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Latest news and insights on consumer behavior in the offline world

Consumer Purchasing: In-Store vs Online

Posted by KristiMKE on 5/7/14 3:56 AM

When you need to make a purchase, when and where do you begin? Over the past 15 years, consumers have been increasingly exposed to more channels for procuring the everyday goods they need. According to Consumer Barometer, 74% of purchasers in the US are still buying offline. As convenient and customary as ecommerce has become, what’s still driving us in store?


Online and offline retail are becoming more integrated Shopping woman on mobile device

While we still prefer brick-and-mortar purchases, 48% of US purchasers did their research online beforehand. This study was conducted across 40 countries, focusing on products and services in the Automotive, Finance & Real Estate, Groceries & Healthcare, Media & Entertainment, Retail, Technology, and Travel industries. Compare us to Egypt, whose purchasers research 24% of the time and only make 1% of their purchases online. “Egyptians are also among the world’s most highly engaged Facebookers”, which is the leading source of traffic for ecommerce in the country. Online sales have experienced a slow and unavailing start for Egypt though, as poor internet speeds and lack of banking accounts among the population have stood in their way.

On the other end of the spectrum, let’s take a look at the United Kingdom. Their population ranks highest from this survey at 39% of purchasers buying online. This may be attributed by the rapid adoption of mobile shopping in the UK. eMarketer recently posted that “mobile’s share of UK retail website visits rose from 24.0% to 45.0% between Q4 2012 and Q4 2013” according to the “Quarterly Benchmarking Index” from the Interactive Media in Retail Group and Capgemini. While they’re still far ahead of the US in pre-purchase online research at 64%, they follow Turkey who leads this survey with 82% researched beforehand.


Online and Offline retail offer unique advantages Leisure traveler at airport

Out of the seven represented product segments, travel was the clear winner for online purchases with leisure flights leading at 76% in the US. The average for all countries is slightly lower at 65%, which include Denmark at 93% as well as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Ukraine below 30%. Travelers are now able to arrange these trips effortlessly through their mobile devices and apps. Hotwire booked 18% of its travelers via mobile last year, and believes its only “the tip of the iceberg”.

As the technology we rely on develops so tremendously, it’s interesting to note that only 20% of mobile phones were purchased online. Seeing as these devices facilitate the online purchases we’ve grown so accustomed to making, I had expected this to be significantly higher (especially considering the lengthy lines we usually experience). However it does rank at 54% of purchasers who researched the product online beforehand. The surveyed countries broadly ranged from 1-48%, with 12 under 10% and only Czech Republic, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Germany over 40% of purchasers who bought online.


Purchasing groceries online is still in beginning stages Man shopping at supermarket

Lastly, the least purchased product online (though probably the most commonly purchased) ranked in at only 2% with groceries. The US actually falls below the average this round at only 1%, with 10% researching online before purchasing. The biggest barrier grocery is experiencing with ecommerce is needing to wait at home to avoid spoils on your doorstep. US grocers are now experimenting with a model that’s popular in Europe in an attempt to convenience without inconveniencing its customers. The Stop and Shop and PeaPod are teaming up with big chains to provide a “pick-up” service where purchasers never even leave their car. This appears to be proving successful in the UK, as they’re at 11% purchasing online as well as Taiwan at 12% and Japan at 10%.

While consumers enjoy the convenience of ecommerce, it’s apparent that brick-and-mortar is still preferred for making a majority of our purchases. With the resources our connected world so readily provides for us, the best solution I see for retailers is to optimize both online and offline platforms fluently to drive researchers in store, and keep them coming back with satisfying experiences.


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