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Multichannel: Stores strike back

Drapers’ Multichannel Report discovers how the traditional store still plays a key role in consumers’ shopping habits, despite the growth of etail.

Businesses are actively looking to meet the challenge and opportunity of consumers shopping across channels. In response, Drapers has launched its second annual Multichannel Report, polling more than 2,000 consumers on their multichannel shopping habits and preferences.

The findings show that the bricks-and-mortar store’s role in the multichannel mix cannot be underestimated. When respondents were asked how much they shop for clothing and footwear in a store versus online, the majority of people shop more in stores than on retailers’ websites (67%), while 20% of consumers use both in equal measure. Only 13% shop more online than in store.

Online and in store are the two most popular channels for consumers to browse for fashion before buying - 80% use retailers’ stores and 70% use retailers’ websites. Meanwhile, 26% like to browse catalogues and mail order. Our survey also found that the majority of consumers (65%) like to browse two or more channels before purchasing, which also included mobile sites and apps, TV shopping channels, price comparison and vouchers sites, and social media.

Regardless of the number of channels shoppers are using to browse, when asked where they are most comfortable completing purchases, the store was by far the most popular channel at 68%, compared with 26% for online. Women are marginally more likely to favour completing purchases online (28% versus 24% of men), but the research indicated that age is more of a factor, as 36% of 25 to 34-year-olds prefer to buy fashion via retailers’ websites compared with 18% of the 55-plus age group.

Despite the increased prominence of touchscreen technology being used by retailers in store, they have yet to gain real traction with consumers - while 36% of consumers have used the technology, 43% had not noticed the feature in store.

In-store Wi-Fi is also becoming more prevalent on the high street, with Ted Baker and John Lewis among those using the technology. From a consumer perspective, the survey found in-store Wi-Fi has had a similar uptake to touchscreen technology, with 25% of shoppers having used it. The younger age group has taken more to both features - 40% of 25 to 34-year-olds have used in-store Wi-Fi compared with 19% of 45 to 54-year-olds. However, this does not downplay mobile’s role in retail in general, as our survey found that nearly half of shoppers (45%) use their mobile to browse and/or buy fashion product.

Mobile GIVEs consumers the most direct access to view product information not found in store and compare competitor prices online, which retailers are concerned may cause showrooming - the process of a consumer looking at product in store and then going online to find it cheaper.

For retailers with bricks-and-mortar stores there is a balance to be struck between keeping pricing consistent across channels and remaining competitive against pure-play rivals. Even then, the survey shows that many shoppers (43%) believe clothing and footwear prices to be generally higher in store than online, but in reality only 20% of consumers try to check the clothing and footwear prices on their mobile when shopping in store.

The survey also shows that other sales channels - including mobile, email and direct mail - drive footfall into store, with services such as click-and-collect popular. This is echoed in our findings, as the majority of shoppers (78%) have used click-and-collect. Female shoppers are more likely to have tried the service (83% versus 73% of male shoppers), as are younger consumers - 88% of 18 to 34-year-olds have used it compared with 67% of the 55-plus age group.

Our report also reveals that direct mail and catalogues help drive footfall in stores, as they impel 22% of shoppers to go in store to make a purchase and 14% to browse.

Digital promotions have an effect on store sales, as half of the respondents said direct emails influence what they buy in store, which our survey shows is particularly the case with shoppers who are 35 and older.

The report also highlights the extent that loyalty scheme offers, distributed, online or in store, generate sales across channels.

Underlining the cyclical nature of multichannel shopping, 43% of consumers use vouchers from stores when shopping
online, while 40% redeem online vouchers in store. The survey also finds that female consumers are more likely to respond to these types of rewards (69% compared with 58% of men).

A common challenge faced by retailers is how to attribute sales that have been made across different channels. John Lewis has tackled this by attributing revenue by postcode rather than the channel where the purchase is completed.

Personalisation has been highlighted as a key aspect of retailers’ online strategies, so it should come as no surprise that 48% of consumers now expect to receieve a tailored shopping experience online. This figure drops to 32% for consumers who would like a retail service that recognises them online and in physical stores.

As such, retailers will be hoping consumers become as comfortable with personalisation in store as they have online so they can use the data to offer a more tailored experience across channels to drive sales.

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