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Channel surfing

Results from Drapers’ consumer research shed light on shoppers’ habits and how they interact with retailers.

Channel surfing

There’s no doubt that over the past 10 years or so consumer shopping habits and expectations have changed out of all recognition, with today’s time-poor consumers demanding the ability to shop via multiple channels and for retailers to offer a suite of convenient collection and delivery options. The high street has had to move in-line with this change, and for true multichannel retailers the challenge now is deciphering how consumers interact with, and between, each channel.

It’s with this in mind that Drapers created its first ever Multichannel Report, which surveyed more than 2,000 consumers to find out how they engage with each channel. Whether it be behaviour around shopping in store, online, via their mobiles or tablet devices, researching using social media, or their expectations around delivery, making a success of multichannel retail hinges on understanding this new dynamic. The results demonstrate how more consumers are switching on to multichannel, and how they’re combining any number of channels within a single purchase journey.

Perhaps unsurprisingly bricks and mortar remains the preferred shopping channel among 69% of respondents, though signalling a shift towards online, 61% said they make the majority of their clothing and footwear purchases on retailers’ websites. A very committed 3% make 100% of these online. Mcommerce, which appeared to have finally gripped the buying public’s consciousness last Christmas [2011], was favoured by 7% of respondents, who prefer to shop using their mobiles and tablet devices, indicating a shift in that direction.

The demographic split becomes clearer though, when those surveyed were asked which is their preferred channel for paying for clothing and footwear. Those aged 55 and over and 45 to 54-year-olds prefer to pay in store, at 63% and 57% respectively, while 33% of both 25 to 34-year-olds and 35 to 44-year-olds cited online as their preferred payment channel.

However, there are still significant challenges facing online retail. The survey found that the inability for consumers to touch and feel product is a major barrier to purchasing online. Female shoppers are most concerned about not being able to try clothes on, at 48%, and don’t know which size will give them the desired fit, at 45%, while the inability to try clothes on was a problem for 40% of male shoppers, who also cited not being able to gauge the quality as an issue, at 34%. The survey asked consumers which functionality could help retailers address these concerns, and found that 44% want the ability to zoom in on product, while 36% said clear size measurements would help them close the deal, and 33% want to be able to read reviews to help them decide.

One of the most insightful areas of the research was around how a retailer’s activity within one channel can stimulate shopper behaviour in another. The survey found that email marketing generates a mixed response. Just 17% said an email would make them head into a store to purchase the advertised product, while 32% said they inspire no action at all. Women are more likely to click onto a retailer’s website to research a product following receipt of an email, at 21% compared with just 13% of males. Perhaps most worrying though, and indicative of the fierce competition in the online arena, is that 17% are then likely to research and compare the product on other retailers’ websites.  

In-store kiosks and iPads have yet to gain real traction in the market, with 44% saying they have never seen either in a store. However, this is hardly surprising in the case of iPads, which have only been introduced into stores by the likes of Aurora, Karen Millen, Reiss and East within the past year. Indicative of the potential here, 29% said access to a retailer’s website in store was a good idea, so long as the purchases could be delivered or collected the next day. Younger shoppers are particularly keen, with 78% of 18 to 24-year-olds, and 71% of 25 to 34-year-olds in favour of the concept. This demonstrates that this is an area retailers should be investing in for future growth.

Another channel of increasing significance among younger respondents is mobile. The survey found that more than 60% of 18 to 25 and 25 to 34-year-olds use their mobiles while out shopping. Price-savvy 25 to 34-year-olds are most likely to use their mobiles for price comparison when out shopping. Meanwhile, those aged 18 to 24 are most likely to use them for coupons, at 18%, or browse retailers’ websites, at 14%, while men use them for price comparison more frequently, at 18%, compared with 12% of women. Younger shoppers were also most in favour of using mobile phones to pay for fashion purchases in store.

Despite many retailers having only rolled out click-and-collect last year, the service is becoming increasingly popular with consumers; a finding which was highlighted in the Drapers survey. The service was found to be more popular among female shoppers, and those aged either 18 to 24 or 25 to 34, with 79% and 82% respectively of all respondents wanting to, or already using the service. Convenience is a major draw when deciding where and how to shop, and the ability to collect when they want is viewed positively by consumers, with 43% citing click-and-collect as more convenient than home delivery.


There is no doubt that the proliferation of social media is having an impact on shopping habits, but with 47% of respondents notusing these platforms to shop or research fashion, it suggests that fashion retailers are yet to fully realise the potential of this channel. Encouragingly, however, 49% of 18 to 24-year-olds and 46% of 25 to 34-year-olds said the medium has changed their shopping behaviour. Social media is also becoming increasingly important to how consumers behave in store. More than 20% of those aged 34 and under have used their mobile phones, or in-store tablets and iPads to upload a potential outfit choice onto a social networking site to gain instant feedback from friends, indicating lots of potential for the channel as a brand-building tool.

Channel surfing

Of course the final point for many multichannel purchases is delivery, be that to a consumer’s home or for collection in store, and getting this proposition right is a key component to any multichannel retailer’s strategy. The survey found that consumers’ top concerns are free delivery at 57%, free returns at 48% and quick delivery at 42%, while men are more concerned with reliable delivery at 24%, compared with 18% of women. 

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