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Retail or E-Tail: Guiding Consumers When They Buy In-Person vs. Online

Online shopping today has never been easier. Simply grab your phone or turn on your desktop, and with only a few clicks, you can have your item arrive at your doorstep. But in spite of the convenience of online shopping, 85% of consumers still prefer to shop in physical stores. A PwC survey reported that only 27% of consumers make purchases online at least once a week compared to nearly 40% who would rather buy in-store.

The same survey found that more than half of consumers said they shop in store to avoid delivery fees. Around 60% of these consumers prefer the brick-and-mortar store because they want to have the item immediately. They also want to see the item in person before buying it.
“Instant gratification” as they call it, consumers are fond of touching, feeling, and buying the item at the same moment.

Although shopping in-store is still the preferred way to purchase certain items, it does have a few drawbacks too.

The most common of them is having to wait in line just to pay for a few items. The long lines and inconvenience in store when it’s crowded or noisy can become a reason for shoppers to turn to online shopping. Just because most people shop in store, retailers should not underestimate online outlets.

Around three-quarters of shoppers spend time browsing online before buying in physical store. They use online stores for price comparison and discovering products. And this year alone, more than 2 million orders (+200% compared to 2014) were made on Facebook.

Online vs. In-store: Should you keep both?

Do you really need a physical shop? That will depend on the kind of service or products you provide. Many successful companies, like Amazon and Netflix are “store-less” and yet they decimated a number of DVD rentals and bookstores. However, it’s not enough of a good reason to destroy your physical store and replace it with an online shop.

Upgrading your physical presence should be your way to go.

George Cook, an executive professor for marketing and psychology at the University of Rochester, mentioned how Apple and Nordstrom reinvented their shopping experience to make it more than just a transaction with a cashier.

What shoppers want

Remember that shoppers love the feeling they get when they touch and see an item. There’s the natural, human element within physical stores. When it comes to online, shoppers enjoy the convenience of shopping without restrictions and having the flexibility to choose delivery time.

They also want an option to reroute a package or choose an eco-friendly shipping. Around 44% of shoppers are more likely to buy online if they are able to pick-up in store. Of all the respondents, 62% believe that they will also buy online if they can return the item in-store. Another data from Walker Sands revealed that eight out of 10 consumers will shop online more if offered free shipping.

Making the most of Digital Technology

In times when the customer experience is the only way for businesses to differentiate, not leveraging digital technology to increase convenience for shoppers, promote the brand and drive purchases would be a huge mistake.

There are several ways how digital technology lets you capitalize on the changes in consumer behavior to exceed your customer’s expectations and make their shopping easy whether it’s online or offline:

Online and Mobile:


Understanding your customer preferences first and using the most suitable technology to create retail and e-tail experiences that resonate with them lets you improve sales and connect more with your shoppers – online and offline.

Sandhya Venkatachalam, a Founding Partner of Centerview Capital Technology, said it best:

“The goal of technology does not have to be disrupt, destroy and depersonalize. Rather, it can be used to optimize inefficiencies, increase service and personalization, and enable the creation of truly sustainable and profitable brands for the long term.”

Did we miss an important technology that improves customer experience online or in store – let us know below.

Further reading: How to create rewarding Retail experiences using Digital Advice.


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Jonha Richman invests through her private investment fund, JJ Richman. The firm's latest investments have been focused on real estate, equities, bonds, commodities, emerging technologies (such as AI, big data) and various other globally diversified assets.