April 28, 2014, 4:01 PM

Digital will influence half of sales in retail stores by the end of the year

Nearly 70% of consumers go online before they shop in stores, and 36% connect to the web while in stores.

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The Internet is playing an increasingly big role in how consumers shop in retail stores. New research from Deloitte Digital says digital interactions will influence 50 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores at the end of 2014—equal to roughly $1.5 trillion of store spending—up from 36 cents in November 2013, when Deloitte ran its online survey with more than 2,000 U.S. consumers. The firm says it projects that $1.1 trillion to $1.5 trillion growth rate based on two things: the increased adoption of smartphones and the increase comfort level among digital device users.

A majority of consumers in the survey, 69%, say they already check the web before they head to stores; 36% say they use digital devices like smartphones while shopping in stores; and 14% say the use the web post-purchase. Deloitte estimates consumers using mobile devices while in stores already influence $593 billion in retail store sales, and that shoppers using smartphones or tablets convert in stores at a rate 40% greater than consumers who do not use those devices in stores.

Retailers should take a broad view of the role digital and stores play across consumers’ shopping journeys, says Jeff Simpson, director of Deloitte Consulting LLP. He says retailers may not be seeing the whole picture if they only look at their metrics by channel. “Retailers might regard online shopping cart abandonment as a failed conversion when, in reality, it may represent a customer who started their wish list in the online basket, but chose to purchase the items in the store,” he says. “In that case, digital engagement may have led to a sale in the physical store.”

Deloitte says the retail categories most prone to digital influence are electronics/appliances (58% of respondents said digital influenced their purchases), furniture (56%) and sporting goods (50%), while the retail categories least influenced by the web are drug store/convenience store (35%), grocery (29%) and general merchandise (23%).

For more on the growing role of digital at the store level, read The Digital Future of Stores from the March 2014 issue of Internet Retailer magazine

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