Study: U.S. leads omnichannel shopping overall, but trails in many categories

Less than 20% of omnichannel consumers buy OTC drugs, foods and beverages and cleaning supplies, while China leads in beauty, personal care

NEW YORK — Thirty-seven percent of shoppers in the United States are shopping omnichannel, compared with 29% around the globe, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by GfK, found that consumers are "freely mingling" in-store visits, online product research and other information sources when making purchases. The extent of omnichannel shopping varies by category and country and appears tied to mobile device penetration. The study was based on 8,400 interviews in 14 countries.

"The future of shopping is already in full swing," GfK EVP shopper and retail strategy Alison Chaltas said. "Retailers need to embrace and market to shoppers' fast-changing habits and preferences, providing a well-calibrated mix of information, service and promotion. It is also essential to have a unified message and brand across platforms."

U.S. consumers are most likely to combine online and in-person sources when buying consumer electronics, toys, clothing and home appliances, but OTC medications, food and beverages and cleaning products show lower levels, with less than 20% of consumers shopping omnichannel in those categories. Meanwhile, China is the leader in beauty and personal care, with 57% of consumers there shopping omnichannel; in that category, the United States is in fifth place, with 31%, tied with Bulgaria and Romania.

Globally, one-third of shoppers report using a mobile phone during a store visit to research prices, while 19% have actually purchased something with a smartphone, and 42% have made a purchase with a tablet, though the role of tablets appears to be mostly in the home.

"The holy grail in this new environment will be creating an integrated and consistent message to shoppers that you are ready to serve them wherever they go — in store, online and along the way," Chaltas said.

Sixty-four percent of U.S. shoppers cited a desire to see and feel products as a reason for choosing in-store shopping, while 63% said they were able to get products sooner. By contrast, 63% said they could save money or save gas money to shopping online.

"We clearly see that brick-and-mortar stores still matter for a variety of items," GfK EVP shopper and retail strategy Joe Beier said. "But the role of stores in the shopping and buying experience is changing dramatically. Retailers need to find new and different ways to draw people in, through value-added services and a truly shopper-centric experience."

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