This past holiday season, 88% of consumers leaving or entering top retail locations around New York City reported visiting the same stores online. That's according to a new multichannel study conducted by research firm Envirosell in partnership with RichRelevance, a provider of personalized recommendations for ecommerce sites.
A full 75% of respondents said visiting a brand's Web site helps them shop in-store, while 85% reported comparing prices online. What's more, 44% said they visited competitors' Web sites, while 26% planned to visit the retailer's Web site to continue shopping after leaving the store.
"Increasingly, [consumers] shop across channels, seeking price and product comparisons, free delivery, and time savings," said David Selinger, CEO of RichRelevance and onetime head of "personalization" research and development at Amazon. "Eventually buying a particular item ... is the most important consideration, not the channel on which the activity is conducted."
The study, which examined how consumers shop across various channels, is based on hundreds of in-store and post-purchase interviews conducted during the 2009 holiday season in front of Macy's, The Gap, Best Buy and the Apple Store.
Likewise, according to a recent Forrester Research study, 70% of consumers reported researching products online before purchasing them in a physical store.
More striking is Forrester's finding that 43% of U.S. shoppers switched their retailer of choice after going online for a particular product.
"Even among shoppers who remain brand loyal, cross-channel shopping behaviors raise the bar because of heightened consumer expectations," said Selinger. "This is because shoppers don't think they're interacting with a 'channel' but with a store."
As such, "channels" should be viewed in a holistic manner, the study recommends. Observed shopping patterns and behaviors need to be acknowledged, recorded and respected across channels.
A key metric, measurable across all channels, is the shopper conversion rate (SCR), which tracks the number of prospects and browsers who ultimately make the cash register ring. A multitude of factors help or hinder SCR, but among its biggest factors are time, signage -- or all the promotions, banners, and pointers that a shopper encounters -- and a consumer's navigation "flow."
The amount of time a shopper spends in a store directly correlates with the frequency of visits, and the total amount spent per visit, according to the study.
Online, meanwhile, time spent shopping is perhaps even more critical than in physical stores because of the ease with which online shoppers can -- with a click of the mouse -- go elsewhere.
Average "bounce rates" on retail Web sites are around 40%, which means that four of every ten visitors to a typical online store barely get their virtual foot in the door before going elsewhere.