The Future is Multichannel: New Insights Into American Consumer Shopping Preferences
The rise of e-commerce within the last two decades and — more recently — the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably reshaped the retail landscape. However, contrary to the narrative of the death of brick-and-mortar stores, physical retail continues to play a significant role in the consumer market. The key to understanding this lies in the concept of multichannel retail, which combines the strengths of both online and offline shopping.
In the recent State of Multichannel Retail 2023: Exploring U.S. Consumer Preferences and Expectations survey conducted by Scanbot SDK, 1,000 American consumers were asked about their shopping preferences. The results revealed some surprising insights into the evolving retail landscape.
The Balance Between Online and In-Store Shopping
The survey found that 51.1 percent of respondents would choose online shopping over in-store shopping if they had to pick one. However, physical stores still have their unique appeal. Half (50.6 percent) of consumers stated that the ability to interact with a product physically is the primary reason they prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores.
Interestingly, the survey also revealed that millennials are more inclined towards online shopping (59.92 percent) than Generation X and baby boomers, who prefer physical stores (59.79 percent). Gen Z showed a nearly even split, with a slight preference for physical stores (50.72 percent).
The Power of Multichannel Retail
The survey results underscore the importance of a multichannel approach in today's retail landscape. A whopping 69.8 percent of respondents preferred shopping at a physical store offering digital services such as an app or website. This trend was even more pronounced among millennials, with 75.05 percent expressing this preference.
Moreover, 83.1 percent of survey participants have used a retailer's mobile application at least once, and 82.4 percent have used or would like to try scan-and-go, a smartphone-based self-checkout system. These findings highlight the growing importance of integrating technology into the retail experience.
The Role of Physical Stores
Despite the rise of online shopping, physical stores still hold a unique appeal for consumers. The survey found that the primary benefit of physical stores is the ability to touch and feel products, a sentiment expressed by 50.6 percent of respondents.
Additionally, 48.8 percent of survey participants indicated that out-of-stock products are their biggest annoyance when shopping in stores. This suggests that effective inventory management is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction in physical retail.
Embracing the Future of Retail: Implications for Modern Retailers
The evolving retail landscape underscores the need for a balanced multichannel approach, blending online convenience with the haptic appeal of physical stores. Retailers must invest in enhancing the shopping experience through technology, such as mobile apps and self-checkout systems, while prioritizing data privacy.
Effective inventory management is crucial in physical retail, as out-of-stock products significantly impact customer satisfaction. Understanding generational shopping preferences can also guide retailers in tailoring their strategies.
Finally, a mobile app can boost customer loyalty and spending, making it a worthwhile investment. In essence, the future of retail is multichannel. Retailers that can seamlessly integrate online and offline experiences will thrive.
Max Stratmann is the chief revenue officer of Scanbot SDK, a data capture software provider.