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Shops are showrooms for online shoppers: study

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Today’s customers use shops as a showroom where they can examine and try out products from electrical tools to TVs or fashion before making their final purchase either on or offline, according to new research.

To a large extent, the way that consumers choose to shop also depends on what kind of product they are buying, according to the study from database and loyalty marketing specialist GI Insight.

It found that while most shoppers (63%) buy from both websites and high street stores, 73% of consumers prefer to see bulky items such as bicycles, playpens, garden tools and furniture in-store first. That’s the case even if they then go online to buy. When it comes to fashion products such as clothes, shoes, accessories and sunglasses, 69% like to try on in a store, while 60% of those buying DVD players, computers and TVs like to look at them in the shop before they buy.

The story is different when it comes to standard items such as light bulbs, CDs, DVDs and kitchen utensils, where 68% of the 1,000 shoppers quizzed by MindMetre Research for GI insight said they preferred to buy directly online.

Andy Wood, managing director of GI Insight, said: “The research shows there is logic to consumer behaviour across multiple channels. Understanding this on an individual level can be crucial to managing customers and getting them to remain loyal, buy more with each transaction, and purchase more frequently.

“Gaining insight into how customers buy different products through different channels, or use multiple channels in combination as they come to a purchasing decision, enables a brand to tailor the message and the offer for the channel which best reflects the product and the consumer’s preferences.”

The study also found that shoppers are almost equally happy to redeem loyalty vouchers in-store (54%) or online (46%).

Wood said: “The figures indicate that when it comes to promotional activities, retailers should not presume their customers want to redeem points through the same channel as they were gained. Companies intending to fuel activity with reward bonuses and special discounts must be aware that consumers tend to buy both online and in-store from their favourite retailers – the ones they are most likely to hold loyalty cards for – and thus rewards should not be channel-exclusive. Indeed, since we see that consumers are multi-channel shoppers, no benefit can be gained in trying to tie them down to a particular virtual or physical location.”

Our view: Over the years it’s been suggested that the future of the high street shop is ultimately as a showroom for online purchases. That future may already be here, this piece of research suggests. We’d also add though, that while many people would ideally like to go and see items for themselves, many simply opt to buy online because life is too short to go and inspect each purchase. After all, a good returns service can take the risk out of buying online and inspecting at home.

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