"Trust, over getting the best price, is most important to consumers when shopping electronic stores and clothing stores," said Craig Elston, senior vice president, Integer. "This is not a surprise considering these channels offer bigger ticket items and consumers are willing to pay more for quality and experience in these channels."
Elston was speaking about a preliminary finding related to an ongoing shopper experience study currently under way by The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research. Early research shows that shopping experiences, time saving, and trust are outpacing discounts this year. And, according to the study, department stores are scoring higher for convenient last minute gifts.
Conversely, another report conducted by comScore shows that online retailers already have something to smile about. For the holiday season to date, more than $17.5 billion has been spent online, marking a 12 percent increase over last year.
"Without a doubt, free shipping has become a critical driver of e-commerce purchasing, with the majority of consumers indicating that they will abandon their shopping carts if they get to check-out and find that free shipping is not included," said Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman. "Retailers have increasingly responded to this consumer demand, with market leaders Amazon and Walmart, for example, both offering free shipping on virtually all transactions this season."
Free shipping does more for online retailers than offering a discount. From the consumer's perspective, it levels the playing field, giving the online retailer an advantage in terms of time saving and trust. With the exception of a few items people still hold in their hands before making a purchase, the online shopping option is easier (and sometimes more convenient for returns).
In fact, according to yet another study (StrategyOne's Annual Holiday Shopping Index), while 59 percent of consumers still prefer to do their holiday shopping in stores, the experience is beginning to vary widely among income groups. Fifty-one percent of consumers earning $75,000 or more prefer to gift shop in stores; 63 percent of consumers earning between $25,000 and $40,000 shop in stores.
This doesn't mean department stores and specialty shops are going to have to continue to lose to e-commerce. But it does seem to indicate a need for brick retailers to rethink the shopping experience. When an online shopping cart seems friendlier and most trustworthy than a check-out counter clerk after facing lines of tired bargain hunters, it's time to rethink the strategy.