Online Vs. In-Store Shopping Trends: What Drives Consumer Choice

The online and in-store shopping worlds are increasingly merging together, but there are still some key differences driving consumers online or offline.

A new study by Wanderful outlines these similarities and differences in a comprehensive poll of 1,027 American shoppers who use their mobile devices to shop.

One interesting statistic: new sales tax on online purchases is having an impact on shoppers. Twenty-two percent do less shopping online as a result, including one-third of all men.

We break down more of the study’s most interesting results in this Data Point.

Online And In-Store Shopping: The Merger

The survey found that overall, 77 percent of consumers have checked online to find product info while shopping in-store. Unsurprisingly, this percentage is higher among Millennials (85 percent) and lower among Baby Boomers (63 percent). Sixty-two percent of those who browse online buy the items they were researching, but only 49 percent bought the item in-store, while 48 percent opted to purchase online.

Ninety-one percent have been driven to a store thanks to an online experience, with 60 percent shopping due to an email promotion, 59 percent citing an online coupon and 52 percent noting an online circular.

Online And In-Store Shopping: The Disconnect

While online and in-store shopping can often blend, they also come with unique advantages. Somewhat surprisingly, 71 percent of consumers said they preferred making purchases online, while a more predictable 59 percent said they liked the ease of finding a specific offer.

Conversely, 63 percent of consumers prefer the in-store experience of returning an item, 53 percent like knowing exactly what’s being purchased and 51 percent like the ability to establish a relationship with the merchant. The study summarizes these findings by writing that “shoppers prefer to buy items that reflect personal style in-store but prefer to buy items without variation online.” 

Impulse Buys Are Universal

Whether online or offline, consumers are prone to make impulse buys. Seventy-four percent said they’ve made an impulse purchase in a store over the past month, while 65 percent have done the same online. Browsing in stores (60 percent), promotional emails (42 percent) and window-shopping (36 percent) drive the highest amount of impulse buys, while online checkout alternatives (27 percent) and newspaper circulars (23 percent) play a role as well.

Interestingly, social media incentives lag behind, as only 22 percent said they’ve made an impulse buy due to Facebook, while the percentage drops to 13 percent for both Twitter and Pinterest.

To read more online and in-store shopping statistics, view the full Wanderful survey here.


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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out our April 2019 Unattended Retail Report. 

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