UK and US shoppers still prefer stores, but omnichannel is key for fashion

The UK and US may be two of the world’s most developed e-tail markets but consumers in those two countries still prefer to shop in-store. Yet they also appreciate an omnichannel strategy and see fashion as a key category for multichannel shopping journeys.

In-store shopping remains key in the UK and US but omnichannel is popular for fashion consumers - Picture: Bookingbug

Those are among the conclusions of a new report from Bookingbug, an appointment and event booking platform, which surveyed 2,000 consumers online in December.

It found that in Britain, 45% of consumers rely particularly on physical stores while only 15% shop mainly online across all categories. Furniture and health & beauty (H&B) are among the top areas for in-store shopping with electronics, fashion and gifts the top categories for online purchases. But fashion figures highly for omnichannel shoppers, coming second only to electronics.

In the US, over half (55%) of respondents rely on stores for a range of non-food shopping. The store is used by over two thirds of those surveyed in furniture, H&B, and DIY purchases. And fashion is, again, popular among omnichannel shoppers.

When asked about channels used to research and buy, around 70% of US and UK consumers research online before buying in-store (known as ‘webrooming'), while 50% admit to ‘showrooming', or researching in-store before buying online.

Around 15% of US shoppers webroom for fashion purchases, 13% for gift and 9% for H&B. A larger 19% of UK shoppers webroom for fashion, while 11% do so for gifts and 10% for H&B.

And with half of US and UK consumers showrooming before most likely buying from the cheapest vendor, the researchers said it’s surprising it’s not more common. Electronics and clothing are the most common categories for showrooming, with gifts also popular in the US. In both countries, a large 21% of consumers showroom for fashion products.

Bookingbug said click & collect may have convenience and speed as natural drivers, but only 43% of US consumers and 47% of UK consumers shop this way. Around a quarter of respondents have never used click & collect and 6% have never used any omnichannel option. Similar numbers of shoppers use click & collect for fashion in the US and UK (21% and 20%).

Click & collect is growing in both the UK and US

Using the store purely as a collection point for purchases made online is the least common among omnichannel buyer behaviours. As the purchase is most likely to be made via the retailer’s own website, the challenge is for the brand to carry the experience from online to in-store. Although the practice is slightly more common in the UK than the US, household purchases are more widely clicked & collected by US consumers.

Why do people continue to shop in-store? Aside from the obvious number one advantage of fast access to products when in-store shopping, the wider role of the US store is clear: answering product and service questions, and giving a sense of the company.

Half of US consumers need answers about products and over 40% rely on the store to get a feel for the company, as opposed to only 15% for online experiences. The store is less used to see the full range of products, getting detailed product information and seeing peer-to- peer product reviews, where online naturally excels.

In the UK, they also want fast access to products, answers to questions and brand reassurance from the store, but also rate a pleasant shopping experience highly. But getting hold of products fast was about 10% less important than in the US, possibly reflecting a trend toward the high percentage of people relying on the web to save them time, a 10% difference between the US and UK.

The researchers said that product availability and staff are key to driving US footfall. When asked about in-store improvements that would increase footfall, 90% of American shoppers reported that the ability to experience the product would be important. Access to trained staff (80%) and better staff attitude and knowledge (87%) are clear areas physical retailers can leverage their advantage over online.

In the UK, 83% said not having to wait in line would encourage them to go into a store more often. Increased access to trained staff (73%) and better staff attitude and knowledge (80%) are other key drivers.

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