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IBM: Most shoppers eager to return to stores

shoppers walking

The tides may be turning for brick-and-mortar stores, with consumers indicating a strong desire, once they are vaccinated, to return to malls and shopping centers.

Seventy-three percent of consumers who typically visited shopped centers intend to return again after they have been vaccinated, according to a global consumer study released by IBM's Institute for Business Value. The biggest categories that will see shifts toward in-person shopping are toys, games and hobbies, at 121%, and apparel, footwear and accessories, at 76%.

To attract vaccinated shoppers to physical stores, retailers should  look to in-store promotions, which ranked as the most compelling reason for consumers to shop in a physical store, especially for Gen X (54%) and those over 55 (52%). 

The ability to purchase local products that are not available online, such as small batch food products and hand-made apparel, is another key driver of in-store shopping, according to the study.  

While people may be eager to return to in-store shopping, shopping and buying behaviors that gained momentum during the pandemic will likely continue. One in five consumers plan to primarily shop online in each product category, according to the study. Convenience is the main reason global consumers continue to shop online, followed by value and. the wide variety of available products.  

In addition, nearly one in four shoppers in the United States and the U.K. say they don’t feel safe shopping in-store and that they don’t find the in-person shopping experience enjoyable anymore.

“This means safety and customer experience could be a top priority for brands and retailers as they navigate the post-pandemic marketplace,” the report stated. “However, designing a frictionless shopping experience may be even more important.”

Aligning inventory, pricing, and purchase information in-store and online, for example, will be necessary as companies work to create a seamless multi-channel experience. Overall, converging digital touchpoints with physical locations will be key to competitiveness in the future, according to IBM.

"Habits formed during the COVID-19 pandemic have raised consumers' expectations of digital engagement, especially in service industries like retail, travel & transportation," said Jesus Mantas, senior managing partner, IBM Global Business Services. "As we anticipate the 'post-COVID-19 pandemic normal,' businesses should accelerate their digital evolution with AI and cloud-based solutions to help remain competitive. Investing in hybrid physical and digital experiences can help provide a more personalized experience."

The full IBM study is available here.

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