LONDON: Wearable technology is posing a major problem for high street retailers because current and potential buyers are shunning them in favour of buying online, according to new research.

The latest Wearables Tracker from YouGov, the polling firm, found three times as many wearables owners bought their devices online rather than in a bricks-and-mortar store.

Based on responses from more than 2,000 consumers, almost two-thirds (62%) said they bought their device online, with Amazon the most popular site (31%), compared with 22% who bought in-store.

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It is a similar story for those considering whether to buy a wearable device with 56% saying they think they will purchase online.

YouGov also found that 72% of current owners researched devices, of whom 16% visited a store to check out the wearable device before buying.

However, the report suggested there is still an opportunity for retailers among those considering to buy. Even though 56% said they thought they would buy online, 47% of those who intend to research the product said they would visit a store.

YouGov director Russell Feldman accepted the new technology posed a dilemma for retailers because wearables are an "odd beast" in that they are both high-tech versions of existing goods but also an emerging and distinct category.

This made it difficult for retailers to decide where best to display them – perhaps the jewellery section or maybe consumer electronics? – but Feldman said retailers need to find the answer because otherwise it will lead to shoppers getting confused.

"Although we are likely to see many consumers grazing in-store and then purchasing online, were retailers to be better at showcasing these devices to consumers it is likely they would at least increase their share of this lucrative market before it slips away from them completely," he said.

The warning is timely because the survey coincides with the online launch of the Apple Watch, which is being made available for pre-order to consumers in the UK and eight other major markets.

The first offline sales in the UK will take place at Selfridges and Dover Street Market in London. Elsewhere, it will be sold in luxury stores in cities such as Paris and Tokyo.

Data sourced from YouGov, City A.M.; additional content by Warc staff