Survey: In-store experience still critical to shoppers

The COVID-19 pandemic and an uptick in digitization are blurring shopper distinction between online and brick-and-mortar channels.

Three-quarters (74%) of respondents have an omnichannel shopping preference that includes going to a local store at one point or another, according to “The New Face of Local,” a survey of over 1,000 U.S. consumers and analysis of the local online performance of nearly 80,000 business locations from Uberall and MomentFeed. Fewer than 18% of respondents prefer to research and buy products only online.

In addition, two-thirds (66%) of respondents are more likely to buy something online when they can return it to a local store.

“This is a strong indicator that consumers want a real-life experience in their journey – whether to evaluate the physical product in a store and/or the convenience of being able to take it home the same day,” said Nick Hedges, chief strategy officer & executive VP North America, Uberall. “Though the internet is having a profound impact on consumer decisions, both enterprises and small-to-mid-sized businesses need to understand the relationship between online and offline behavior to succeed going forward.” 

A recent TreasureData survey of U.S. consumers about their holiday shopping plans also indicates strong omnichannel preferences. Nearly half of survey respondents (47%) planned to do a combination of in-store and online shopping for the holidays, with almost four in 10 (39%) skipping brick-and-mortar altogether in favor of e-commerce options. This means 86% of respondents will make at least some of their holiday purchases online.

In addition, 69% of respondents to the Uberall survey use Google to find local business information, including reviews. However, more than 20% also use Apple Maps, Yelp and/or Yahoo to find information about nearby businesses. Industry-specific websites and apps (e.g. travel, real estate, restaurants) are also important, with one out of five respondents using these platforms.

Globally, Uberall found that non-branded search queries became more dominant during the pandemic, meaning that consumers search for the what (“bookshop near me”), not the who (e.g. “Barnes & Noble near me”).

“Google is the center of gravity for local search but it’s not the only tool consumers use to discover local information,” said Greg Sterling, VP of insights, Uberall. “People use a range of sites and apps, which often change by industry or category.” 

Other interesting findings include:

  • 75% of respondents will still shop locally after the pandemic is over.
  • There was a 35% year-over-year increase in conversions via websites and phone calls in 2020.
  • 22% of respondents use buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) services.
  • The top influence on local purchase decisions is price (65%).

“The data shows that a return to in-person shopping is slowly but surely reaching pre-pandemic numbers,” said Hedges. “Furthermore, the importance of local stores can’t be understated. The data shows that Americans are willing to go out of their way in many cases to support local businesses that they trust.”

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