Recent studies explain why many still shop in physical stores

October 2, 2014

Brick-and-mortar stores still lure many more consumers than websites do.

The retail industry reflects the digital reliance of the modern world. As a result of computers, smartphones and tablets, millions of dollars of retail sales occur online. 

Amazon was founded approximately 20 years ago and has changed the face of retail commerce. A Forrester study revealed that despite recent innovations, 92 percent of retail sales in the U.S. still happen in physical stores, reported iMediaconnection. The brick-and-mortar stores still lure many more consumers than websites do. It is a puzzling situation as online shopping is made increasingly easy and versatile.

Studies reveal why people still rely heavily on going to physical store locations
According to a study by Ripen eCommerce, 30.8 percent of customers have stopped making online purchases because they cannot touch or feel the products, reported iMediaconnection. Unlike in the real world where a consumer can pick up and inspect a product, on the internet a consumer relies on pictures, descriptions and reviews.

Forbes writer Rebecca Heller believes that for some people, simply learning about a product online is enough, and that consumers do not need to physically experience having a product in their possession before purchasing it. 

“In some product categories such as electronics, online buying makes more sense. Products that can be easily researched and compared, with a purchase decision based largely on price, provide few compelling reasons to go out to a store,” wrote Heller. 

Retail security online 
Consumers sensing a lack of security online is another major deterrent from making online purchases. While retailers take extra caution in ensuring that customer financial information is secure, sometimes this fact is not communicated to the consumer. As a result, many potential sales are lost.  In a 2013 shopping behavior survey by Cisco Consulting, retailers were ranked below healthcare entities, government agencies and financial institutions, with regards to confidence in security and data protection, reported

Customer service was another issue affecting sales online. In physical stores, customer support is a given. If a consumer wants to ask questions about a product, they can easily walk over to a customer service representative. Online ordering adds a whole new dimension to the need for customer service however. As products are often shipped to consumers, wrong sizes, incorrect products, shipment delays and damaged goods are all concerns that must be addressed by customer service staff. According to a study by Accenture, it is a customer’s natural inclination to want to deal with support staff, reported the news source. 

One more reason why many people are not fully comfortable with shopping online is because unlike going to a store and taking an item home, online retail involves more than one business entity. Usually orders are processed in one location, shipped from another location and delivered by a third-party courier. With that many steps involved in the process of receiving a purchased product, some consumers worry about reliability. A study by Triangle Management Services found that 39 percent of merchants consider reliability to be a significant reason that they are not seeing increases in their sales, according to iMediaconnection.

What will the future of online retail hold?
In the Cisco research, respondents indicated that in the future, a mobile app that creates a personalized experience to guide them in their shopping would be well received. The app could be an amalgam of special deals, favorite retailer offers and an online payment system rolled into one platform. The internet certainly has massive potential for retail customization, but it will depend on consumers being willing to trust retailers with their personal information. If retailers can improve consumer confidence in security and make their experience more user-friendly in terms of sales support, then perhaps more people will shop online.

Back To Blog