Consumers ‘still prefer real shops to the internet’

Around two-thirds of Britons still prefer to shop in-store than online – and a store with good stock levels and knowledgeable staff is even more likely to get the business.

Consumers 'still prefer real shops to the internet'

According to research by Hitachi Consulting, 65% of us favour a physical shop while 20% prefer to shop via the internet, with 13% liking to use a combination of channels.

When asked what would tempt them to visit a retail store over an ecommerce site, 53% of those questioned said that having the items they want in stock more consistently would be the biggest factor.

Customer service was also seen as key to the in-store experience: more than a fifth of respondents (21%) felt that more knowledgeable sales staff would encourage them to visit a high street shop over an etailer.

This figure jumps even higher for those in London (30%), and higher still (36%) for those earning more than £100,000 per year. Fifty-five per cent of these high earners would actually walk out of a shop because of poor service, rising to 58% of those aged 55 and older.

Asked what in-store technology would help to improve the in-store experience even further, 54% wanted to receive more personalised discounts and promotions that were specific to their needs and preferences.

Kiosks, iPads and computer terminals that allow customers to check stock availability and arrange home delivery were mentioned by nearly 40% of those questioned, and by 53% of those aged 18 to 24. The availability of self-checkout options was another popular choice, mentioned by 40% of respondents and by 70% of those aged between 18 and 24.

Chris Gates, director of retail at Hitachi Consulting UK, says: “Despite the massive growth in online shopping over the years, it’s good to see that consumers haven’t fallen out of love with the British high street. The retail sector has clearly been having a difficult time lately, but our research shows that in-store shopping still has a crucial role in the modern shopping journey.

“The real challenge for retailers is therefore to focus on the areas that consumers really value when it comes to the in-store experience – by implementing better stock management systems, employee training and self-service options – whilst also promoting the flexibility and convenience of their online offering as well. This way, consumers will be much more likely to use a combination of both these channels, and to appreciate the unique benefits of each.”

Meanwhile, new research from Mintel shows how the smartphone is fast becoming a shopper’s best friend. Today, 62% of Britons own a smartphone, with almost half using them for online shopping or purchasing.

Says Mintel’s senior technology analyst Paul Davies: “Purchasing via smartphones is starting to reach a level of traction that cannot be ignored. As mobile shopping starts to justify focus that is equal to, if not greater than more conventional shopping channels, those who dedicate investment and sufficient attention to smartphone purchasing are likely to benefit.”

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