Cross Channel Shopping Is a Must

The Compete Online Shopper Intelligence study provides powerful insight into the complete online shopping experience.  For more consumers insights, please contact Debra Miller at dmiller@compete.com for more information.

More than 1 out of every 3 consumers indicated that they are extremely or very likely to research products online before purchasing them in a store, accordingly to the latest Online Shopper Intelligence study.  While this statistic is interesting and thought provoking, it is not all together surprising.  The need for cross channel shopping has been in the news and on retailers’ minds for a while.  But in order for retailers to master the art of cross channel shopping, they have to understand consumer expectations, the main drivers of cross channel shopping, and, of course, industry variations.

Consumer expectations around online shopping emphasize the need for retailers to create a fluid cross channel experience.  Consumers do not differentiate between store inventory and online inventory, meaning that retailers need to stop thinking about them as two separate entities.  The ability to pickup and return online purchases in a store are high up on consumers’ wish list, meaning retailers need to adopt these policies if they are to meet consumer demands and stay competitive in the market place.

You can see from the data above, cost, convenience, and the need for a tactile experience are the top reasons consumers research online, but purchase in a store.  While retailers can alleviate some of the cost and convenience hurdles with free and fast shipping or in store pickup and returns, they cannot provide consumers with a tactile experience over the Internet (or at least not yet!).  Knowing that consumers will use the Internet as a tool to narrow down their purchase options before going to the store for their in-person comparison, retailers must provide easy to find store hour, location, and directions.  Savvy retailers would also make sure inventory online matches merchandise carried in store and product information on their website is accurate in order to convert online shoppers into in store purchasers.

Finally, retailers need to understand how consumer cross channel behavior varies by industry.  Electronics top the list when looking at the tendency to research online, but purchase in a store is looked at across industry, with more than half of the consumers surveyed saying they research electronics online, but purchase in a store.  Home related products round out slots 2-4 at about 40% of shoppers stating they research online before purchasing offline.  This means that these retailers need to be especially diligent in providing consumers with a smooth cross channel experience and start to think of every online shopper as a potential in store customer.  It would also be strategically prudent of these retailers to make sure they are present on "Where to Buy" lists on third party sites so that they do not miss out on in-market consumers.

About Debra Miller Arbesman:
Debra Miller Arbesman is senior associate, retailer and consumer products at Compete, a Kantar Media company that helps brands improve their marketing based on the online behavior of millions of consumers.