Go Local: Consumers Still Devoted to In-Store Spending

Why hasn’t the technology of the Jetsons come to fruition? Why can’t I wake up and be taken through a conveyor belt that automates the process of showering/getting dressed/eating breakfast/greeting the family/heading out to work?

It feels like the future, after all. We all tote around connected devices that allow us to share video calls and broadcast our images to the entire world at a moment’s notice – and yes, we’re going to be wearing them on our wrists soon. We’ve got self-driving vehicles and robots that drop treats out of the sky on the horizon. We even have the beginnings of the cyborgs that humanity is destined to battle in the coming decades.

The online world has changed everything quick, fast, and in a hurry. We communicate differently, we find information differently, we shop differently.

We don't, however, purchase items differently. In that area, consumers are still overwhelmingly going local.

The (Slow) Online Shift

Buying online is growing – 6.2% in Q1 2014, or about $70 billion, up from 4% just four years ago – but in-store is where consumer hearts are. Consumers still spent 93.8% of their money in-store during Q1 2014, the overwhelming lion’s share of a $1.1 trillion pie in retail sales.

It is possible, maybe even likely, that at some point online spending could surpass in-store, but that doesn’t appear to be imminent.

Chalk it up to habit, or the basic human desire for face-to-face interaction, or maybe even the instant gratification of receiving what you purchase when you actually purchase it. We just like to go into a store and come out with our bounty.

That isn’t to say the online world hasn’t caused some major shifts in purchasing behavior. Consumers, especially Millennials, are heavily influenced by their online networks, and we can know everything about a product before it becomes ours thanks to online sources and reviews. Showrooming, or checking for lower online prices while browsing in a brick-and-mortar store, was once thought to be a store killer.

Instead, 69% of consumers are “reverse showrooming” – looking up prices online then heading to a store to make a purchase – while just 46% “showroom.”

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A POS Opportunity

The point of sale is a major engagement opportunity, and not just the merchant making the sale. It’s a chance to impact a consumer in a positive manner during an activity they’re going to be partaking in with regularity.

We talk a lot about relevance on this blog, or how much of a tangible impact an employee discount program may have, for example. In-store purchases are still something an overwhelming majority of consumers participate in, so any way a business can impact consumers at that critical point – whether it be mobile coupons, card-linked offers, or loyalty programs in general – is going to have a positive return in terms of engagement and appreciation.

While much of our lives seems to be pulled directly from sci-fi predictions and cartoonish daydreams, some old habits just die hard – or don’t die at all. The in-store experience is still significant for most, and it provides an opportunity for those who are interested to give a little back to the consumer, and get a little (or a lot) of love in return.

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Topics: Customer Engagement, Employee Discount Programs, Customer Incentives, Mobile Coupons, Card-Linked Offers, Member Benefits, Access Development, consumer behavior, ecommerce, customer loyalty

Written by: Brandon Carter

Brandon is a former writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @bscarter

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