Change the channel: More consumers opt for mobile, online shopping

Recent trends point to growing importance of multichannel consumer

Google is offering a service called Google Shopping Express, which would offer same-day delivery from brick-and-mortar stores in the San Francisco Bay Area to the Internet giant's employees. Target and several other retailers have been named as possible partners.

With Google now looking to compete with Amazon — not to mention Target's growing attention to online and mobile commerce — a growing body of consumer studies and industry trends shows that the most important emerging consumer demographic isn't men, women, old people or young people; it's multichannel consumers.

And it's not just big, national and international chains either. Last Tuesday, Raley's announced that it had partnered with Dunnhumby to create an online, social-networking component to its Something Extra loyalty program.

Meanwhile, one survey after another has shown that "going to a store" means, for a growing number of consumers, getting on the computer or pulling out the smartphone. Several recent Patient View surveys of AccentHealth viewers indicate that retailer apps will see increased use as consumers show more interest in tools such as live expert chatting, bar code scanning and prescription regimen management, especially now that 49% of surveyed smart-device users now have a retail app. Another AccentHealth survey found 29% of consumers report doing most shopping online.

Another survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CouponCabin and released Wednesday, found that nearly three-quarters of people who work from home shop online, along with more than half who work out of an office.

Many retailers get the hint already. Target announced March 15 the purchase of online kitchen supply retailers and CHEFS Catalog, as well as sponsoring a competition with Fast Company magazine to develop a new mobile experience for the retailer at the recent SXSW conference. At the same conference, Walgreens won an "Appy" award for the Best Retail Mobile App, which now includes new functions, such as the ability to print from Instagram and access to a health reference encyclopedia. Ahold USA, the American division of Dutch supermarket operator Royal Ahold, is planning to expand its Peapod online grocery service.

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