IBM Study: Shoppers open to online and in-store shopping

New York -- Shoppers diversifying the way they shop for and acquire goods, becoming increasingly open to buying both online and in-store depending on their needs at time of purchase. While more than 80% of shoppers chose the store to make their last non-grocery purchase, only half are committed to returning there next time they buy. These are among the findings of a new IBM study of global consumers.

IBM's research finds that consumers are in a transitional state. According to the study, 35% are unsure whether they would next shop at a store or online. Nine percent are ready to commit to making future purchases online. Of all eight product categories tracked in the survey, the two most popular categories chosen by consumers for an online shift are consumer electronics and luxury items, including jewelry and designer apparel.

"Today's consumer is sophisticated and opportunistic, navigating between store and online environments interchangeably to meet their shopping needs of the moment," said Jill Puleri, Global Retail Leader, IBM Global Business Services. "To satisfy clients, retailers must deliver a consistent, convenient shopping experience across each consumer touch point, extending from the store to online and back again. The key is using data and analytics to better understand the behavior and preferences of shoppers to close the sale."

The IBM study also found that nearly half of online purchases in studied categories resulted from "showrooming." Significantly, nearly a quarter of these online shoppers intended to buy their item in the store, but ultimately purchased online – primarily due to price and convenience.

Retailers must better connect their store and online presence to capture the sale to showroomers, according to IBM. Today, online-only retailers account for one-third of showroomer purchases.

Younger, male and affluent shoppers are most likely to showroom. Although a global phenomenon, there is a higher incidence of showrooming in China (26%) and India (13%) than the U.S. (7%), for example.

The IBM study reveals that consumers are seeking a truly integrated shopping experience. Retailers must better connect their online and physical stores, blending benefits into both at various points in the shopping cycle -- from research to purchase -- to build brand loyalty and repeat sales.

In the store, retailers must infuse digital experiences, enable store associates with the technology to save the sale and embrace consumer-owned technology. Online, retailers most optimize their websites for various devices. The IBM Digital Analytics benchmark found that 70% more consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site on Cyber Monday in 2012 than 2011. However, today's study found that only 3% of shoppers are using retailers' mobile apps.