Study Finds Majority of In-Store Shoppers Aren’t “Just Browsing”

One of the biggest cliches in retail is customers telling sales associates that they’re “just browsing.” While that may be true in some cases, a new study finds that the vast majority of shoppers are actually in search of a specific item. In fact, according to National Retail Federation survey reported on by MarketingCharts, a whopping 73% of customers are usually searching for a specific item when setting foot in brick and mortar stores, meaning only 27% are actually browsing. However, when it comes to online shopping, the figures are much closer, with only 54% of shoppers looking for specific items and 46% browsing.

A potential reason for the disparity is that customers are researching products online but deciding to buy them in store. Incidentally this is the opposite of “showrooming” — checking out products in-store to purchase online — that many retailers have feared. As it turns out a reason for this could have to do with the speed and cost of shipping. As NRF’s Mark Mathews explains, “Consumers today want what they want when they want it and they don’t expect to pay a premium to get it fast. When they walk into a store they want to find their item, and find it easily, especially if they’ve researched it online beforehand. And whether it’s next-day or pickup-in-store, quick delivery of online purchases at little or no extra charge is growing so fast that it’s something shoppers are coming to expect.”

In regards to shipping, the survey found that 68% of shoppers said they expect shipping to be free regardless of the transaction value. More specifically 38% believe two-day shipping should be free while 24% said same-day shipping should also be gratis. Additionally nearly half (47%) report having backed out of a purchase upon discovering the shipping cost. These standards have put pressure on e-tailers, with Mathews noting, “Retailers are literally racing to consumers’ doorsteps to meet rising expectations.”

All in all, this NRF study has a few interesting findings. First, while showrooming certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, it is notable that the process seems to be working in reverse as well. Secondly the survey implies that there could be trouble ahead for smaller online retailers who likely can’t afford to ship items both quickly and affordably like Amazon can. However there may be some ways to win customers over regardless of these perils as, for example, the survey discovered that 59% of consumers are interested in special events with exclusive access to sales and more. Also notable is that 79% of customers said their experience with a retailer helps them determine who to buy from in the future. Therefore, whether you’re a brick and mortar or online retailer, it’s always important to focus on the customer experience in order to turn browsers into loyal buyers.

Also published on Medium.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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