insight retailers need to treat each consumer as an individual, meeting their growing expectation for personalisation. Analytics can also be used to identify why showroomers are shifting purchases online so retailers can act and adjust accordingly.
IBM said its researchers have been working on innovations that will improve the shopping experience both in store and out. Its 2012 patents include innovations for retail, including a patent that would allow consumers to identify a product using just a photo and a patent to enable retailers to capture in 3D the movement of a consumer as they navigate the store in order to provide them a more personalised shopping experience.