Despite e-commerce being a $1.5 trillion industry, physical stores are still key to shopper experiences.
Shopping is increasingly an omnichannel experience, with online and offline as complementary and connected components. Amazon’s announcement of plans for a physical store, in Manhattan, taps into a trend we outlined last year, the Living, Breathing Website, in which e-commerce brands expand into physical spaces, offering huge (online) inventories via relatively small stores. That’s because while e-commerce sales will reach $1.5 trillion globally this year, according to eMarketer, physical stores will remain key to the shopper journey.
A recent 12-country study from WPP shopper-marketing agency Geometry Global finds that two-thirds of Internet users visit brick-and-mortar stores to inform their purchases. As this chart shows, of those who do so, the most common reason is simply to see the product in real life; a minority of shoppers mention in-store assistance and customer service. Meanwhile, Geometry found that six out of 10 use mobile devices in store for research (comparing prices, looking for product information) or to photograph a product. This behavior is most common in fast-growing emerging markets, with China (94 percent) and India (87 percent) topping the list, and least common in the U.S. (35 percent) and U.K. (31 percent).
“The path to purchase is complex, as people gather information and opinions repeatedly and fluidly in both digital and physical retail spaces,” Geometry notes. Clearly, an omnichannel strategy is no longer optional as consumers across markets demand speed, convenience, consistency and transparency.