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Shoppers are more likely to buy something they’ve never purchased before in a store than at an online marketplace such as Amazon or eBay, according to a study [download page] from Salesforce and Publicis.Sapient. The “Shopper-First Retailing” report found that half of the 6,000 shoppers surveyed online across 6 countries would choose a retailer over a brand or marketplace to buy something they’ve never bought before.

Fewer than one-third (31%) would choose a marketplace as their destination for their first-time product purchase, while about one-fifth (19%) would opt to go directly to the brand.

The findings are interesting in light of recent research finding that many people would choose to shop at a retailer other than Amazon if the retailer had unique products they couldn’t otherwise find. The same study noted that only one-fifth of Amazon shoppers said they use the online giant because it has unique products not sold elsewhere.

In combination, these pieces of research suggest that retailers offering new and unique products will be able to entice shoppers to come in-store to purchase them (particularly if shoppers want to be able to see and feel something they’ve never bought before).

Retailers’ advantage seems to end at that first-time purchase, though. The Salesforce and Publicis.Sapient report discovered that if shoppers liked the product and wanted to buy it again, more would turn to a marketplace (47%) than to a retailer (34%) or brand (20%).

So What Advantage Do Retailers Have?

Shoppers seem to have clear ideas about the strengths of different channels. If the price were to be the same for a purchase through a brand, retailer or marketplace, respondents would choose:

  • Marketplaces for product variety and product availability;
  • Brands for product quality and product innovation; and
  • Retailers for customer service.

It’s interesting to see product innovation (and to a lesser extent, product uniqueness) emerge as key differentiators for brands. As it appears, new and unique items are more the domain of brands and retailers than of marketplaces.

Brands and retailers may want to up their game on search to capitalize on those strengths, though: 48% of shoppers said they start their hunt for a new product on Google (up from just 17% last year). No wonder almost two-thirds of the smartphone traffic that Google sends large retailers comes from paid search.

Meanwhile, the focus on customer service at retailers and variety at marketplaces aligns squarely with separate research on this topic, which has likewise indicated that shoppers go online for variety, and in-store for service.

The full study is available for download here.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey conducted online among 6,000 people in these 6 countries (1,000 participants in each country): the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, France and the U.K. Recruited participants were at least 18 years old and were screened for shopping frequency in stores and online.

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