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As smartphone penetration grows and the internet becomes an ever more critical shopping medium, it’s not surprising that consumers are placing significant value on the ability to purchase from a retailer through different channels. According to a new report [download page] from Econsultancy, 4 in 10 survey respondents from the US and UK say it is very important for retailers to offer them the ability to purchase elsewhere than just in-store (i.e. via online or mobile).. A further 47% and 46%, respectively, say it’s useful sometimes but not crucial.

Predictably, responses showed a clear pattern along age lines, with youth placing the most value on multichannel capabilities. Among US respondents, 45% of those aged 18-34 said multichannel retail is very important. This compares to 41% of 35-54-year-olds and 29% of those aged 55 and older.

This pattern was more pronounced for the UK respondents. Among 18-34-year-olds, 53% said multichannel retail was very important. That figure dropped to 38% of 35-54-year-olds and 28% of the 55+ group.

It bears noting that the survey was conducted online, which may skew the results in favor of multichannel retail’s value, given that the ability to purchase online is presumably more important to internet users than to those who are not yet online.

Out-of-Stocks Drive Consumers to Other Stores, Not Mobile

A study released in June by RIS News and Cognizant found shoppers saying that products they want being out of stock is their most disliked experience when shopping in-store for both specialty items and consumables. Faced with a store not having the product they are looking for, a plurality of US (46%) and UK (45%) respondents to the Econsultancy survey said they would look for the product in another local store. By comparison, roughly one-third said they would search online when they got home. Only 8% of US respondents and 5% of UK respondents would use their mobile device to try and find the product.

Surprisingly, the percentage of consumers who would search online when they got home is down significantly from last year, when 46% of UK and 42% of US respondents identified that as their likely reaction to a product being out of stock. Instead, this year, more said they would stay offline and search for the product at another store.

Reserve-and-Collect More Popular in the UK

One way to bypass out-of-stocks is to reserve a product online and collect it in-store, and the Econsultancy research reveals that this is a much more common practice in the UK than in the US. Just 1 in 5 UK respondents said they have never done this (60% had done so in the past 12 months). By comparison, almost half of the US respondents had never done so.

Still, the service appears to be gaining some steam in the US. Last year 58% of US respondents had never reserved a product online before collecting it in store. Only 11% did so at least once a month – this year that figure is up to 17%.

Other Findings:

  • 94% of US and 96% of UK respondents either sometimes or always research purchases on the internet before buying from a local store.
  • 61% of US and 65% of UK respondents check products in-store before buying online.

About the Data: The Econsultancy data is based on a TolunaQuick survey of 1,000 consumers in the UK and 1,000 consumers in the US, carried out by Econsultancy in July and August 2012. 62% of respondents are female. 41% are in the 35-54 age bracket, 28% are aged 55+, and 31% are aged 18-34.

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