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How Digital Impacts In-Store Shopping

Mall Shopping Scene-Mobile Changes Retail ShoppingConsumers are doing online research to make online purchases, not in brick-and-mortar stores. People use smartphones while in stores to find better deals. Brick-and-mortar stores are an endangered species because of e-commerce. But is all that common wisdom really true?

Google with Ipsos MediaCT and Sterling Brands ran a research study to find out the truth about these assumptions and more. You may be surprised at the results.

Today’s consumers arrive at a store better educated about products and services than before and use their smartphones as personal assistants instead of relying on store employees. However, many of them are still buying in-store, not online. They want an experience, not merely a transaction.

Myth #1: Search results only send customers to e-commerce sites.

Reality: Search results can drive customers to stores. Three in four people who find helpful local information online make in-store purchases.

3 in 4 people

Shoppers are more likely to visit if they can find local information such as in-store availability, prices and store location and hours. Absent that information, one in four shoppers (25%) will shop where they know product availability. Therefore, stores need to find ways to make as much local information available as possible. I purchased a laptop in-store based on availability information found online.

What local information do shoppers find very/extremely important?

Important Local Store Information for Shoppers

So what does this mean for local stores? Digital is a powerful way to reach customers. Inventory ads are one way to do that. If a customer sees that an item is in stock, she is more likely to purchase.

Myth #2: Once an in-store customer starts looking at her smartphone, the store has lost her attention to a competitor.

Reality: Retailers can gain customers’ attention through search results and store apps. This study reveals that 42% of in-store shoppers search for online information while in-store. Of those, 64% use search engines, 46% view the store’s site or app, and 30% visit a competitor’s site.

Where are those 42% of shoppers searching while in-store?

In-store Research by Shoppers

To keep people’s attention, Walmart recently updated its app to practically act as a personal assistant when it added the Search My Store feature. You can see if an item is at a particular location, the price, and its aisle location. No more wandering around lost to find an item that is not in stock. The company feels this feature “…puts Walmart light-years ahead of other brick & mortar retailer apps.” The company also said that “…within the first few weeks of launching on Android, more than 99 percent of Walmart stores had been search by Search My Store.” This app may be the future for physical stores, especially big box ones.

Walmart Mobile App-Search My Store feature screen shot

I used my smartphone to research a wireless router last summer while in-store. The brand I wanted was not in stock. No employees came to assist me so I sat on the floor looking up different router reviews online and on the office supply store’s website.

Myth #3: Online research has turned in-store experiences into just transactions.

Reality: Consumers go to stores for more than a purchase. They want a complete, customized experience.

Customers are visiting stores throughout the decision-making process. This survey found 32% of shoppers visit stores when they are first thinking of making a purchase, and 33% of them actively research in store to find out more about a product. Sixty-nine percent of shoppers gathered information while actually at the store, but two-thirds of them left without all the needed information. Thus, retailers have multiple touch points to connect with shoppers by providing information, expert recommendations and customized deals.

People do not want to feel like a transaction themselves. They want retailers to treat them as people and valued customers. Being available to to provide information and expertise is one way. Another way is customization through special deals and promotions for related products and services. My grocery store sends me coupons based on my purchases, which encourages me to return. Apparently, 85% of shoppers are more likely to shop at stores that offer customized deals and exclusive in-store promotions.

What kinds of customization do shoppers want?

Customized Shopper Experience Preferences

Digital has changed the shopper journey to a more mobile one, but that is not bad. Instead of fearing it, retailers, like yourself, should embrace it. Provide customers local information via search and online to increase your customer reach and engagement. Reach out with customized offers and recommendations to distinguish you from your competitors. Online retail is great, but it cannot replace the personal touch brick-and-mortar retailers can provide.