In recent years, retailers have observed a shift in consumer behavior related to increased online shopping. Quickbase, a no-code software provider and Dynata, a research company, conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S.-based adults to gather insight on consumers’ buying habits. The survey aimed to determine what makes shoppers visit a retail space in-person versus buy online.
Inside the report are several key findings: of the survey respondents, 49% stated that they shopped more online, and 51% stated they shopped more in-store; over the past year, 41% of respondents said their online shopping increased, compared to the 16% who said their in-store shopping increased; superstores/discount department stores and supermarkets/grocery stores were ranked highest for which brick-and-mortar stores respondents frequented the most.
What do these report findings mean? They indicate that retailers with physical stores must ensure a customer’s in-person experience will be worth their time. To convince customers that in-store shopping is the better option, retailers need to understand how consumers use, think, and experience a product.
Beyond the product, retailers must determine what consumers are looking to gain when they shop in-store rather than online. Is it the reliability of purchasing something directly versus waiting for it in the mail? Is it the convenience of knowing how the inventory is organized, eliminating the hassle that might come with trying to order from a confusing online store?
Or, is it the availability of different locations in-store versus a single source online? Whatever the customer’s justification for shopping in person, retailers must be able to provide a seamless customer experience. Knowledgeable staff, reliable products, and an organized, easy-to-use system can help retailers stay in business despite a growing preference for online shopping.
How Can Retailers Adjust for the Next Generation of Shoppers?
Shopping habits differ between generations, and as the younger generation joins the pool of potential customers, retail companies must adapt to the consumer's changing mindset.
When comparing responses between generations of shoppers in the report, Millennials (those born between around 1981 to 1996) felt the strongest about inventory levels/availability as their motivating factor to visit a store in person. Young shoppers want to be confident in inventory levels when they’re shopping at a brick-and-mortar establishment. Convenience and familiarity encourage them to come back.
When retailers use tech solutions to organize and regulate inventory, they can provide that expected convenience for Millennials and other shoppers. Up-to-date inventory also means customers who check online first to see if a certain product is available in-store can come in and buy what they need without being disappointed if the product is actually out of stock. Inventory must be updated in real time to build the customer’s trust in a company with every visit to one of their stores.
Besides inventory, sustainability is a higher priority for younger generations. Among Millennials, 78% ranked sustainability as their number one factor in deciding whether or not to buy from a certain company, compared to only 16% of Baby Boomers.
Gen Z (those born in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010s) are demanding sustainable retail, too, with 60% of respondents ranking sustainability as their number one deciding factor. Prior to making purchase decisions, they actively look for a store’s sustainable initiatives such as non-toxic, vegan, and fair trade products.
In response, retail companies need to carry products that meet these standards and certifications. The younger clientele wants to hold retail companies accountable, and companies must show that their sustainability efforts are sincere.
Consumers are Looking for a Multi-Channel Experience both In-Store and Online
Multi-channel shopping is when companies offer customers different ways to purchase products—on a website, in-person, via mail order, on an app, etc.
What do shoppers want to do in-person? Buy groceries.
Brick-and-mortar superstores/discount department stores and supermarkets/grocery stores were ranked the first and second most frequented stores, respectively. Of the respondents, 29% said they would be least likely to purchase groceries online. The motivating factors that drove individuals to shop in-store were location and availability/inventory levels.
How many people are moving from in-store to online or vice versa?
According to the study results, 41% of respondents said their online shopping increased, while only 16% said their in-store shopping increased in the past year. The motivating factors that drove individuals to shop in-store were location and availability/inventory levels.
While online shopping has become more popular recently, both online and brick-and-mortar stores need to adapt to fit the needs of consumers. Through innovation, retail companies can provide a better shopping experience, whether it’s an employee app that tracks inventory in real time for in-store shoppers or a general online marketplace (E.g. Amazon, Rakuten) that allows customers to buy from different vendors at the same time.
Technology and data can also shape the company’s product and process approach, allowing the company to perfect its business model and empower employees to deliver superb customer service—the bottom line. Without technology and innovation, retail companies can’t keep up with evolving consumer demands either online or in-person.
The answer is to adopt technology that can be customized, enhanced, and tailored to consumer needs, and adapted to accommodate external factors like supply chain disruptions, economic fluctuations, and business trends.