American consumers increasingly are going online to research product, availability and price, according to a recent Accenture survey. While two-thirds of survey respondents said they prefer to make purchases in physical stores, 67% said they research product features online and 58% said they use the Internet to locate items online before going to a store to make the purchase.
“Instead of replacing bricks-and-mortar stores, the Internet is an extension of consumers’ in-store shopping experience, providing a resource to research product and price,” said Jeff Smith, global managing director of Accenture’s retail practice.
The survey findings indicate that consumers want better service and product selection, both online and in the store. More than two-thirds (67%) of respondents reported that when shopping in physical stores, they often find too few registers open; 54% said there are not enough salespeople available.
“The phone, and increasingly a company’s Web site, are the first points of entry,” Smith said. “If the on-hold time is too long, if the customer is passed around to different departments or if online navigation is confusing, the sale can easily be lost. Customer service can be a powerful, and profitable, differentiator for retailers that know what their customer wants and how to deliver it.”
Other survey findings:
Cleanliness counts. Cleanliness was mentioned by 58% as key to providing the best in-store experience;
Location is not the main concern. The key criteria cited for deciding where to shop are price (85%) and product selection (69%), followed by store proximity (57%); and
Word-of-mouth is a powerful influencer. When asked to identify the most powerful influencers of their purchase decisions, the greatest number of respondents (60%) said word-of-mouth, followed by advertising (47%) and online information (43%).