March 30, 2012, 11:51 AM

Most shoppers go online to research products before buying in stores

And a quarter of U.S. consumers shop via at least four channels, a report finds.

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83% of U.S. consumers go online to research electronics, computers, books, music and movies before buying those items in bricks-and-mortar stores, according to a report released today by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, a professional services firm also called PwC.

The report, “Understanding How U.S. Online Shoppers are Reshaping the Retail Experience,” also finds that 80% of global consumers research such products online before buying in stores, and that 73% of U.S. consumers (and 60% of global consumers) go online in search of information about clothes, shoes, toys and health and beauty products before buying those items in stores.

“All consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated at multichannel shopping,” the report says. “Retailers need to better align their business operating models with consumer sophistication and expectations.”

PwC based its findings on surveys of 7,005 online consumers in the United States, Netherlands, China (including Hong Kong), Germany, France, United Kingdom and Switzerland. About 1,000 consumers were surveyed in August and September from each of those countries.

Globally, PwC says that 20% of respondents had made their first online purchase within the past year. The survey also found that only 3% of global respondents had made purchases via social networks. Also globally, the survey found that the convenience of online shopping (cited by 28% of respondents) beat out low prices (25%) as the main reason consumers are attracted to web merchants.

But even with those factors, most consumers continue to shop across different channels, which include the web, physical stores, catalogs, TV shopping networks and mobile. 86% of all respondents, and 65% of those in the United States, shop across at least two channels, the report says. 21% of global respondents, and 25% of U.S. consumers, shop across at least four.

The report also says that:

• 71% of U.S. consumers, 60% of Chinese consumers and 23% of Dutch consumers buy clothes and shoes online. PwC gave no reason for the relatively low figure for the Netherlands, but says the finding shows that international e-retailers must consider shopping differences in specific countries.

• 32% of U.S. consumers, 20% of U.K. consumers and 8% of French consumers follow brands on social media.

The theme of this year’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago this June is “Connecting with the 21st Century Consumer.” Among the sessions will be the keynote address by William Lynch Jr., CEO of Barnes & Noble, entitled “How the web has become the engine that drives retailing.” The IRCE $200 early-bird discount expires March 31.

 

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