More consumers are ditching online shopping for physical retailers

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Many of us are guilty of "showrooming" -- the act of using a brick and mortar store like Best Buy or Walmart as a showroom for products we end up buying online. While there is nothing morally wrong about such a practice, I do sometimes feel guilty doing it. In other words, I enjoy saving money by purchasing online, but I would be sad to see brick and mortar stores disappear; I like touching a product before buying.

While the Internet is not about to go away anytime soon, something surprising is happening -- consumers are returning to brick and mortar stores through "webrooming" -- the act of researching a product online and then buying in a physical store.

"The complex interplay between online and in-person shopping in the US has tilted slightly in favor of bricks-and-mortar retailers, according to GfK’s 2014 FutureBuy global study of shopping habits and preferences. Incidents of smartphone 'showrooming' -- seeing a product in a store, then buying it online from another retailer using a smartphone – dropped from 37 percent in the US last year to 28 percent in 2014. But 'webrooming', in which consumers buy in a store after researching a purchase online using a smartphone, was reported by an even higher proportion of respondents, 41 percent", says GfK.

The company further explains, "US shoppers who decided to make their purchases in a bricks-and-mortar environment were motivated by key differentiators such as 'see and feel before buying' (58 percent prefer bricks and mortar, versus 9 percent online), 'get products sooner' (53 percent versus 16 percent), and 'hassle-free returns' (35 percent  versus 10 percent ). When online was the preferred purchase venue, attributes such as 'save money' (61 percent versus 28 percent), 'easier' (53 percent versus 24 percent, and 'better selection' (46 percent versus 16  percent) were deciding factors".

As you can see, the determining factor of how consumers shop is tied to specific needs. While online shopping can save a consumer money, some consumers are placing increased value on instant gratification and easy returns. This could signify an improved economy, as less consumers are stressing about cost savings.

Interestingly, the method of how consumers shop online is changing too. GfK explains, "though PCs and laptops still account for the lion's share of online research and purchases, mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are playing a growing role. Internet shopping via a traditional home computer (PC or laptop) dropped from 78 percent to 63 percent in the US in just one year, while use of mobile devices doubled -- from 8 percent to 15 percent for smartphones, and 5 percent to 10 percent for tablets".

Do you do most of your shopping online or in brick and mortar stores? Tell me in the comments.

Photo Credit: Kamil Macniak/Shutterstock

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