December 18, 2009, 12:00 AM

Consumers find crossing the channel frustrating, study finds

Most consumers are happy with their online shopping experience if they buy online, but it’s a different story if they use the web to browse and then attempt to make a purchase in a store, a new study from Forrester Research Inc. finds.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Most consumers are happy with their online shopping experience if they buy online, but it’s a different story if they use the web to browse and then attempt to make a purchase in a store, a new study from Forrester Research Inc. finds.

According to Forrester, more than 70% of consumers who shop and buy consumer electronics, apparel, accessories and footwear, or wireless products and services in one channel are happy with their shopping experience. However, that figure drops when shoppers research online and venture to buy in a bricks-and-mortar shop.

Wireless providers received the lowest marks. 54% of consumers who researched wireless handsets and services online then purchased in a store said they were satisfied with their experience. Meanwhile, 74% of web-only and 72% of in-store-only wireless consumers said they were satisfied.

Additionally, 60% of apparel, accessories and footwear shoppers and 66% of consumer electronics shoppers were happy with researching on the web and buying in a store. That’s compared to the 81% of consumers satisfied with web-only retail shopping experiences and 88% with in-store retail experiences. Forrester didn’t break out numbers for web-only and store-only purchases of apparel accessories and footwear and consumer electronics.

Shoppers list inconsistent pricing, incorrect inventory information and difficulty finding goods promoted online in stores as their biggest frustrations when moving from the web to the store.

Among shoppers making apparel, footwear or accessories purchases in a store after researching on the same company’s web site, 19% said they couldn’t find the items they were looking for in the store, and 16% couldn’t check online to see if what they wanted was in stock at their local store. Respondents also said the items in stores often didn’t match their online descriptions.

Web-to-store consumer electronics shoppers cited inconsistent pricing and inventory as their main problems. Of web-to-store consumer electronics shoppers, 12% discovered that the item they sought had a different price when they got to the store and 11% couldn’t find the specific items they were looking for in the store. And, once again, shoppers mentioned that online product descriptions didn’t correspond to what they saw in a store.

For wireless carrier and handset shoppers, consumers cited pricing differences as the biggest problem. 10% of those surveyed said store prices didn’t match web prices.

Forrester recommends e-retailers work to make sure information is consistent between stores and web sites by using product information management applications.

“These repositories manage the content sync with suppliers and manufacturers, while also supporting retailer ‘enrichment’ of data about merchandise,” Forrester says. “That means retailers can tie up-to-date product descriptions with their own editorial content and still be consistent across channels-whether catalogs, web sites or store-associate interactions.”

Forrester also suggests retailers tie the web and store together by making in-store inventory visible online. “Web-to-store shoppers want to be sure the particular TV model or wireless handset they want is in stock before they travel all the way to the store,” the report says. Apple’s web site, for example, pulls data from the retail back-end system to let online customers know which phones are in stock at which stores. Consumers can even go online to reserve iPhones for same-day in-store pickup, Forrester says.

Forrester conducted the online survey in August of 4,723 U.S. individuals between 18 and 88 for its report.

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