A new report by GfK covering 17 countries reveals some very interesting trends in online and offline shopping behaviours.
GfK’s 2014 FutureBuy report, a global study of shopping habits and preferences, provides some comforting news for omnichannel retailers, but a dire warning for retail marketers not yet advanced in mobile commerce.
Incidents of smartphone “showrooming” – seeing a product in a store, then buying it online from another retailer using a smartphone – dropped from 37% in the US last year to 28% in 2014. But “webrooming,” in which consumers buy in a store after researching a purchase online using a smartphone, was reported by an even higher proportion of respondents, 41%.
Use of a smartphone or tablet to “webroom” topped “showrooming” on those devices by 12 to 14 percentage points among Baby Boomers (ages 50 to 68) and Generations X (35 to 49) and Y (25 to 34). (See Table 1.) Only Generation Z preferred showrooming – and not by much.
Table 1. Showrooming versus Webrooming Using a Smartphone
(% reporting behavior in past 6 months)
||Generation Z(18 to 24)
||Generation Y(25 to 34)
||Generation X(35 to 49)
|| Boomers(50 to 68)
Across 15 product and service categories studied, 44% of US shoppers reported combining online and in-person shopping activities – a jump of 7 percentage points versus 2013. Once limited primarily to “big ticket” purchases, this “omni-channel” behavior is surging in even lower-priced categories such as Beauty and Personal Care (reported by 39% of US shoppers), Lawn and Garden (29%), and Food and Beverage (22%).
The largest US increases in omni-channel shopping came in Home Improvement (57%, up 19 points from 2013), Auto (also 57%, up 14 points), and OTC Medications (27%, up 12 points).
US shoppers who decided to make their purchases in a bricks-and-mortar environment were motivated by key differentiators such as “see and feel before buying” (58% prefer bricks and mortar, versus 9% online), “get products sooner” (53% versus 16%), and “hassle-free returns” (35% versus 10%). When online was the preferred purchase venue, attributes such as “save money” (61% versus 28%), “easier” (53% versus 24%), and “better selection” (46% versus 16%) were deciding factors.
Though PCs and laptops still account for the lion’s share of online research and purchases, mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are playing a growing role. Internet shopping via a traditional home computer (PC or laptop) dropped from 78% to 63% in the US in just one year, while use of mobile devices doubled – from 8% to 15% for smartphones, and 5% to 10% for tablets.
Rises in smartphone shopping were more dramatic among Generations Z and Y, while tablets recorded significant upticks with Generation X and Boomers. (See Table 2.) Tablets have very consistent (though currently lower) usage for shopping across generations, while smartphones clearly skew younger.
Table 2. Use of Smartphones and Tablets for Online Shopping
(Incidents in Past 6 Months)
||Generation Z (18 to 24)
||Generation Y (25 to 34)
||Generation X (35 to 49)
|| Boomers (50 to 68)
* Percentage point change versus 2013
“The big takeaway from this year’s FutureBuy study is how dynamic the shopper environment has become,” says Joe Beier, Executive Vice President of GfK’s Shopper and Retail Strategy team in North America. “We are seeing double-digit point changes in metrics designed to measure relatively foundational behaviors, such as omni-channel and devices used to shop. This volatility, combined with significant variability in shopper behavior by category and generation, makes it even more imperative that manufacturers and marketers build out an up-to-date and nuanced shopper insights platform, from which highly engaging and relevant programming can be developed. Without these insights, brands are simply in ‘hit-or-miss’ mode in execution; and, given how fast this space is moving, that is not going to be a formula for marketplace success going forward.”