A young lady walks out of a store with several shopping bags in hand.
By Anees Haidri | November 21, 2019

Study Confirms: Consumers Still Want to Browse – and Buy – In Store

While it’s becoming more convenient to “click-to-buy”, many shoppers still want to see, feel and even smell what they’re buying first.

With so many headlines depicting a ravaged retail sector, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that consumers’ interest in the in-store shopping experience is finally waning and e-commerce is winning.

However, Zebra’s newly-released 2020 Shopper Study confirms that footfall in brick-and-mortar stores may not be falling as dramatically as one might think. In fact, every single person we spoke to for this study had walked into a retail or grocery store for some reason in the four weeks prior.

While not all of them made a purchase during those particular visits, more than half (57 percent) did confirm that they make more retail purchases in store than online. And 46 percent plan to continue that practice for at least the next five years – if the experience is fulfilling and they’re able to fill their baskets with exactly what they need or want right then.

The numbers are even higher for grocery purchases, with 74 percent of people opting to grab what they need in store versus online today and 59 percent still expecting to go to the supermarket five years from now to complete a purchase rather than buying online.

The Thing Driving Shoppers into Your Store Isn’t a “Thing” At All…

Ten years ago, most of us had no choice but to go to the store to buy what we wanted. We had to submit payment in person in order to complete the transaction. Today, we don’t have to move an inch from the place in which we’re sitting, standing or even lying down, as long as we have an internet-connected device within reach. Plus, there are numerous “buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS) options for those of us who need something right now from a local store and just want to grab and go, including drive-up services and kiosks. There are also same-day delivery options for those who can’t even make it to the curbside for online or mobile order pickup.

As a result of these conveniences, we’re no longer as eager as we used to be to “get in and get out” of the store when we do choose to actually go in. In fact, we’re more likely than ever to linger.

That’s because over half of us (53 percent) believe the key benefit of the in-store shopping experience is the ability to experience products – to try before we buy.

Is that mattress really as firm as others say? Are those towels really as big and soft as the name claims? Will that dress look right on me? And, of course, we all love samples!

What Else is New?

With many retailers selling hundreds, thousands or even millions of items in their online stores, it seems all but impossible to discover new things. Going into the store to see, touch or feel a product – to make sure we’re not missing something in the online description – also enables us to see all the cool new products we might be missing in those vast online stores.

Now, if you (the retailer) don’t have the products we’re looking for available in store, then we may not stick around to browse the other aisles. We will likely turn our attention to finding the product elsewhere and then spend our valuable time experiencing what else your competitor has to offer. Product availability is the second-greatest driver of in-store traffic (46 percent of respondents) with instant gratification – i.e. being able to buy something right now – coming in a close third (41 percent).

In that same vein, an online-only launch of new products may not bode well if your target audience doesn’t have a way to see, feel, touch, smell or try on the products prior to their first purchase. At a minimum, you may want to consider hosting a pop-up experience in store to help shoppers buy with confidence. In fact, shoppers of all ages prefer online retailers who also have brick and mortar locations, according to our study, with millennials (67 percent) indicating the strongest preference over Gen Xers (55 percent) and Baby Boomers (40 percent).  Inviting brand ambassadors in store during peak traffic periods to answer shoppers’ questions, suggest alternative styles or flavors and even offer discounts is another option.

Just remember: shopping in store must be just as convenient as shopping online. (Technology can help with this, which my team and I will dig into more in upcoming blogs here on Your Edge.) However, the more you can do to make in-store experiences just as rewarding as online shopping, the better. (That’s where these live experiences come into play.)

To sum this all up:

  • The physical store has not succumbed to the digitalization of retail. It has actually become more influential in shoppers’ purchasing decisions. After confirming that an item is right for them in store, shoppers may become more comfortable making repeat purchases of that item online later. They may even add a few extra “newly discovered” items to those online carts…
  • Shoppers who walk into a store to check out a product before they make a buying decision also get to check out “what’s new.” This helps to boost brand exposure and increase basket size both online and in store longer term.
  • Regardless of what they’re buying or where they’re buying it, shoppers say the “experience” is what sells. (In my next blog, I will talk about what shoppers expect from their in-store experience, beyond the opportunity to experience new products.)

My advice? Treat everyone browsing your store as if they’re your biggest customers because they just well could be – if not today, then in time. Invite each person in to “experience” all that you offer and you may just incentivize every single one of them to give you their loyalty.


Editor’s Note:

Curious what shoppers deem to be the “perfect” in-store experience? Tune back into the Your Edge blog in the coming weeks to learn more about what motivates shoppers to walk into your store – and what could motivate them to run out of your store and never come back.

We’ll also talk about how technologies ranging from mobile devices to mobile automation, IoT to AI and RFID to real-time locationing systems can help you sense, analyze and (most importantly) act on every opportunity to improve the in-store experience for both shoppers and associates. So, check back often or, even better, just subscribe for bi-weekly blog roundup emails!

Retail, Retail, Retail,
Anees Haidri
Anees Haidri

Anees Haidri is currently the Director of Vertical Strategy for Retail where he is responsible for positioning growth opportunities and providing thought leadership within retail for Zebra Technologies. He has more than 15 of experience within the retail industry and has deployed multiple, large scale edge device solutions for a Fortune 30 retailer. He also has over 20 years of experience in building customer focused mobility solutions within a variety of industries.  

Previously, Mr. Haidri served as a Sr. Director of Technology at The Home Depot, where he managed high performing teams aimed at building customer-focused technology solutions for stores & merchandising.  

He holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rutgers University. 

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