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Technology Blurs Border Between Online and In-Store Shopping

Most Americans are lured into stores by an online experience . / Credit: Inkblot image via Shutterstock

The line between online and in-store shopping has been blurry for a long time, but mobile devices have altered consumer shopping so much that the line has turned into a smudge.

The vast majority of Americans (91 percent) have been lured into stores by an online experience such as an email promotion or online coupon, according to a national survey of more than 1,000 consumers sponsored by Wanderful Media, a company that specializes in local discovery shopping.

The growing integration between online and offline has created a more fluid shopping experience, in which consumers are less bound by location and traditional shopping activities.

At the same time, there are distinctly different drivers behind online and in-store shopping, the survey found. Those who prefer to shop online cited ease of research, greater speed in finding an item, and cost. Respondents who would rather shop in a physical store cited getting answers to questions, seeing the item before purchase, ease of return, and merchant relationships.

A majority, regardless of age, said that they will go online inside the store to research products before purchasing, and most will buy the item they were considering. While shopping, they also are doing  things such as watching TV or socializing with friends. Many shop while they commute.

Though online appears to be in the ascendancy, the bricks-and-mortar experience has not lost its allure. Consumers still report enjoying time in their local retail store.

Mobile is by far the preferred technology, the survey found. Smartphones were the most popular devices (92 percent) for in-store search, followed closely by tablets. For conducting in-store research when shopping, search engines (84 percent) and Amazon (76 percent) were the most popular tools, while more than a third (37 percent) identified social media as a research source.

"Technology enables an experience that easily moves between online and the local retailer," said Ben T. Smith, CEO of Wanderful Media. "The use of mobile phones and tablets provides the freedom to discover, research or see what your friends are buying regardless of where you are, and many consumers easily switch between devices depending on the task.

"It's because of these behaviors that our products will be designed to easily and seamlessly move through the entire shopping journey from discovery through purchase with a strong focus on mobile."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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