Physical shops still important, including for online consumers

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Woman shopping

The number of Dutch people who combine online and off-line shopping is growing. In 2011 the figure stood at 35%, but it is forecast that almost half of consumers will engage in ‘cross-channel’ shopping in 2014 and that this will rise to no less than 64% by 2020. It is striking that the popularity of online food shopping, in particular, is growing. At present only 10% of consumers are cross-channel food shoppers, but by 2020 37% expect to be doing their food shopping this way. The fears of many retailers that the physical channel merely serves as a shop window, and that people then go online to make the actual purchase, also proves to be unfounded. These are the conclusions of ABN AMRO in the Cross-Channel Retail Update, in which 5,500 consumers were surveyed about their cross-channel buying behaviour in seven sectors.

74% of consumers say they could not manage without physical shops Chris Meijers Chris Meijers Sector Banker Retail

Online food shopping on the up

Currently, 91% of Dutch consumers still do their food shopping exclusively in the supermarket. However, although the development of cross-channel shopping is still in its infancy in the food retail sector, it is definitely the future. Physical supermarket operators in the Netherlands such as Albert Heijn and Hoogvliet, for example, allow customers to order online but collect their shopping in the physical store. No fewer than 37% of consumers say that they expect to be buying their groceries both in the supermarket and online by 2020.

More webrooming than showrooming

ABN AMRO believes that many retailers have no cause to fear that consumers will visit physical stores purely to inspect products before then buying them online. In fact, the reverse is much more often the case: browsing goods online and then buying them offline (webrooming) rather than browsing in the shop and then buying online (showrooming). Only 3% of consumers say they do this, while 28% say they do their browsing online and then make the actual purchase in a physical store. Consumers are increasingly going online to look for products: an increase from 27% in 2011 to 38% in 2014.

Physical outlets still important

According to the ABN AMRO survey, a shift is taking place in the distinctive capacity of the physical and online channels. Physical outlets appear to have caught up here: 74% of consumers say they could not manage without physical shops. The combination of receiving advice (78%), experiencing the physical product (70%), enjoying the shopping experience (68%) and having stock locally available (70%) are important drivers for physical shopping. Another motivation is the ability to get hold of the product quickly (62%). Motives for shopping online lie mainly in the area of convenience (80%), transparency (76%), shopping when the consumer feels like it (80%) and price (52%).

"The report shows that consumers could not manage without physical shops”, says Chris Meijers, Sector Banker Retail at ABN AMRO. “This does away with the idea that physical retailers are about to disappear in the face of the rise of online shopping. The growth potential lies with physical retailers who are willing to invest in cross-channel shopping and thus allow their customers to benefit from the best of both worlds. A cross-channel shopper can then benefit from being able to buy one product online and another off-line. But once they have begun their customer journey, they usually stay in the same channel. That is another signal of how important it is to have both a good physical and online presence and to be visibly present at the point where the consumer begins his or her quest."

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