Customer Experience Better In-Store Than Online, Say Mobile-Toting Shoppers

December 17, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Email | Promotions, Coupons & Co-op | Retail & E-Commerce | Social Media

In-store shopping beats the e-commerce experience across numerous customer service and relationship measures, while online shopping wins for research and pricing, according to [pdf] the results of a survey of consumers who have used their mobile devices to shop. The survey, conducted by Dimensional Research and sponsored by Wanderful Media, identified several shopping-related activities and asked respondents whether they thought those experiences were better in-store or online.

Respondents more often chose the in-store option for measures such as a great customer service (40% vs. 16%), having their questions answered (50% vs. 13%), and establishing a relationship with the merchant (51% vs. 12%).

The biggest gap in favorability, though, was for the ease of making a return (64% in-store vs. 12% online). Frustrations with the return experience certainly appear to plague online shoppers, per results from a ShopRunner survey conducted by Harris Interactive. About 7 in 10 online shoppers surveyed feel that returning items purchased online is a complicated process, while an even greater proportion (81%) said they are not likely to make additional purchases from websites that charge shipping on returns.

Online Shopping Makes the Grade for Research, Savings

Further details from the Wanderful Media survey suggest that consumers who use mobile devices to shop may favor the customer experience in-store, but they prefer the research and savings possibilities offered online. The online shopping experience was overwhelming favored for the breadth of information available to research purchases (71% vs. 12%), the ease of finding a specific item (59% vs. 14%), and getting the best price (57% vs. 11%), among others.

Store Browsing Leads to Impulse Purchases

Notably, respondents were far more likely to favor the online path for discovering a previously unknown product (40% vs. 16%). Still, more respondents had made an impulse purchase in the last month in a store than had done so online (74% vs. 65%), suggesting that while they find new products online, they’re more likely to try something new while shopping in a store.

In fact, browsing in a store (60%) was the leading driver of impulse purchases among respondents, ahead of email promotions (42%) and window shopping (36%). Interestingly, newspaper circulars (23%) influenced more shoppers than social media channels such as Facebook (22%), Twitter (13%) and Pinterest (13%).

9 in 10 Have Visited a Store Due to An Online Experience

Of the shoppers surveyed, the vast majority (91%) said that something they have done online has spurred them to visit a store. Emails held the biggest sway: 60% said they had visited a store after receiving an email about a special price or promotion. Close behind, finding a coupon (59%), seeing an online ad for a sale (56%), searching for a product and finding a store location (55%), and browsing an online circular (52%) also did the trick for a majority.

Other Findings:

  • Of various factors that may contribute to a positive experience when shopping in-store, respondents named the absence of shipping charges (64% citing as “very important”), the ease of making a return (60%), the ability to touch, smell, and see the item to be purchased (55%), and getting the item immediately (55%) as the most important.
  • To get the most positive online shopping experience, respondents were most likely to say that the ability to compare prices from a broad range of sources (63% citing as “very important”), the depth of information to research purchases (59%), and the ability to stay home to shop (54%) were very important.
  • Generally speaking, respondents preferred buying books, gifts, and consumer electronics online, and clothes, personal care products, shoes, and furniture in a store.

About the Data: The Wanderful Media data is based on an online survey conducted in December 2012 of 1027 consumers. All participants live in the United States and use a mobile device for shopping. 62% of respondents are female and a plurality (40%) are aged 36-50.

The ShopRunner survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive from December 7-11, 2012 among 3,036 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and, therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


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