New Research Exposes What Really Matters to Customers When Choosing In-Store vs. Online Shopping

Consumers continue to favor in-store shopping at locations where they can have conversations with knowledgeable employees and interact with physical products. The findings, according to the 2019 Future Stores Consumer Report, comes even as online shopping hits record revenues. While that seems like contradictory information, a deeper dive into consumer preferences show that shoppers of all demographics desire fluid, omnichannel experiences.

The key findings also point to the need for brands to better manage all aspects of customer engagement to better bridge an expectations gap and deliver seamless, anytime experiences.

Here’s what shoppers had to say about online versus in-person shopping.

1. The majority prefer in-store shopping.

Even as Millennials and Gen Z account for a growing number of consumers, the preference for in-store shopping experiences remains strong with all age groups. A majority of consumers (57%) generally prefer to shop in physical stores as opposed to online. However, 70% of consumers have one or more retail accounts that enable them to shop both online and in physical stores.

Combined, these two stats point to a need for a frictionless consumer experience across the entire sales journey – from the first marketing email to meaningful in-store interactions.

2. The ability to test out or try on products drives in-store visits.

The vast majority of consumers (85%) say the opportunity to interact with physical products is among their top three reasons for buying products in-store versus online.

One respondent noted, “Physical stores are quicker in the try-on process and provide the ability to look at items and see what is a good value. I appreciate the human interaction and the value of seeing my options.”

They key to keeping customers happy, though, is to ensure the right inventory is in stock when customers walk through the door.

3. Knowledgeable, available employees have a big impact on the customer experience.

Nearly half of consumers (46%) noted that the ability to deal with personnel directly is among their top-three reasons for buying products in physical stores. The research found that most consumers consider product knowledge (76%) and inventory knowledge (61%) among their top-three most-important qualities when dealing with in-store personnel.

However, consumers across generations have concerns about the training, knowledge, and general availability of in-store personnel. Overall, digitally savvy consumers demand that in-store personnel have the same product and inventory knowledge that a consumer experiences on digital channels.

4. Overall, shoppers report positive experiences with in-store technologies.

The one caveat is that many have yet to use them. Shoppers who have interacted with more broadly adopted in-store technologies such as price checking tools and interactive displays had far more positive experiences than negative.

Alternatively, other tools show promise. Over one-third of consumers had generally positive experiences with technology that provided personalized features based on their account history or personal information. It should be noted though, that 32% of respondents say they’ve never tried out these tools.

How can retailers address these consumer preferences?

As consumers become more fickle, demanding anytime service on their terms, leaders in the industry are creating a more uniform, omnichannel experience. That includes everything from providing live customer service chats online, to bringing more personalized and relevant experiences to the retail floor.
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Written by Deidre Moore

Deidre is an experienced revenue-focused marketer who has spent much of her career helping fast-growth technology start-ups develop and execute go-to-market strategies that ensure they can grow, win and thrive. In her current role as Director of Demand Generation for TimeTrade, she spends her days devising new ways to save the world from bad meetings, while making the process for setting appointments easier and more productive for all. Deidre lives north of Boston with her family and three dogs, and conspires to get away from it all by spending more time with all of them, ideally on a beach.

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