July 6, 2006, 12:00 AM

Multi-channel shoppers spend big, but don’t carry loyalty across channels

Cross-channel shoppers are better educated and have higher incomes than those who don’t shop across channels, a new Forrester study finds. But retailers must work hard to keep that web-to-store spending corralled.

Cross-channel shoppers have major buying power, according to a recent report from Forrester Research: in addition to what they buy online, they influenced more than $125 billion a year in offline sales last year, up 8% over 2004. But with a willingness to hop channels comes a willingness to switch brands, a fact that needs to be addressed strategically by multi-channel retailers, according to Forrester.


Abut 55% of U.S. online consumers cross-channel shop by researching a product online and then buying it offline, according to Forrester’s report, “Understanding U.S. Cross-Channel Shoppers. Those cross-channel shoppers are better educated and have higher incomes than those who don’t shop cross-channel. 49% of them have college degrees, compared with only 31% of non-cross channel shoppers; their average household income is $74,302 compared to $58,672.


Of the $125 billion cross-channel shoppers spent offline after researching online, complex purchases such as consumer electronics, appliances, and computer hardware captured the largest portion of those dollars, together representing about $44.5 million in offline purchases last year. Forrester also found that Wal-Mart, Target and the Home Depot captures the most cross-channel shoppers last year in the offline world. Amazon, eBay and Overstock.com captured the largest share of cross-channel shoppers’ online spending.


Although cross-channel shoppers spend big in stores, they don’t necessarily carry store loyalty across channels, Forrester’s research found. 49% of those surveyed said they bought their most recent cross channel purchase from a different offline retailer than the one where they conducted their online research. To keep those offline dollars corralled, online retailers where shoppers do research “should lead these folks by the hand as they cross channels,” says report author and Forrester analyst Tamara Mendelsohn. Among those tactics, retailers can facilitate in-store pick-up of online orders, and offer store-only coupons and incentives online, Forrester suggests.


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