Despite growth of eCommerce, brick-and-mortar remains essential

Industry Insight

Seemingly every week, retailers hear reports about customers spending more money online and preferring to avoid lines by buying items through the Internet. However, it seems the value of online shopping has been a bit overstated, with a new report from A.T. Kearney suggesting the bulk of purchasing still happens in stores.

According to the study, consumers from the United States and the United Kingdom spending the majority of their time (61 percent) shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. This is a far step up from online (31 percent), mail-in catalogs (4 percent) and mobile (4 percent), illustrating the value that physical stores can bring to the shopping experience.

However, just because consumers spend so much time shopping in stores, that doesn’t devalue the other parts of the shopping journey. Online activity still influences customers’ purchase decisions significantly.

Seemingly every week, retailers hear reports about customers spending more money online and preferring to avoid  lines by buying items through the Internet.

For example, a customer may research a product online, use multiple retailers websites to compare prices, place special orders to be picked up in-store and even speak with customer service.

“Consumers shop in different stages beginning with research, followed by testing, purchase, pick-up or delivery and after-sales experience,” the A.T. Kearney report stated. “Digital channels play the largest role in the research phase of the process, as shoppers read online reviews and find recommendations through social media.”

In particular, brick-and-mortar shopping tends to inspire more impulse purchases. Nearly half of customers (40 percent) said they were more likely to spend money on unplanned purchases at brick-and-mortar, compared to the 25 percent who said they would do so while shopping online.

Consolidating multichannel efforts
The A.T. Kearney report illustrated the growing value of a consolidated omnichannel approach to providing consumers with a stellar shopping experience. Consumers are shopping using a wide variety of means, whether it’s trendy mobile devices or old-school mail catalogs. Merchants shouldn’t be picking and choosing between these channels based on what they perceived to be the most effective, they should be utilizing all of them to provide consumers with greater convenience and flexibility.

As the research noted, this requires merchants to be innovative in how they use the different components of the shopping experience – they must always be optimizing and integrating operations across channels. The use of eCommerce software will be paramount to creating a cohesive shopping experience. Consumers are constantly creating data across channels, whether they click an item online or purchase a product in-store.

Businesses need to be able to collect all that data and create accurate customer profiles. Having access to this information can inform other areas of retail operations, allowing companies to improve inventory optimization, order management and front-end eCommerce operations. Having the tools in place that allow retailers to accomplish all this will go a long way to helping merchants create a unified shopping experience. If retailers find all their channels to be operating in seclusion from each other, it may be time to replatform.