Millennial and Gen Z shoppers are increasingly browsing and purchasing online while in-store, with 78% of younger generations shop both in-store and online simultaneously, and are 34% more likely than older customers to use a mobile device in a store, reveals retail research from Conversant.
The news comes as a separate study by the Fashion Retail Academy suggests that reports of the High Street’s demise are premature. It finds that, although many retailers such as M&S have lost faith in their High Street stores and have started moving online, more than two thirds (70%) of consumers are still buying less than half of their clothes on the internet.
According to Conversant’s Elliott Clayton, SVP of Media UK: “A few years ago, in-store Wi-Fi was seen as a basic marketing channel and time-waster for bored friends and partners waiting around. Today’s young, savvy customers will do price comparison on their mobiles, but they might also be ordering the right size or colour of an item from your store that isn’t available on the premises.”
Research recently released from Hitachi Consulting suggests the UK’s big-name high-street retailers have acknowledged the need to adapt to online and offline channels overlapping, with three-quarters prioritising in-store Wi-Fi, alongside services like Click and Collect.
“The customer journey is not linear but merges across channels and brick-to-clicks is on the rise," says Claydon. "Given this, providing the likes of free and reliable Wi-Fi for customers will become increasingly important as brick-and-mobile shopping becomes the norm. Smaller retailers and independents would be wise to take note and follow suit.”
Conversant’s research also reveals how multi-channel customers are the most valuable for brands. Customers who shop multiple brand channels make around three more trips than those who only shop one channel.
“The fast-growing brick-and-mobile shopping trend benefits both the brand and the customer. Brands have multiple opportunities to market to consumers and capture a sale, while consumers themselves make more informed decisions when purchasing. It may seem like we’re bemoaning the closure of shops on the high-street but there’s good reason why former online-only retailers are opening physical stores – the key is syncing up offline and online,” commented Clayton.
“To seize the opportunity around brick-and-mobile engagements, brands need an online experience that enhances in-store device activity and a marketing strategy that also complements it,” he says.
Fashion Retail Academy, meanwhile, suggests that all isn’t as bad as the headlines show on the High Street.
It says that the Christmas retail figures released this month from a number of big brands such as Next and John Lewis show that online sales have supported struggling retailers over the festive period.
However this does not show a complete switch to internet shopping and in fact the average shopper only buys 38% of their clothes online.
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s men that are hitting the high street hardest, with more than six in 10 (62%) saying they still like to try on clothes in-store - compared to 60% of women. On average, women are buying 6%more of their clothes online - while three quarters (75%) of the male population are buying less than half of their clothes on the web.
Consumers who buy over 70%of their clothes online still like to try them on in-store - with over half (54%)of them saying they like to go into the shops as well.
Lee Lucas, principal of the Fashion Retail Academy, explains: “Undoubtedly the last few years has seen the proportion of shopping done online increase exponentially - while this has created some interesting challenges for retailers that didn’t react to this trend quickly enough, this shift hasn’t killed off the high street.
"From a consumer perspective, this shift online isn’t a big surprise - shoppers are savvy enough to understand that the best deals are often reserved for those who shop around online," he says.
“However, retailers have been adapting and remodelling based on consumers’ needs, looking at the latest trends, launching huge promotions across the board and creating an experiential shopping experience – with more and more retailers integrating services and 3rdparties into their retail space to draw people in," Lucas adds.
According to Lucas, companies such as Next are enjoying the benefits of blending online and physical sales environments, and see half of their online orders delivered to their stores - which is continuing to draw customers onto the high street.
“Big brands are also getting wise to the hype created around limited runs on certain lines of clothing – something which companies like Supreme have really mastered in recent years, and ‘legacy’ brands like Louis Vuitton have cleverly adopted," he says. “In the same way that books have enjoyed a resurgence against the Kindle in recent times thanks to the experience of leafing through a much loved paperback, the experiential aspect of heading to the shops will never be replaced wholesale by browsing online for new clothes.”