Study: Physical stores still key to consumers in omnichannel world

Chicago -- Consumers value the retail store experience on multiple levels and continue to make the vast majority of their purchases in stores, according to a new study from global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. The report found that the physical store is the channel of choice across all ages (from Millennial to senior citizens) and household income levels (from less than $25,000 per year to more than $100,000 per year).

The study, titled “Recasting the Retail Store in Today’s Omnichannel World,” surveyed more than 3,000 consumers in the U.S. and U.K. to understand how and why consumers use different channels at each stage of the shopping process.  It found that consumers spend the majority of their time shopping in stores (61%), followed by online (31%), catalog (4%) and mobile (4%).

Having physical stores is more important in some categories than others, according to the survey results. Amazon and other online retailers have a lock on books, CDs, movies, etc., but cosmetics, apparel, grocery and office suppliers are sectors where brick-and-mortar outlets are still imperative. But while there is some variation in the role of the store by category, the results also make it clear that stores can and should play key roles for customer engagement across every product category.

“Regardless of where a product is purchased — via online or mobile channels — the product can be tested, picked up, or returned to the store,” said Dan Farmer, A.T. Kearney principal and co-author of the study. “Here again is an opportunity to capitalize on impulse purchases during these customer visits. Operationally, shipping or pickup from stores expedites delivery and optimizes inventory across the store network, which does much to improve efficiency and cost savings.”
In other survey results:

  • Forty percent of consumers spend more money than they had planned in stores, while only 25% reported online impulse shopping. Strategies that drive consumers to stores whether it is to shop or pick up a product purchased online will drive impulse purchases.
  • Consumers shop in different stages beginning with research, followed by testing, purchase, pick-up or delivery and after-sales experience. Digital channels play the largest role in the research phase of the process, as shoppers read online reviews and find recommendations through social media. While stores can and should play some role in all shopping stages, they needn’t play a central role in each to generate sales across channels.

The report provides four strategies to ensure that retailers’ stores and store networks remain at the heart of the customer relationship. Retailers need to innovate to create new formats, optimize locations based on new shopping behaviors, integrate operations across channels to create a channel-less operating model and redefine a new set of customer-centric performance metrics to break down channel barriers that inhibit peak performance.



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