How to Bridge the Gap Between In-Store and Digital - eMarketer
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How to Bridge the Gap Between In-Store and Digital

Mobile shopping behaviors don't always hurt in-store sales

December 9, 2014 | Retail & Ecommerce

eMarketer estimates that this year, ecommerce sales will comprise just 6.5% of total retail sales in the US, and that share will increase to only 8.9% by 2018. Yet brick-and-mortar storeowners—from small merchants to big brands—worry that their well-architected storefronts are nothing more than places for quick transactions or showrooms where passersby scope out new items only to buy them on Amazon.com when they get home.

US Retail Ecommerce Sales, 2013-2018 (billions, % change and % of total retail sales)

While foot traffic and in-store sales have certainly declined now that ecommerce sites allow consumers to purchase whatever they want at whatever time they want—oftentimes with free shipping and sometimes even same-day delivery—brick-and-mortar stores are holding on strong. Retailers would be still be wise to consider consumers’ changing behaviors and how to reach them.

New data from a survey Think with Google conducted in collaboration with Ipsos MediaCT and Sterling Brands among 6,000 US smartphone users ages 18 to 54 outlined the ways in which retailers can effectively learn to bridge the gap between consumers’ digital and in-store shopping habits.

Just because shoppers pull out their smartphones in-store doesn’t mean they’re purchasing on ecommerce sites. The study found that 75% of US smartphone users who found local information in search results helpful were more likely to visit the actual store. One in four shoppers said they wouldn’t step foot in a store if they didn’t think the items would be available. Shoppers may be inspired to visit a store if they can find the store location, hours, pricing and item availability from a simple web query.

Mobile Websites/Apps Used In-Store While Shopping for Consumer Products* According to US Smartphone Users, by Type, May 2014 (% of respondents)

The study also debunked long-held assumptions that smartphone showrooming—that is, shoppers looking at items in-store, pulling out their smartphones to identify the items at a cheaper price elsewhere and purchasing on a different brand’s ecommerce site once they get home—necessarily led to sales for competitors. Only 30% of smartphone users looked up details from a different retailer’s website or app while in-store. What they were really doing was looking up information on search engines (64%).

But retailers shouldn’t relax entirely; consumers expect more of their retailers and brick-and-mortar stores than ever before. The logic goes that if they’ve taken the time to step foot in a physical store, they want salespeople to pay attention to them, and they want the experience to be as engaging and customized as possible. Whether that comes in the form of excellent customer service or enticing deals or product recommendations almost doesn’t matter. More than one in three shoppers polled said they visited stores when they were first thinking about a purchase, opening up a prime opportunity for retailers to clinch the deal—and set up the next sale too.

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