In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review entitled, A Study of 46,000 Shoppers Shows That Omnichannel Retailing Works, the author Emma Sopadjieva looked at the changing trends within retail. The article starts out discussing the changes felt in the retail world, with year over year decreases in shoppers’ visits to retail stores. While the online retail world is seeing a significant upswing with retail sales through mobile phones increasing by 23% in 2015. While the traditional retailer has felt losses, the online retail giants such as Amazon have seen the greatest gains. The article sites that “Amazon is the biggest beneficiary, now accounting for 26% of all online retail sales. What is more, as it continues to expand aggressively into new categories like grocery and fashion, Amazon’s existential threat to traditional retailers is greater than ever. Just ask Alexa.”

With a changing landscape retailers have had to come up with a new model called omnichannel retail, by which they hope to secure their future. Sopadjieva explains this new model by stating, “the omnichannel strategy hinges on the idea that providing a seamless shopping experience in brick-and-mortar stores and through a variety of digital channels not only differentiates retailers from their peers, but also gives them a competitive edge over online-only retailers by leveraging their store assets.” This model is based on the idea that people themselves are in a sort of transition with most individuals still enjoying a brick-and-mortar experience coupled with online research and shopping options also available, creating a blend of old and new.

The study set out to to understand the shopping behavior of 46,000 customers who made a purchase at a major U.S. company, which has hundreds of retail stores through the U.S. Members were selected who had made a purchase during a 14-month period beginning in 2015 and ending in 2016. The study asked customers about each aspect of their shopping journey examining the channels they used and why they used them. They were also asked to critique their shopping experience. The report found that “of the study participants, only 7% were online-only shoppers and 20% were store-only shoppers. The remaining majority, or 73%, used multiple channels during their shopping journey.” This hybrid of brick-and-mortar and online is known as the omnichannel and their customers need to be taken seriously.

The report showed that the omnichannel shopper loves options, and that the more channels a customer used actually increased the amount of money spent at the store. The report found that omnichannel customers enjoying using a combination of touch points, including websites, apps, and in-store digital tools like an interactive catalogue, price-checker and or a tablet. These shoppers might buy online but then pick-up at the store, or buy in the store and then have it delivered to their house. The findings showed that the omnichannel shopper spent on average 4% more on each store shopping trip, and 10% more online than the single-channel user. On top of that, the more channels the omnichannel shopper used the more they spent in stores. “For example, customers who used 4+ channels spent 9% more in the store, on average, when compared to those who used just one channel.”

This research was startling as it proved wrong the traditional wisdom that impulsive, spur of the moment shopping is crucial for retailers topline. Sopadjieva writes, “our findings suggest that deliberate searching beforehand led customers to greater in-store purchases. And it also flies in the face of conventional thinking about showrooming, which is that traditional shoppers conduct their research in the store and then buy online.” On top of spending more money, the omnichannel shoppers are more loyal. 23% of these individuals revisited the retailer and were more likely to recommend the brand to friends and family than the single channel shoppers.

The results of this study were rich as they were able to recommend to the retailer that omnichannel shoppers are more valuable to the retailer and need to be catered to. The report was able to endorse an omnichannel strategy and use it to fight the downturn in the amount of actual store visits. This also helps traditional retailers use a combination of online tools coupled with their brick-and-mortar stores as a way to entice the omnichannel shopper into their stores.

This study shows the importance of market research in our changing world. With the increase of technology over the past twenty years, both for those who shopped pre-internet and those who grew up post-internet, times have definitely changed. There is no roadmap to compare our current situation to a previous time in history, by which to make decisions and look for examples. This uncertainty provides great challenges, as well as great opportunities which can best be navigated by accurate research. We believe that our online community software is a perfect way for companies to navigate this change and gather continuous insightful information by which to make decisions.

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