Why People Buy Online vs In Store – Not What You Think

By Grant Arnott | 11 May 2016

A recent report from GFK Global, which surveyed 23,000 shoppers, busts a few myths and delivers some surprising insights into the drivers of online purchase decision-making.

An interesting report released this month by GFK Global presents some persuasive insights into the core drivers informing customer’s choice of purchasing online versus in-store. Conventional wisdom (and most evidence) suggests the appeal of online shopping is cost savings, broader choice, immediacy and convenience. Conversely, in-store shopping is perceived to appeal for the face-to-face interaction, instant gratification of receiving goods upon purchase, and the tactile experience of physically interacting with product.

However, GfK’s FutureBuy study reveals that the division is not as clear cut as expected. GfK asked 23,000 shoppers within 17 industries across APAC, LATAM, Europe, North America and the Middle East to think about the last time they were deciding whether to purchase something online versus in a store, and indicate what swayed their decision one way or the other.

The most important factors that shoppers say swayed their decision to make their purchase online rather than in-store are: saving money (the clear leader at 55 percent), easier shopping (28 percent), a better selection of goods (26 percent) and faster shopping (25 percent). The fifth most popular factor was equally divided, with one in five shoppers (21 percent) saying they chose online because they get better information there, and the same number saying it was because they are routinely shopping there already.

Most important factors driving a choice to purchase online

1 Save money (better pricing, deals) 55%
2 Shopping is easier 28%
3 Better selection 26%
4 Shopping is faster 25%
5= Get better information 21%
5= I’m routinely shopping there already 21%
Source: GfK FutureBuy survey of 23,000 shoppers in APAC, LATAM, Europe, North America, Middle East

Ho hum, you say. Of course! However, four of those reasons for deciding to buy online also show up in the top five most important factors that drive people to buy in-store.

For purchases where shoppers chose to buy in-store rather than online, the leading factor swaying that decision are because they can see and feel the products before they buy (51 percent) – no surprise there.

However, the next most popular reasons are more interesting.

A third (33 percent) said they chose to make a specific purchase in-store rather than online because shopping is easier in-store – compare this to the 28 percent who felt that online shopping was easier. The next highest reason for choosing in-store is that returns are less hassle (29 percent), closely followed by the fact that the shopper is routinely shopping there already (28 percent). The fifth most popular influencer for buying in-store was equally divided between getting better information and saving money (both 22 percent).

Most important factors driving a choice to purchase in-store

1 Let’s me see and feel the products before I buy 51%
2 Shopping is easier 33%
3 Returns are more hassle-free 29%
4 I’m routinely shopping there already 28%
5= Get better information 22%
5= Save money (better pricing, deals) 22%
Source: GfK FutureBuy survey of 23,000 shoppers in APAC, LATAM, Europe, North America, Middle East

“These results point toward two key implications,” said James Llewellyn, director of shopper research at GfK. “The first is that the drivers for physical retail versus online retail are not differentiated to the extent that we expect. For example, expert advice is not a key distinguisher one way or the other. To sustain footfall, it is therefore imperative that retailers (and their manufacturer partners) innovate to create reasons to visit, to increase propensity to buy your store, category or brand. We expect that, despite a brief hiatus, physical retail touch points will become more important than ever.

“The second implication is that, to succeed in the future, retail needs to create synergy between on and offline, not diversity. In the end it’s the same shoppers looking to fulfil the same need states with the same products and services.  In future there will be less debate about on and offline, and renewed focus on the fundamentals of choice, price, convenience and experience, and how to meet and exceed shopper expectations in each and across all.”

More insights on international shopper trends (choice, price, convenience and experience) are available in GfK’s Future of Retail report.

2 Comments

2 thoughts on “Why People Buy Online vs In Store – Not What You Think”

  1. C. A. says:

    I am in favour of IN-Store shopping all the way. It’s fun to shop, and look around and compare
    things. You can easily return something if it doesn’t fit or if it’s broken. It’s fun to get out
    and you can shop and stop for lunch or a coffee in the Mall. What’s not to like about it.
    I think people today are becoming so lazy, or they just love their phones so much that they
    can’t even bother to go to a store.
    “Online” shopping is too much of a hassle and they need so much private information from
    people. One can never know what they do with all that information.

  2. I recently wanted to upgrade my cycling glasses and settled on a pair of Oakley Jawbreakers. So down to the Oakley store we go. I was able to find a model I liked but not in the lens I wanted. I quickly compared pricing in store to online and found that the store was a $100 more expensive (roughly a half) . I settled on buying this through Wiggle in the end and also went for an aftermarket lens which I trusted.

    Moral of the story is, I was surprised that the “Brand Store” was more expensive.
    In store is ok if you are in a hurry.
    Retail should not complain that business is declining, price is king!

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