Why Customers Still Shop Offline

Aug 27, 2014 4:01 PM  By

While online retail has seen rapid growth, an overwhelming majority of U.S. retail sales take place offline (92%) according to Forrester Research. A survey done by Ripen eCommerce took a look at why consumers would most likely make the purchase in-store vs. online.

“I don’t think the results are too surprising, as we hear this very often, but the survey helped put a numeric value on it which is most important,” said Ripen’s marketing director David Rekuc.

The survey showed that 30.8% of consumers prefer to see or feel the item in person, and 29.9% want to buy a product right away.

Rekuc said what this statistic says to him is that there is no substitute for putting the product in the customer’s hands.

“Experiment with more lenient return policies or free return shipping to make their purchase feel like less of a commitment,” said Rekuc.

He added not only do policies like this help increase conversion rates, but they keep customers from taking their business offline to satisfy their demand.

Rekuc said for example that Zappos allows customers to return their product for up to 365 days for free, while Birchbox provides free samples. There are retailers today experimenting with methods of getting the product in customers’ hands.

“Our study revealed that customers still shop offline because returns are simply easier,” said Rekuc. “A more lenient return policy helps reduce friction in getting the product to your customers and satisfies their desire for easy returns.”

The survey also showed that 16.9% of respondents believe shopping offline protects their privacy, and 14.4% said they shop in store to save on shipping costs.

Rekuc said make sure to publicize a strong stance on privacy and security, putting customers at ease about their personal information.

When it comes to customers’ need to have something immediately, Rekuc recommends retailers approach this on a smaller scale. He cited the fact that Amazon launched Amazon Fresh in Seattle, while Google started up Google Shopping Express in San Francisco – both in their own backyards.

“It’s something that is incredibly intimidating for retailers, but I would encourage them to take the same approach and do it on a smaller scale,” said Rekuc. “Once you adopt that mindset it becomes a more realistic goal.”