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What next for the shopping mall? the blended shopping experience

The advent of digital has changed – and continues to change – the way we shop for everything, from clothes to cars.

Our latest research shows that rather than seeing digital as a one stop shop, consumers are enjoying an omnichannel shopping experience that blends digital with traditional bricks and mortar retailers to create a new kind of purchase journey.

With omnichannel shopping, the norm amongst consumers across the spectrum and new innovations, like L’Oreal’s virtual kiosk for make up on-the go, it’s entirely reasonable to wonder what’s next for the shopping mall or high street. Digital is undoubtedly having a huge impact on where, when and how we shop but there are significant differences by category and by demographic making this a complex area to understand. For example, omnichannel shopping now stands at 67% across all categories.

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Consumers have been favoring an omnichannel shopping experience for large ticket items and durables for a while already, now even day-to-day household needs such as cleaning products and food and beverages scored 17% and 19% respectively.

Research from FutureBuy, GfK’s study into the behavior and preferences of 17,000 shoppers, shows that while popular, online shopping is typically associated with functional attributes whereas traditional bricks and mortar retail environments are associated with softer, more sociable benefits. More than half (55%) of respondents describe online shopping as being “easy” compared to 44% of offline shoppers.

While “fast” (54%), “effortless” (47%) and “organized” (35%) were attributes most often used to describe the online shopping experience, more sociable associations were typically made of the bricks and mortar experience: “safe” (47%), “personal” (42%) and “friendly” (38%). Clearly there is a role for both, and consumers are becoming adept at blending them.

While there was significant positivity amongst respondents towards bricks and mortar retail establishments in the shopping mall, GfK FutureBuy revealed a continuing trend towards web shopping. Of particular note is a significant increase in the number of respondents searching the web for the best price. While in last year’s survey 47% said they compared prices between stores online, searching for the best price is now the top activity with 72%. Making a purchase also grew from 47% to 66% .This difference between internet usage for price comparison and actual purchases suggests that there is a continuing role for the shopping mall alongside the virtual store.

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An increase in the incidence of webrooming, where consumers browse online before going in store to purchase, further underlines the important balance that exists between the online and offline retail environments. 24% of respondents reported webrooming in the last 12 months, which suggests that there is a need for retailers to achieve synergies across their online and offline channels in order to satisfy consumers’ expectations of the purchase journey.

With webrooming being relatively universal across the generations, there is substantial evidence which supports the idea that this type of behavior, whereby shoppers move seamlessly between the online and offline environment, is likely to grow.

With consumers increasingly dictating their own purchase journey and expressing a preference for omnichannel shopping as well as services such as click and collect, the challenge for retailers is to provide a connected experience that blends the best of the online and offline shopping experience and allows both to exist side-by-side to meet consumers’ different needs.

For further information please contact Adrian Sanger, Global Head of Shopper and Retail Strategy.

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