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US shoppers still prefer physical stores

News, 21 December 2016
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WASHINGTON DC: Nearly four out of five Americans (79%) have made an online purchase – and 15% do so on a weekly basis – yet new research suggests US consumers still prefer to shop in physical stores.

Based on a survey of some 4,800 US adults conducted in late 2015, the Pew Research Center confirmed that there has been a huge rise in the number of consumers who now go online to shop since its first online shopping survey of 2000.

However, nearly two-thirds (64%) of US consumers still prefer to visit physical stores, all things being equal, while a similar proportion (65%) indicate that when they need to make purchases they typically compare the price they can get in-store with the price online and then choose whichever option is the cheapest.

About a fifth (21%) also say they would buy from stores without checking prices online, while 14% would typically buy online without first checking prices at brick-and-mortar stores.

Online shopping has undoubtedly taken off in recent years, with the Pew report revealing that half (51%) of US consumers have made a purchase using a smartphone, yet there are a large number of consumers for whom buying online is not a regular habit.

For example, just 15% report making an e-commerce purchase every week, but 20% never shop online, while the remaining 65% report buying online a few times each month (28%) or less often (37%).

That said, smart devices really come into their own in the way they can be used to help shoppers with in-store purchasing decisions.

According to Pew's findings, 59% of US consumers use a mobile phone inside a physical store to call or text someone to discuss a purchase, 45% look up reviews or other product information, another 45% try to find a better price online, while 12% use their device to make an in-store purchase.

In addition, around 8-in-10 respondents say they consult online reviews when buying something for the first time and nearly half feel customer reviews help a lot to make consumers feel confident about their purchase (46%) and to make companies accountable to their customers (45%).

Data sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by Warc staff

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