Survey Indicates Benefits of Merging Technology with In-Person Shopping Experience

Consumer habits were altered dramatically during the pandemic with many stores shuttered due to shutdowns and lack of in person sales. U.S. retail ecommerce surged nearly 20-percent in 2020 and is expected to see growth of another 8.7-percent this year. Although this is a much smaller gain than the rapid growth during the height of the pandemic, it’s still significant. Revenue was $285.9 million in 2017, and by 2025, is expected to nearly double to $563.4 million. With this unprecedented growth in ecommerce, the questions looms—how will brick and mortar retail compete? A recent survey by Reflect Systems sought to answer this question.

The report released by Reflect examines consumer perceptions and preferences on both online and in-person shopping, revealing a significant desire for more technological advancements in brick-and-mortar stores that mimic the convenience and benefits of online shopping to inspire customers to return to stores. The survey of 1,684 respondents, conducted in August 2021, revealed that 60-percent preferred to do more than half of their shopping online. However, the findings also indicated that there is a significant interest in the use of in-store technology to enhance the in-person shopping experience.

Findings include:

  • 67-percent of respondents said what they miss most about in-person shopping is interacting with products and knowing what they’re getting.
  • 80-percent of under-30 shoppers are more likely to shop in person than online if a store has interactive screens with product information, product comparisons and/or reviews.
  • 55-percent said they prefer to shop in-person for food and grocery items, above any other product category.
  • Surprisingly, only 56-percent of younger Millennials (under 30) prefer to shop online vs. almost 70-percent of older Millennials (30-44).
  • 43-percent of shoppers say the Delta variant will not have an impact on how much they shop in person.

Further insights from the study revealed a strong interest in specific technologies that can bring online features to brick and mortar stores. These findings include:

  • 56-percent of respondents said product reviews would be the most helpful feature from online shopping they would like to see in-store, with price comparison second at 39-percent.
  • 46-percent said they prefer a more DIY shopping experience, with self-service options.
  • 83-percent believe informative digital screens would save time during shopping trips.
  • Of those who do the majority of their shopping online, nearly 50-percent say that informative, interactive displays would be the most enticing feature for them to shop in person.

These findings highlight the importance of the physical retailer to blend digital with in-person shopping to provide benefits that can only be found online such as the ability to check stock or quickly access reviews. QR codes can allow customers to see an item in person but then quickly add it to an online cart and purchase on their personal device. Consumers still like to see, touch and feel product but want more convenience and ease in their shopping experience. Technology can bridge that gap and assist companies in finding that sweet spot to entice consumers back into physical stores and provide the in-person experience they crave.

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