The Changing Face of Digital and Physical Shopping



The Internet has dramatically changed the ways that people browse, shop for, and purchase their goods. The landscape has evolved; physical storefronts now compete, interact with, and employ digital storefronts and software. This gives shoppers far more options than ever before. However, in light of these changes, the boundaries between traditional and online stores have blurred, creating the omnichannel marketing approach by big brands.

How Shopping Habits Have Changed

Last year, GoMontana,a coupon aggregator website,conducted a survey to explore how the changes in consumer habits have altered the relationship between online and physical stores. A total of 5,000 USA consumers were surveyed, and the findings were quite intriguing indeed.

In 2019, about 85% of people surveyed said that the quality of their shopping experience for an online store has an impact on their brand loyalty overall. Furthermore, 79% of Americans agreed that traditional brick-and-mortar outlets have just 3 years to innovate a friendly and robust online shopping experience for their customers to remain viable.

“Providing further insight into this, the survey finds that up to 42% of Americans say that they have previously visited a physical storefront for the first time, with their decision strongly being influenced by the positive experience they had engaging with the store’s online counterpart. Amongst millennials, that number sees a dramatic increase to 60% in strong part due to millennials’ usage of the internet, computers, and smart devices for shopping which is at historically high levels since the beginning of the century,”says Christine Brown,founder of GoMontana. This gives strong credence to the idea that bolstering one’s online retail presence can strongly mitigate the effects of overall declining customer engagement with traditional stores that are affecting brick-and-mortar retail across the board.

Improvement in and even mastery of the online shopping experience can often ensure a brand’s success in both the physical and online retail worlds. This improvement and resulting customer influx are not achieved without innovation, however.

Features that Shoppers Want to See

It has been found that 66% of Americans in the survey identified at least one of the following features as critical to ensuring an optimal first experience at a physical store:

  • self-service automated checkouts
  • modern smart shelving employing sensors to automatically track inventory levels
  • conveniently-placed pop-up style shops intended for high traffic locations
  • the incorporation of the emerging fields of augmented and virtual reality technology in the retail space.

One major influencer that can help to bridge the gap between physical and online retail is the humble aerial drone. Drone technology is currently in development, and is being widely experimented with for its potential as a reliable delivery device.

With this gradual growth in mind, it would seem opinions are still mixed, however. Indeed, overall 40% of American customers reported in the survey that they were positive about drone-made deliveries whilst 60% are sceptical or opposed to the concept. Of that 60%, 38% view the technology as unnecessary and a further 22% view it as outright disturbing.

Conversely, millennials’ outlook on drone delivery service appears to be more lukewarm to positive. 55% reported on the survey that they are positive about the usage of drones for deliveries, with 31% regarding it as a cool concept, and 25% considering it an efficient new means of purchase delivery.

When the survey explores the critical human aspect of the online store-physical store interactions, the numbers are equally interesting. A large 84% of customers indicated a preference for human interaction rather than just technology only whilst utilising various aspects of a physical store, however this number has a number of caveats.

Indeed, the survey finds this number changes when specific retail situations are taken into account. For example, 57% prefer human interaction with locating merchandise, whilst 58% of customers prefer technology for check-out and a further 67% prefer technology for various shopping recommendations.

One consistent element amongst all the different preferences of customer experience in physical retail and online retail is the privacy and security of personal data. Most, at 66% would rather forgo dispensing their personal data to improve and personalise their retail experience in favour of greater privacy whilst 34% indicating acceptance to share some data for personalisation purposes. 

What to Expect

GoMontana’s survey for 2019 also extended to consumers in Germany,UK and Australia as well. A similar survey conducted by Hellodiya on Indian consumers showed similar trends as well. Overall findings do seem to indicate that the best way forward for traditional brick-and-mortar businesses and brands for much of the world is to establish a robust and innovative online retail presence that offers the most positive experiences possible for potential customers. Even online retail chains have to move to bricks to gain wider exposure.

With all these in mind, the worlds of online shopping and traditional trips to the store may yet prove to be the best of partners when implemented prudently and cleverly by each business in question.

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