With American shoppers settling into what they see as a gradually improving economy, new research from Deloitte underscores the preference toward online shopping, including the mobile onslaught.
Overall, 47% of those in the survey agree that they are buying more online these days, up from 38% last year. And 65% say they are doing more online research beforehand to get the best prices, compared with 60% last year and 52% back in 2010.
While a broad range of ages are wielding this online expertise as they shop, explains Scott Erickson, a partner in Deloitte’s retail practice, younger shoppers have drastically different digital demands. “About 40% of shoppers under the age of 45 say they expect stores to provide them with information via downloadable apps and mobile coupons, for example,” he tells Marketing Daily. “Only 19% of those over the age of 45 expect that.”
For retailers, the best news in the study is that consumers are feeling less worried about the economy, with 67% saying they plan to spend the same or more this year, up from 58% last year, “which is when there were plenty of headlines about whether we were headed into a double-dip recession,” he says, and 63% in 2010.
But they’re still being careful, he says, with half of those expecting a tax refund saying they will use it to pay bills or credit cards, 36% planning to save it, and 36% intending to use some or all of it to cover daily living expenses. Only 10% will spend it on a vacation, which is down from 13% last year.
Despite that spending confidence, he says retailers should pay attention to another looming change: A growing sense that stores are not giving people as much value as they used to. “Only 22% agree that stores are offering them more for their money, compared with 27% last year, and 45% in 2010. If you look back at 2010, stores were still feeling intense pressure to mark things down and win customers on price. And it seems that as soon as stores could back away from the steep markdowns, they did.”
In contrast, he says, shoppers do feel they get better deals online, with 58% saying they often find lower prices via the Internet, up from 53% last year.
Consumers are increasingly adept at using their smartphones to find their way out of the arms of one store and into another: Of the 38% of the sample that own a smartphone, 46% have looked for prices, 43% have shopped a retailer’s website, 34% have downloaded coupons or sales promotions; and 28% have used it to read reviews.
Shoppers are warming to the idea of stores pursuing them once they are inside the store, with 19% saying they’re comfortable receiving offers this way, up from 16% last year.
“The dilemma retailers struggle with is to learn to use that smartphone relationship to their advantage, and find ways to make it facilitate your experience inside the store,” he says. “Wouldn’t it be great to use your smartphone to find an associate to help you? Or use it as a way to pay?”
Younger shoppers are especially eager to use smartphones this way, he adds, “so retailers will have to find ways to make it simpler and more straightforward.”