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80% of Buyers Research Online First

Study finds consumers are shaping multichannel commerce, not retailers.

Retailers are lagging behind consumers when it comes to multichannel sophistication, according to results of a global survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

While consumers have become skilled at leveraging multiple shopping channels—including physical stores, websites and mobile apps—to find the best deals, traditional retailers still largely operate in a siloed business model, missing out on the opportunity to “own” the customer.

According to PwC, 86 percent of global respondents said they shop across two or more channels (e.g., bricks and mortar, online, catalog, TV shopping networks, mobile applications, etc.). Eighty percent go online to research a product before they buy it—and 69 percent consider themselves to be either confident or experts at doing so.

The convenience of shopping any time and from anywhere is the top reason global respondents choose to shop online (28 percent), while nearly as many (25 percent) cite lower pricing as the main attraction. However, shopping behavior varies, depending on the category, so PwC advises retailers to “focus ruthlessly on the consumer, no matter which route they take—just as long as they arrive.”

“The challenge—at least for some retailers—is that consumers are starting to behave in far more sophisticated ways, whether they’re buying expensive items or weekly groceries,” PwC reports.

“Because most retailers haven’t yet created efficient multichannel models, consumers are working it out for themselves, using different channels in ways that best suit them,” PwC continues. “Consumers may choose to research a product in the store—a shoe perhaps—then use their mobile phone to find a better price online, and then call into the retailer’s customer service line to order and have the shoe shipped to their home. In essence, consumers are creating their own multichannel experiences by leveraging multiple retailers across a single category or product.”

Adding online features like wish lists, or the ability to book an appointment to view an item in the store can help, as can providing personalized recommendations, better access to product information and reviews, and fast checkout, the study notes.

About the author

Crista Souza
Crista Souza is founding editor of A journalism graduate of San Jose State University, she spent 13 years as a business and technology reporter in Silicon Valley. Crista has been writing about B2C and C2C ecommerce since 2008. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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