While there’s no arguing that digital channels are increasingly important in retail, new research from Forrester indicates that physical stores are still the most important way that Americans shop.
Social media, however, turns out to be a bit of a bust, with only 1% of the Forrester sample naming Facebook as a top-three resource. (Twitter fared about the same.) And even among the most digital researchers, only 7% used the Internet on their mobile phones to research a recent purchase, and 4% used the Internet on their tablet. (Its sample included 4,500 adults.)
So how exactly does digital influence the way shoppers behave, from product research to final transaction? Analyst Corinne Munchbach, who wrote the report, tells Marketing Daily a little more.
Q: Could you talk a little bit more about the value of the physical store?
A: There’s been so much emphasis on digital drivers, and that’s all a bit overblown. The continued importance of the physical store is really impressive. It's not that people aren’t digitally aware. We found that 82% of U.S. adult consumers research a product before buying it, and most of them use digital tools to do so.
But the store is absolutely still king. In our report, 67% say they plan to buy something offline in a traditional store in the next three to six months, compared with 58% online. And just 14% plan to do so on their tablet, and 11% on their phone.
Consumers really value the ability to touch and feel what they are about to buy.
Q: And do you think that will surprise marketers?
A: It’s important that they realize that the store continues to be an important channel, and that they do not ignore it in favor of some of these other shiny digital objects.
Q: But if 82% are doing research before, that means digital has a major role. What’s the best approach?
A: Yes, and in every product category we looked at, online research is much more important than in-store research. For us, the takeaway is that there is the explosion of shopper research, in every category. So the big thing for brands is to focus on being able to provide the right type of information, in ways that are relevant and timely.
Q: So should brands shy away from mobile and social, which turn out not to be so significant?
A: No, we are not discounting them, and 10% of U.S. online adults are likely to use emerging tools such as the mobile Web or shopping apps. The point is, this is an experimentation phase, and we think it’s important for marketers to remember the oft-forgotten paths, including stores, and such basic digital areas as Google and brand Web sites.
Q: What else can marketers learn from this trend?
A: I think it’s easy to think that online research focuses on things like couponing and looking for discounts. But people are making the distinction between price and value. They aren’t just looking for coupons -- they are seeking solid information.