Consumers worldwide combining in-store visits, online product research when making purchases; across 12 categories, 37% of US shoppers, 29% of global shoppers engage in 'omni-channel' shopping, whose rise seems to be linked to mobile device penetration

NEW YORK , October 3, 2013 (press release) – In new global study, levels of “omni-channel” shopping vary widely by category, country

Across the globe, consumers are freely mingling in-store visits, online product research, and other information sources when making purchases large and small. A new GfK study shows that, across 12 categories, 37% of US shoppers – and 29% globally – are turning to both online and in-store shopping when making purchases. The extent of this “omni-channel” shopping phenomenon varies by category and country and seems to be tied to the rise in mobile device penetration.

“The future of shopping is already in full swing”

In keeping with its commitment to fully understand the ways that digital technology and other factors are transforming shopping, GfK has been conducting an annual Futurebuy study of global shopping habits since 2009. The just-released 2013 report is based on 8,400 interviews in 14 countries.

At next week’s Shopper Marketing Expo in Chicago, GfK’s Sarah Gleason (SVP, Shopper and Retail Strategy) will join Lenette Jorgensen (Senior Trade Marketing Manager, LEGO) to present “Transforming the Shopping Experience.” The session, which takes place October 9th at 8:15AM, will incorporate insights from Futurebuy.

According to the new study, US shoppers are most likely to combine online and in-person sources when buying consumer electronics (70%), toys (66%), apparel (58%), and home appliances (57%). At the low end of the omni-channel spectrum in the US are cleaning products (14%), OTC medications (15%), and food and beverages (15%).

These category differences are amplified by geographic variations. In consumer electronics, for example, the US has by far the highest level of omni-channel behavior (70%); Chile is a distant second (56%), and the global average is 46%. In beauty and personal care, however, China is the global leader (57%), with the US tied for fifth with Bulgaria and Romania (all at 31%).

“The future of shopping is already in full swing,” said Alison Chaltas, EVP of Shopper and Retail Strategy at GfK. “Retailers need to embrace and market to shoppers’ fast-changing habits and preferences, providing a well calibrated mix of information, service, and promotion. It is also essential to have a unified message and brand across platforms. The holy grail in this new environment will be creating an integrated and consistent message to shoppers that you are ready to serve them wherever they go – in store, online, and along the way.”

US shoppers cited logical reasons for choosing the in-store experience: “Lets me see and feel products” (cited by 64% of omni-channel shoppers) and “Can get products sooner” (63%) were selected most often. By contrast, factors driving online shopping were almost completely different – with “Saves money” and “Saves gas money” tied (63% each) as most mentioned.

“We clearly see that brick-and-mortar stores still matter for a variety of items,” said Joe Beier, EVP of Shopper and Retail Strategy at GfK. “But the role of stores in the shopping and buying experience is changing dramatically. Retailers need to find new and different ways to draw people in, through value-added services and a truly shopper-centric experience.”

Across the globe, one third (33%) of all shoppers report using a cellphone during a store visit to research prices; and roughly two in ten (19%) have actually purchased something with a smartphone while visiting a retail outlet.

Tablets are also playing a major role in the omni-channel phenomenon – mostly from home. Half of all global shoppers have found a product online using a tablet, and 42% have made a purchase with a tablet.

About GfK

GfK is one of the world’s largest research companies, with around 13,000 experts working to discover new insights into the way people live, think and shop, in over 100 markets, every day. GfK is constantly innovating and using the latest technologies and the smartest methodologies to give its clients the clearest understanding of the most important people in the world: their customers. In 2012, GfK’s sales amounted to €1.51 billion.

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