February 8, 2013, 11:11 AM

Online and store success can go hand in hand

When consumers like a retailer’s stores and web site they spend more with that merchant.

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In a global survey of online shoppers, 58% of respondents who claim to have a favorite retailer say that, since starting to shop via multiple channels, such as online as well as in stores, they’ve spent more money with that retailer overall, according to consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, commonly known as PwC. And nearly a fifth of those respondents say that their extra spending is at least 25% greater than before.

PwC surveyed 11,000 shoppers in 11 countries in July and August 2012 for its sixth annual study of online shoppers, titled “Demystifying the online shopper: 10 myths of multichannel retailing.” Of the respondents, 9,427 say they have a favorite retailer.

Though shoppers in the survey tend to spend more with certain multichannel retailers, many have pared down where they shop to a relatively few retailers, PwC says. Just 5% of respondents say they shop with more than five multichannel retailers, compared with 57% who say they shop with more than five retailers that don’t sell online and 20% who say they shop with more than five web-only stores, the survey says.

“It’s a bit of an all-or-nothing proposition,” PwC writes in the report. “Those retailers that become multichannel favorites can expect that their online and physical operations to successfully grow in parallel. But others will find that increasing the number of channels won’t necessarily enlarge their customer base.”

Nor is price consumers’ main criterion for where to shop. “Fast and reliable delivery,” “innovative products” and “innovative marketing” are the top three reasons respondents selected as influencing them to increase spending by 10% or more with a retailer, the survey says. Respondents also say they will increase spending at least somewhat with retailers that offer exclusive access to products, store their personal information and allow shoppers to return items to stores, it says.

Additionally, the results indicate that social media is not yet a standalone sales channel, nor is it likely to become one anytime soon, PwC says. Only about 5% of survey respondents say they will make a purchase via social channels in the next 12 months. Rather, PwC says social media users tend to fall into one of three research-focused groups: “brand lovers” interested in new product offerings, “social addicts” searching for friend or expert recommendations and “deal hunters” looking for sales and special promotions.

Chinese shoppers may be the exception. More than half of the 900 Chinese shoppers in the survey—56%—say they make purchases via a social media platform, without indicating which ones, compared with 24% of global shoppers in the survey (respondents in this question reported shopping via social media daily, weekly or less than once a month). They also shop online more frequently compared to the global average: 58% of Chinese respondents versus 29% of global respondents report that they shop online at least once weekly.

However, PwC says it does not suggest that Chinese online shoppers will set the tone for e-commerce globally, as their habits are different from those of their worldwide counterparts. In addition to buying more via social media, Chinese shoppers in the survey put more emphasis on recommendations from friends and experts when shopping and nearly 50% of them report that, on any channel, they shop purely for pleasure, compared with just 16% of global respondents.

“The more minutely retailers and brands can identify what differences do exist among their potential customers, the more they will be able to appeal to these consumers,” PwC says.

If not shoppers, product categories at least share e-commerce traits globally. Whether they research online first or not, more respondents say they usually buy in stores in all categories except books, music, movies and video games, PwC says. Just over 60% of survey respondents say they research and buy those products entirely online.

For electronics, 23% of respondents say they research items online, then buy them in stores, while just 2% say they do the reverse—research in stores then buy online (roughly 45% say they research and buy entirely online and 30%, entirely in stores). Several other categories follow a similar pattern, PwC says.

“With the exception of the books, music, movies and video game category, consumers don’t yet seem ready to erase the traditional retail outlet from their shopping landscape,” the firm says.

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