Think beyond the buy: Shopping is an omnichannel journey

Sarah Bradley, Stephanie Cao
/ July 2019 / Search, Consumer Insights, Retail

Marketers understandably tend to obsess over purchases. Even if they know that there is an entire journey leading up to a purchase, the actual sale is the tangible result of all their efforts and the thing that puts money in the coffers. That means many end up focusing on where that purchase gets made, online or in-store.

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It’s an important data point. And people historically have preferred to buy certain things online and other things at brick-and-mortar locations. But the truth is, today’s shoppers like to browse and research online even in cases where they intend to buy in-store. In fact, 82% of Canadian shoppers who visited a store in the last week said they used online search prior to going in-store1. Factor in things like video and apps and 89% of Canadian shoppers say they’ve used online resources to help with their shopping in the past week2.

Growth across categories

Not so long ago, buying clothing or shoes online seemed like an odd thing to do. How could you buy something without trying it on? Today, apparel is a truly omnichannel retail category. In fact, 56% of Canadian shoppers say they buy clothing both in-store and online3.

Of course, there are still a wide range of categories that are mostly purchased in-store -- think household items like cleaning supplies or toiletries, cosmetics, or home appliances. When it comes to groceries, 83% of Canadians say they buy them in-store only4. But it’s telling that even in these traditionally offline categories, online shopping is on the rise.

Consider this: The percentage of shoppers who have bought personal care and cosmetics online grew to 46%, which was significant growth when comparing Q1 to Q3 20185. Even household items saw online category growth of 17%6.

A better experience

Overall, 68% of people say they’re looking to do more of their shopping online in the next year7.

Why shoppers prefer shopping online

3 illustrations, in a blue, yellow, and green color scheme, with numbered labels: Compass: 1. Better navigation; Thought bubble with a light bulb: 2. More suggestions and tips; Dollar bill and coin stack: 3. Better pricing.

The reason why is pretty simple. Many say the online shopping experience is better than in-store when it comes to specific aspects of shopping:

  • Navigation: 60% of shoppers say they prefer online shopping to find items they’re looking for, compared to 32% who say they prefer offline.

  • Suggestions & tips: 51% say they prefer to go online to get helpful recommendations or suggestions on what to buy, compared to 34% for offline.

  • Pricing: 55% say they prefer to shop online to get the best deal possible, which is also the number one thing that people say they enjoy about shopping8.

In other words, people feel that online shopping makes it easier for them to find the right item at the right price.

Be omnichannel to win

While it’s true that online shopping continues to grow across categories, it’s also true that people are actively doing both. When it comes to categories such as movies, books, and video games, 66% of Canadian shoppers say they purchase these items both in-store and online. For toys, it’s 65%, and for home electronics, it’s 60%9.

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Ultimately, people are looking to meet their needs in the most efficient way possible, whether that means shopping online only or researching online before heading to the store. Regardless of category, make sure your in-store and online experiences are

  • Integrated: Share local store inventory where possible on your site and through search.
  • Speedy: Desktop and mobile speed are just as important, or maybe more so, than speed at the store.
  • Helpful: Optimize your search functions so people can find exactly what they’re looking for, and make it easy for returning customers to pick up where they left off.

If you can follow these steps to be truly omnichannel, you’ll be poised to win.

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