A recent survey from A.T. Kearney found 55 percent of consumers prefer to use both stores and online throughout the stages of the entire shopping journey (discovery, trial, purchase, pickup and return). But discovery proved to be the only stage where shoppers prefer online for a select few categories.
And even around discovery, in-store was preferred for key retail categories such as apparel and accessories, health and beauty, and furniture.
In-store was largely preferred for all the other four phases of the transactional journey across most categories:
Trial: In-store was most essential for product trial and test. For high touch-and-feel categories including apparel and accessories, health and beauty, and furniture, the preference for in-store trial and testing was as high as 85 percent. For standardized categories such as consumer electronics, trial and test preferences were in the 76 percent range. Immediacy, ease, and accuracy of testing were all cited as reasons for preferring in-store trial.
Purchase: In-store was preferred in the majority of cases with stores benefiting from immediacy and accessibility. For categories such as fine jewelry, electronics, furniture, and sporting goods, better customer service in stores was also valued.
Pickup: Although home-delivery is preferred for categories such as furniture, in-store pickup is preferred for most categories. Health and beauty and fine jewelry products were particularly preferred for in-store pickup. In-store pickup offers a sense of reliability and trust not found online, as well as take-home immediately.
Returns: After trial and testing, returns is the stage in the shopping journey where consumers demonstrate the highest preference for physical stores over online shopping. Accessibility, immediacy, and time efficiency favor in-store returns.
Also encouraging for stores was the finding that two-thirds of customers purchasing online use a physical store before or after the transaction.
A.T. Kearney said the findings show that the store should be looked on as "the foundation" when building omni-channel strategies. It also implied that stores are an overlooked source of value creation (brand building, product awareness).
Mike Moriarty, a partner and co-author of the report, said in a statement, "The decoupling of value capture is important for retailers to understand as they consider resource allocation decisions across channels to ensure that the true value the physical store creates is accounted for properly."
What phase of the shopping journey is the most important reason pure e-tailers may want to open their own physical stores?