Study: Mobile isn't the end for brick-and-mortar stores

Despite all the buzz around showrooming and mobile shopping, retailers will be relieved to know that brick-and-mortar stores are still important for 90 percent of shoppers, according to a study published by the e-tailing group with online local media company Local Corporation.

The study analyzed responses from more than 1,000 consumers to explore consumer shopping behavior across mobile devices, including their preferences and plans for researching and purchasing products.

Initial findings revealed that consumer takes a personalized path to purchase, utilizing multiple devices, from PCs to smartphones to tablets. A physical store is still important for 90 percent of shoppers, and 60 percent of respondents reported that they have researched products and services several times a month using a mobile device, while PCs still play an important role in the shopping process.

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"The path to purchase has changed very quickly over the past few years from, a relatively predictable, linear progression with less channels and options, to something much more fluid and personal," said Sherry Thomas-Zon, vice president of local shopping, Local Corporation. "The challenge for national brands and retail marketers is to keep pace with consumers as they move among devices and locations and to provide timely, compelling, engaging information that guides them to the purchase."

How consumers are using smartphones and tablets

Although the physical store is still an important part of the shopping experience, the study results show that retailers will find it challenging to follow consumers across an increased number of connected devices and shopping journeys. The survey highlights how savvy consumers take the reigns of their shopping experience even within the brick-and mortar-store:

  • Almost two out of three shoppers use at least one device to research and transact while shopping and 28 percent use two devices at a time
  • More than one in three shoppers has made at least one purchase via their mobile devices over the past six months, and tablet shoppers have an even higher propensity to purchase with their tablet, with one in four having purchased six times or more in the past six months.
  • 47 percent of consumers confirm they use their smartphone to search for local information, including information about the local store they want to visit.
  • Prior to visiting a store,they use smartphones to conduct further research including looking for competitors' pricing, checking for sales, previewing products and reading reviews.
  • 46 percent of shoppers look up prices on a store's mobile site where they intend to shop and 42 percent check inventory prior to shopping in the store.Keeping them in the store

"We learned that once again the customer is in control and will consume information in ways that are convenient for them, said Lauren Freedman, president, the e-tailing group inc. "They are increasingly leveraging mobile devices to power their browsing and shopping activities. Retailers and brands have to be flexible and adjust to these behaviors and be able to deliver not only timely but relevant, localized information."

Because mobile devices give consumers the power to demand better prices and more product info, brick-and-mortar retailers must deliver. Thomas-Zon said they'll have to excel in these areas:

  • Competive pricing: Retailers can't be afraid to show competitors' prices. Of course, they will want to match them as well.
  • In-store product ratings and reviews: Digital Signs and kiosks at the shelf could feature the latest product reviews. Shoppers should be able to scan bar codes to access more info.
  • Access to coupons: Kiosks should feature loyalty programs where consumers check in and get coupons.

"Retailers have to find solutions," Thomas-Zon said. "It's pretty clear from study that a lot of focus has been on what influences purchases, but the last mile needs to be a solution around keeping (consumers) in the store. What can you do to help the consumer finish the purchase and feel confident, so they don't walk out?"

Read more about consumer behavior.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Jeff Weidauer
    I agree that retailers have to find solutions. It may be true that 90% of shoppers still value brick & mortar, the tide is changing quickly. Competing on price alone isn't the answer, as online sellers will always have the upper hand. The challenge is finding a differentiator that online players can't copy.

    For example: want to keep shoppers in the store? How about providing a salesperson who a) knows the products, b) has a passion for them, and c) can provide useful information? Too difficult? Check out an Apple store.

    Retail has changed forever, and is time for retailers to change as well. It can't be just about price any longer; there's too much transparency and too little leverage on the brick & mortar side for a price-central strategy.
  • Cindy Ford
    I agree with Jeff's example of Apples' ability to egage shoppers at the brick and mortar level. My experience every time I enter their store has been positive. Nordstrom (at least the shoe dept.) is another great example. The sales staff took time to help me find exactly what I was looking for. The article is correct that shoppers are using digital means to research (I did before going to Apple and Nordstrom). However, the personal experience provided by both these companies made it desirable to make the actual purchase in their brick and mortar environment.
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