To determine the shopping preferences of today's consumers and how they view the in-store versus the online buying experience, Imprint Plus, makers of re-usable, customized name badges and signage, conducted a random survey of 1,000 men and women across the country. The survey respondents were somewhat divided into three groups of those who prefer to shop online (32.5 percent), in-store (29.70 percent), and a combination of both (37.80 percent).
Which verticals are tops
Those who prefer the in-store experience frequent the following stores in order of preference: discount mass merchandisers, such as Walmart and Target (76 percent); grocery retailers, such as Whole Foods (71.2 percent), followed by drug stores, such as CVS and Walgreen's (50 percent); beauty supplies, such as Sephora (48.9 percent); consumer electronics stores, such as Best Buy (48.9 percent); hardware stores, such as Lowe's and Home Depot (44.10 percent); and department stores, such as Macy's or Nordstrom (37.6 percent).
"Our survey tells us that consumers shop at brick-and-mortar retailers, primarily for discounted merchandise, food, drug, and health and beauty aids, as well as for consumer electronics, appliances, building supplies and clothing," said Kristin MacMillan, president of Imprint Plus.
Why consumers shop in store
Consumers who shop in store reported the need to see, touch and handle merchandise as part of the buying experience, as well as on-the-spot sales and not having to wait for delivery. When it comes to purchasing food, the majority of the consumers surveyed (86.10 percent) prefer to shop in-store because of the ability to judge quality and freshness.
Shopping online for food presents challenges including the need to be home to accept delivery and the inability to use the senses in seeing and handling the merchandise offered. Clothing is another area where customers prefer in-store shopping. Sixty percent of those surveyed favor the brick-and-mortar experience, with only 17 percent of those surveyed opting to buy clothing online. What consumers like least about in-store shopping is that it is too time consuming with long wait times to check out or return merchandise. Other key dislikes reported include difficulty in finding sizes, styles and colors, and travel time to and from the store.
"The retail in-store experience fulfills the need for using the senses as part of the shopping experience and feeling, touching and even smelling is utilized in merchandise selection," continues MacMillan.
What shoppers like online
More than half (52 percent) of customers surveyed reported convenience as the reason they like online shopping. They also reported the wide range of merchandise to choose from, free shipping and returns, price comparisons and online customer reviews as positive experiences associated with online shopping. What they dislike about online shopping is not seeing the merchandise in person, the inability to try on for size and fit and the need to wait for shipping.
"Consumers are pressed for time and would be more willing to shop in brick-and-mortar stores if they could shop more efficiently in less time," adds MacMillan. "A focus on customer service would help the consumer navigate through long wait times and merchandise selection. The use of technology and retailer apps can play a role in streamlining the process of merchandise selection and check out."
Why store associates matter
More than half of the consumers surveyed stated it was important to establish a personal relationship with a sales associate whether online or in-store. Asked if having a personal relationship with a store sales associates would lead to more shopping in that store, nearly 50 percent of those surveyed responded "yes." A name badge stating a sales associate's name, title and area of expertise is an introduction to the customer, one that the survey clearly establishes as a pathway to developing better customer relations with the retailer, as well as generating more sales and frequent visits.
"Today's consumers want personalized experiences when shopping and retailers need to blend technology and service to meet their needs," concludes MacMillan. "A simple add on may be the ability to select clothes online and reserve a dressing room – saving time and creating a new shopping experience."`