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UK shoppers move towards ‘digitally accompanied’ shopping experience in physical stores: study

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The trend for shopping on digital devices is moving from purely online into brick-and-mortar stores as well, with 60% of UK consumers saying they use their smartphone, tablet or a store’s device while shopping – a number that rises to 80% for generation X and Z.

As well as using mobile and tablets in store, a further 15% of surveyed UK shoppers choose to accompany this experience with digital signage, kiosks and interactive screens, finds the latest research by Navigating Modern Retail, which polled 2,000 UK consumers to track ever-changing consumer shopping behaviour.

So what are they doing with these devices? Self-checkouts continue to remain a popular option, with a third (30%) of shoppers choosing to scan their own products and a further 70% using self-scan devices – emphasising that independence, speed and convenience are the essential requirements for the shopping experience. This figure is higher, at 42% for 18-24 year-olds.

When it comes to conducting research ahead of the purchase, ‘research on the move’ is gaining momentum. In fact, smartphones (46%) are ahead of the game as the device of consumers choice for ’Googling’ a merch, followed by a desktop (42%) and a further 29% for a tablet.

Retailers must take into consideration that product research undertaken online ahead of purchase varies, depending on the merch category, with more complex or high-consideration goods where design and personal taste are factors that contribute towards a purchasing decision.

Where intricate products are concerned, nearly three-quarters of those questioned turn to the internet when buying electrical goods, closely followed by mobile phone purchase (55%) and DIY (43%).

Similarly, when shopping for furniture 55% of the polled UK consumers undertook research online, and 43% for homeware. The same for fashion and apparel (44%), footwear (40%) and health and beauty products (31%).

However, increasingly, even everyday items are becoming omni-researched, with 21% saying they research groceries (food and drink) online before they buy.

“One thing is clear is that mobile and tablets are not just transforming consumers’ online habits but are influencing the entire omnichannel journey, as shoppers access product information through multiple channels and multiple platforms often simultaneously,” says Steve Powell, Director of Sales at PCMS.

Powell adds: “Certainly, use of digital in-store is not something that should be ignored – 70% of respondents said their use of a digital device whilst visiting a store would remain the same in the next six months, whilst a further 36% said they believed it would increase over the next 18 months.”

He concludes: “This actually represents a huge opportunity for retailers who are looking to digitalise the in-store experience by marrying the demand for online with traditional customer service. Giving store associates tablets for example, allows them to instantly access product information and answer customer questions at the touch of a button, while creating that ‘human experience’ that will encourage consumers to return again and again.”

The research reinforces what is being seen in the High Street, with well known brands such as M&S, Halfords and Pets At Home all shaking up their High Street presence in light of this changing shopping behaviour. M&S has seen profits slump by two thirds and is hastening the closure of 100 stores as it finds itself – like many other retailers – totally out of step with today’s shoppers. 

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