Merchant Innovation

Consumers Claim To Shop More Online, But Do They?

It might seem weird to think of the benefits of online shopping as more of a theory than a practice, especially when the advantages of having near-bottomless inventory and quick price comparisons are so clear, but according to new survey data from the IBM Institute for Business Value, published by eMarketer on Feb. 5, online shopping remains more loved as theory than as practice.

According to the survey data, 50 percent of respondents do prefer shopping online, citing such advantages as the flexibility of online price comparisons, quick purchase delivery, and to adults under 40, the fastest growing demographic in e-commerce acceptance, “cost and convenience.” However, only 29 percent said they made their last purchase online, a significant disparity in the numbers.

Retail e-commerce sales have been growing over the last few years, from $264.3 billion in 2013 to $349.1 billion expected this year, a leap from 5.8 percent to 7.1 percent of all retail sales. By 2018, e-commerce will equal $493.9 billion in sales — roughly 8.9 percent of all retail sales.

One advantage that brick-and-mortar retail has though is instant gratification, where consumers can buy an item and have it right then and there, which is something online retail hasn’t yet been able to match. However, consumers are growing more fond of the ease of having goods shipped right to their door, with 36 percent thinking “highly” of the service, up from 23 percent in 2011. This is largely tied into the inventory issue, which brick-and-mortar retailers have to cope with if they need to stay competitive. Some companies like Macy’s are fine-tuning their omnichannel service to allow goods out of stock to be shipped from other Macy’s stores, while others are increasingly turning to mobile technology to keep abreast of inventory issues. Nearly half of those surveyed said they will look favorably on companies that embrace mobile as a way of updating customers of what is available in real-time, so it appears to be a worthy investment despite reported skepticism by retailers in other surveys.

The IBM survey polled 110,000 customers between 2011-2014, and the results were calculated as of September 2014.

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