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Customer satisfaction may be down in the US for brick-and-mortar retailers, but globally, the physical store is still the most popular purchase location. In a September 2014 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), seven in 10 internet users worldwide said they bought products in-store at least monthly, and more than half of that group did so weekly or daily.
One online channel gave brick-and-mortar shops a run for their money. Digital buying via PC ranked second, with the majority of respondents purchasing there at least monthly. However, all other digital channels were used far less frequently for purchasing. For example, fewer than one-quarter purchased products via mobile phone or smartphone at least monthly—providing more evidence that mobile is still mostly for upper-funnel shopping activities—and despite the fact that tablet users often show similar behavior to PC shoppers, buying frequency was almost the same as that on phones.
Consumers don’t intend to change this behavior in 2015, either. Among US internet users polled by mobile app Shopular in December 2014, 63.6% said they planned to do the bulk of their retail purchasing in-store this year, vs. 36.4% who said they’d do most online.
PwC found that seeing and trying on merchandise prepurchase and the immediacy of in-store buys were top reasons for brick-and-mortar purchasing. Around one-quarter felt more comfortable purchasing perishable products in-store—though this was less of an issue that it had been the prior year—and one-fifth cited quicker delivery options as a reason they purchased in brick-and-mortar locations.
Of course, online shopping does offer perks that in-store purchasing doesn’t. Respondents were most likely to purchase products online instead of in person due to lower prices and better deals found digitally, cited by 56%, and 46% liked the fact that they could shop online 24/7. Better product comparison options and a wider variety of merchandise were also popular reasons for going digital.
Most brick-and-mortar shops don’t have the luxury of staying open all day and night. However, providing better access to inventory—for example, equipping sales associates with mobile devices to look up availability of out-of-stock items in another store—and competitive pricing when possible could help physical store retailers further strengthen their lead over the desktop as the most-preferred purchasing channel.
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