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Retail debate hides fundamentals

News, 05 May 2016

GLOBAL: The drivers of online and in-store shopping are not as sharply divided as one might expect, according to new global research which highlights a significant overlap in the reasons consumers have for choosing one over the other.

GfK asked 23,000 shoppers within 17 industries across APAC, Europe, North and South America and the Middle East to think about the last time they were deciding whether to purchase something online versus in a store, and indicate what swayed their decision one way or the other.

It found that the most important factor pushing shoppers to make purchases online rather than in-store was saving money, a clear leader at 55%.

Others included easier shopping (28%), a better selection of goods (26%) and faster shopping (25%). The fifth most popular factor was equally divided, with one in five shoppers (21%) saying they chose online because they get better information there, and the same proportion saying it was because they were routinely shopping there already.

Four of those reasons for deciding to buy online, however, also showed up in the top five most important factors driving people to buy in-store.

The main reason, unsurprisingly, was the chance to see and feel products before buying (51%). But 33% also preferred in-store shopping because it was easier.

Ease of returns was a factor for 29%, closely followed by the fact that the individual was routinely shopping there already (28%). The fifth most popular influencer for buying in-store was equally divided between getting better information and saving money (both 22%).

James Llewellyn, a director of shopper research at GfK, said the findings pointed towards two key implications.

"The first is that the drivers for physical retail versus online retail are not differentiated to the extent that we expect. For example, expert advice is not a key distinguisher one way or the other.

"To sustain footfall, it is therefore imperative that retailers (and their manufacturer partners) innovate to create reasons to visit, to increase propensity to buy your store, category or brand.

"The second implication is that, to succeed in the future, retail needs to create synergy between on and offline, not diversity.

Ultimately, he added, the debate becomes less about on and offline, and more about focusing on the fundamentals of choice, price, convenience and experience.

Data sourced from GfK; additional content by Warc staff