As physical stores close, many shoppers are going online, according to an exclusive survey of 2,815 U.S. online shoppers from Internet Retailer and Bizrate Insights earlier this year. But they are not abandoning stores altogether.
The survey, conducted in March, suggests that the recent realignment of the retail industry punctuated by the bankruptcies of retail chains like rue21, No. 408 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, Sports Authority, The Limited and Gander Mountain (No. 224), and store closures by such big retailers as Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 19), Macy’s (No. 6) and J.C. Penney (No. 33)—could be good news for online merchants, as well as store-based retailers that embrace omnichannel strategies and execute them well.
More than half of consumers say store closures have caused them to shop online somewhat more (30.2%) or a lot more (20.2%). Only 13% of consumers say they travel farther to the stores they like or find different physical stores where they can shop.
However, many consumers who make a purchase online prefer to go into a store to collect their purchase—and they tend to like that process. About 96% of those who bought something online and picked it up in a store over the past year rated the experiences as good (48.3%) or excellent (47.7%).
Scott Macon, president of Bizrate Insights, says the popularity of buying online and picking up in stores makes perfect sense. Not only do consumers save money on shipping, he says, they get their items faster while also saving themselves the trip to the store only to find that what they want is out of stock. This approach of immediacy and convenience gives store-based retailers an advantage when it comes to competing with Amazon.
“You absolutely have to reduce the friction points that keep (shoppers) from hitting the buy button,” Macon says. Making it easy for customers to order something and pick it up at their convenience—as opposed to waiting for a delivery—is a good way to do that, he says.
Those most likely to have purchased an item online and picked it up in a store in the past year are consumers aged 40 to 44 (73.8% in this age group used this service) and those in the 35 to 39 age group (71.9%). Shoppers least likely to have purchased an item online and picked it up in-store in the past year are those aged 65 and older (44.2%). Among survey group members who disclosed their genders, men (60.6%) were slightly more likely to have purchased an item online for in-store pickup in the past year than women (56.5%).
Even when they plan to buy in a store, many shoppers rely on the internet for product information. 76% of those surveyed, say they always (32%) or frequently (44%) research products online before buying in a store. Among respondents 65 and older, 69.3% reported always or frequently doing that. For every other age cohort, the number was more than 74%.
The survey also found that more than two-thirds (68.9%) of those surveyed say they usually shop online at home, on their home computers, tablets or smartphones, while 8% say they usually do so at work on a computer. 3% say they usually shop online on a smartphone during their commutes or other out-of-home activities. About a fifth (19.3%) of respondents answered “all of the above.”