Commentary

The Dichotomy Of Consumer Shopping: Online Vs. In-Store

At a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are increasingly turning to in-store experiences and curated selections to lure consumers away from their screens, and online retailers are seeking ways to compete with the 1,000-pound Amazon gorilla, a granular understanding of consumer preferences is critical to success.

Giving consumers what they want, how they want it, is driving more and more transactions. But with so many choices available to consumers, what influences what, and where, they buy goods?  

We were interested in learning more about the dichotomy of consumer behavior in-store versus online. We captured this information by asking both open-ended and multiple choice questions.

The results highlight what we might already know about consumers: convenience, user reviews and the ability to cost-compare are the main drivers for online shoppers, while in-store shoppers prefer the ability to see and touch products before buying.

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Overall, respondents slightly favored online shopping, with 58% of respondents saying they spent more money online than they did in-store. Thirty-two percent  said they spend more money in-store, and only 10% said they spend equal amounts both online and in-store.

What we found most surprising were consumer preferences and the behavior pattern for purchasing new products. Respondents selected Pinterest as a top influencer for discovering and purchasing new products, closely followed by brand loyalty, word-of-mouth-referral and reviews.

When asked to rank top influencers of new online purchases, respondents collectively chose reviews (65%) and Amazon (47%) as the top two sources.

The top-four responses for what brick-and-mortar stores could learn from online shopping experiences were:

-- Lower prices

-- Improve customer service

-- Offer greater variety

-- Offer larger selection of items NOT made in China

The top-four responses for what online stores could learn from brick-and-mortar stores, on the other hand, were:

-- Ensuring items are in stock

-- Faster delivery

-- Make the experience more fun

-- Improved customer service options and product information

While Amazon was far and away the most popular online shopping destination, participants named Target.com as their second favorite. Additionally, participants noted that Target has the best in-store experience, beating out both Publix and Walmart.

So what do these findings tell us? While there are certainly differences between consumer shopping habits online and in-store, perhaps there are more similarities than we might think.

As the competitive dynamic between online and in-store continues to evolve, retailers and the brands that populate them can better serve consumers by giving them what they want, where they want it. That might mean looking to successful in-store experiences and applying them online, and vice versa. Brick-and-mortar and online retailers may be distinct in their own right, but they are ultimately driven by similar consumer preferences.

1 comment about "The Dichotomy Of Consumer Shopping: Online Vs. In-Store".
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  1. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, April 22, 2019 at 5:06 p.m.

    It is interesting to see how many younger marketers seem to be discovering what has been common knowledge (and common sense) among their more mature colleagues for years. 

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