April 19, 2013, 1:17 PM

Consumers want to easily move across shopping channels

Many already go from web to store and vice versa.

Lead Photo

Consumers are going to stores to examine products, pulling out their smartphones to check prices and sometimes buying online. They also often go online before a store visit. And they expect to do more of this cross-channel shopping and would like retailers to make it easier to do, according to a survey by consulting firm Accenture.

There are, however, big differences in shopper behavior depending on what they’re buying. Consumers shopping for apparel and consumer electronics will frequently use stores, mobile devices and the web to gather information. That’s far less true for the everyday items consumers overwhelmingly buy in bricks-and-mortar supermarkets and drug stores, according to the survey of 750 U.S. consumers.

Nonetheless, consumers are adamant that they want cross-channel shopping to be easy. 89% say it’s important for retailers to let them shop the way they want, and a plurality—49%—say the best thing retailers can do to make shopping more convenient is to better integrate in-store, online and mobile shopping, according to the “Accenture Seamless Retail Study” released this week.

There is often a big discrepancy between consumer expectations of easy shopping across channels and retailer performance, says Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s retail practice. “In many cases we have found a significant gap between consumer expectations and reality, but we believe seamlessness is achievable,” Donnelly says. “Traditional retailers must take stock of their operational capabilities. They require a presence at every stage of the customer journey to deliver a consistently personalized, on-brand experience from discovery through research, purchase, fulfillment and beyond to product maintenance or returns.”

As examples of disconnects, Accenture points out that while 73% of consumers expect retailers to offer the same prices online as in stores a separate Accenture survey of top retailers indicates that’s the case for only 16% of retailers that operate stores and sell on the web. And while 43% of shoppers expect the same product assortment online and in store, that’s true for only 19% of multichannel retailers, Accenture says. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, offers more than 10 times as many items at Walmart.com as in a typical Wal-Mart store, according to company executives.

Other findings from the Accenture survey include:

  • Consumers are shopping more online for home delivery than they did a year ago. 44.7% of respondents said more, 50.5% said less and 4.8% the same. But only 12.4% said they’re buying online more often for in-store pickup, and 6.5% buying more in-store for shipment to their homes. 18.3% said they’re buying more often in-store and carrying products home than they did a year ago, while 5.2% said less, and 76.5% the same.
  • When it comes to shopping for holiday gifts, 52.9% say they already shop this way via the web or mobile devices and 38.1% say they expect to do that more often in the future. 6.0% never expect to shop via the web or mobile devices for holiday gifts and 2.9% don’t buy holiday gifts.
  • 94% of consumers say it’s easy to shop in stores and 74% say it’s easy to shop online, but only 26% say the same about shopping on mobile devices.
  • 43.1% of shoppers say they expect to shop online more in the future and only 3.3% less; 8.9% expect to shop more in stores and 11.7% less; 23.1% say they’ll shop more via mobile devices and 17.2% less.
  • Asked how often in the past six months they had browsed in stores before purchasing online or through a mobile device, 51.2% said one to three times, 15.7% said four to nine times, 5.9% said 10 times or more and 27.2% said never. 40.7% said they expect to engage more often in this “showrooming” behavior, 52.9% said the same amount and only 6.4% less.
  • Retail categories most often viewed in-store and then purchased online were apparel and accessories (48.7%), consumer electronics (42.7%), department stores (33.0%) and mass merchants/discount stores (26.9%). Only 6.9% said they browsed in grocery stores and then bought online.
  • Asked how often in the past six months they had browsed online or on mobile devices before purchasing in stores, 44.1% said one to three times, 26.8% said four to nine times, 16.7% said 10 or more times and 12.4% never. 45.2% say they do this more often than a year ago, 52.2% the same and 2.6% less. Apparel and accessories led the way, cited by 52.5%, and 50.5% said they’d researched consumer electronics online before purchasing in a store. 33.9% said they had researched home improvement products online before going to a store, although only 22.3% said they had checked out products in a home improvement store and then bought online.
  • Asked about same-day delivery, only 18.5% said it was important and 5.2% very important. Only 13.6% said they would pay more than $20 to receive an item the same day, 18.8% said $11-20, 30.3% $5-10 and 37.3% under $5.
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