Online shopping isn't the bricks and mortar killer, according to a new survey of U.S. consumers by Perception Research Services. But that doesn't mean retailers should relax just yet.
"For years, people have had this either-or mentality and said we're going to see the end of bricks and mortar retailers as we know them," says Jonathan Asher, executive vice president of the New Jersey-based shopper and packaging research company. "What we're actually seeing is that bricks and mortar is changing and more consumers are combining digital media with the in-store experience."
Half of respondents (54%) said they own a smartphone, and 76% of those said they use it while shopping in-store. While some respondents said they purchased a product with their smartphone, 50% said they use it to gather product information, read reviews, check prices or find promotions.
"Consumers are going to be using their smartphones. A lot of it may be comparison shopping, but a lot of times it's just getting information about the product and asking others about their experiences," says Asher. He suggests retailers embrace this shift and simplify in-store smartphone use by employing QR codes.
While 94% of respondents recognized the pixilated bar codes by sight, only 57% could name them and only 44% reported having scanned a QR code. PRS suggests this number will rise as the codes' functionality becomes more meaningful.
The survey also asked respondents about "showrooming", or visiting a retailer to look at a product you intend to purchase online. PRS found that 45% of respondents have showroomed, most often for big-ticket items, such as electronics, appliances and baby products.
Instead of chasing showroomers from your store, Asher suggests giving customers an incentive to buy in-store. "I think there's a way to create a sense of community within a store," he says. "Everyone talks about online communities, but there's still something about a live and in-person interaction that can't be replicated online."
Asher suggests the holidays are the perfect times to set up live, in-store chat rooms, where customers can share reviews with those considering purchasing a product they own; or demonstration centres, where customers can try out a product before buying it.
The survey was conducted in June 2012, among a nationally representative sample of 1,450 American consumers responsible for at least half of their household's grocery shopping.