While multichannel retailing, with consumer touch-points that range from catalogs and websites to in-store shopping, continues to reshape the way companies and consumers interact, the primacy of the in-store shopping experience is not going away any time soon. True, social media is gaining a lot of clout when it comes to shaping consumer shopping decisions. But a new study debunks the conventional wisdom about many aspects of online consumer behavior.
While nearly half of shoppers (49 percent) said they use social media every day, only 12 percent are using social platforms to shop, according to a new report on online shopping based on a survey of more than 11,000 shoppers globally. The report was prepared by PwC, an assurance, tax, and advisory services partnership.
Instead, more than 59 percent of shoppers use social media to follow, discover and give feedback on brands and retailers. PwC found that social media is not a major traffic driver to online stores, as 45 percent of consumers continue to shop in a physical store on a daily or weekly basis.
"Retailers should have realistic expectations when it comes to channels and devices, as shopping trends may not change drastically and social media and tablets are likely not taking over any time soon according to our survey respondents," said Susan McPartlin, PwC's U.S. retail and consumer sector leader. "Our report finds that the physical store remains the centerpiece of the purchase journey, while devices are used significantly for product research and deals."
The report addresses a number of myths about multichannel retailing and captures some ideas that companies can consider to keep up with their customers, including:
Social media will soon become an indispensable retail channel
Social media isn't likely to become an important retail channel anytime soon and currently is a driver for more shopping across all channels, not just online stores.
Stores will become mainly showrooms in the future
For most companies, the physical store remains the centerpiece of the purchase journey. There still is a place for the store to be a showroom—as a supplement for online pure players, rather than a new model for brick-and-mortar retailers.
The tablet will overtake the PC as the preferred online shopping device
Tablets and smartphones won't catch up any time soonas these devices are used at the end of the purchase journey, particularly in-store, while shopping.
Retailers are inherently better positioned than brands, as they are closest to the customer
Consumers are shopping directly from manufacturers and many no longer distinguish between retailers and their favorite brands. Retailers need to utilize core strengths including warranty programs and email promotions that drive traffic in-store.
Online retail is cannibalizing sales in other channels
Consumers are actually spending more with their favorite multichannel retailers, not just shifting some purchases to a different channel.
Low price is the main driver of customer spending at favorite retailers
Customers value quality, innovative brands over price when shopping at their favorite multichannel retailers.
"A multichannel retail strategy can be extremely advantageous,” said Lisa Feigen Dugal, PwC's U.S. retail and consumer sector advisory leader. "The more minutely retailers can identify how consumers are utilizing the different channels, the more success they will have. Companies need a strategy that will create value by connecting with consumers and engaging with them directly online, while providing a meaningful, seamless shopping experience across all channels."