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… while 81% of consumers prefer physical stores, so a third can showroom

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81% of UK consumers see the physical store as vital to the shopping experience and 70% say they enjoy the full experience of going into stores to browse, see what’s new and buy what they like. 30% are “showroomers” using retail stores to try goods out before they buy online.

According to new research from Vista Retail Support, 59% of UK consumers surveyed say they prefer to find and buy goods in person, with 30% of all shoppers using shops to showroom before buying online.

Consumers also said that exciting use of technology would entice them inside a store, with 61% saying they would visit regularly to use virtual and augmented reality applications, smart mirrors and interactive gaming. Half (50%) said they would buy more if they received recommendations and personalised offers on smart devices.

The data is echoed by a survey coming the other way by Colliers International, that finds that a growing number of formerly ‘pure-play’ online retailers are taking physical stores as the rate of internet sales growth looks set to slow during the next few years.

“It is clear that bricks-and-mortar stores are still very much the lifeblood of retail,” says James Pepper, technical services director at Vista Retail Support. “Those who believed ‘showrooming’ was the future of the high street may have to think again. Our survey has found that the great majority of consumers prefer to use stores for everything from browsing to buying and making returns. Of course the role of the physical store has now evolved, it’s much more than a place to shop, physical stores are now showrooms and forward stock locations essential to success of online retail”.

The survey also revealed that 60% of consumers prefer to use physical stores to return unwanted items, many citing the hassle and worry of using post or courier services. 67% of respondents admit that they often order more than they originally intended when shopping online because returns are free.

“The physical store is alive and kicking and set to be given a real uplift by the implementation of some dazzling new technologies,” adds Pepper. “Growth in online sales is widely reported, even though we know that online sales are not all they appear to be, as some retailers encourage customers in store to use technology so that a transaction is credited as an online sale. Many purchases also start online and are completed in store, which is a growing trend. With such a large volume of online purchases being returned in-store the brick-and-mortar premises will continue to play a vital role, with huge potential efficiency and cost savings to be made by reducing false online purchases and expediting returns back onto hangers and shelves instore.”

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