More than half of retail customers favour online window shopping over in-store

61% of shoppers are more likely to browse products online, according to new findings from Bazaarvoice; however most prefer to purchase in-store, highlighting opportunities for brands and retailers to bridge the gap.

With the Covid-19 pandemic inspiring a surge in online shopping as bricks-and-mortar retailers shuttered stores, more consumers than ever prefer to browse and research products online rather than in-store, new research has revealed.

In a survey of 9000 global consumers, carried out by technology company Bazaarvoice, 61% of shoppers said that they are more likely to browse for new products online as opposed to in physical stores, due to finding the experience easier and more enjoyable.

Of these, 29% spent the most time exploring health and beauty products online, with the increased ease and convenience of virtual window shopping thought to be a key factor: smartphones were the discovery tool of choice for the majority of respondents (52%), with 53% of shoppers spending more than 15 minutes browsing products online in one session.

Online has not completely taken over from physical retail, however: when it comes to making a purchase, 71% of shoppers revealed that they buy products in-store at least once a week, compared to just 46% who make weekly online purchases, pointing to opportunities for brands and retailers to build consumer trust and drive purchase decisions by implementing user-generated content (UGC) such as product images, ratings and reviews.

Commenting on the survey results, Ed Hill, SVP EMEA at Bazaarvoice, said: “The last year has been transformational for retail, and has pushed a lot of consumers into new territory.

“Brands and retailers have upped their online experiences to make the process of shopping online not only easy and convenient, but also enjoyable.

“However, at the point of discovery, online shoppers stumbling upon a great product are more likely to simply research the item, rather than purchase it spontaneously.

“Collecting UGC like text-based ratings and reviews helps brands build trust with consumers, so shoppers can be confident in their purchase and are more likely to convert.”

Ratings and reviews from other customers were found to be key to consumers' decisions whether to trust a brand or not, with 73% citing these as the most important factor, while 60% said that they relied on photos and videos of products from other shoppers, rather than those provided by the brand itself.

In line with the preference for physical purchases, the survey results also revealed that product images on brands' own websites were more likely to lead to purchases for more than a third of consumers (35%), compared to searches for products on the likes of Google and Amazon, as brands can customise their websites to replicate the in-store experience that can sway customers into making a purchase.

Hill advised: “Retailers need to take customers from just buying online to truly shopping online.

“Brands and retailers can boost engagement and sales by focusing on driving product discovery and recreating the in-store experience online to give consumers confidence to click the buy button.

“By providing rich content in the form of easily explorable items featured in imagery, or detailed and up-to-date reviews, consumers will be motivated to move from being a browser to a buyer.”

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