Digital retail: analyzing the effect on

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In this report, we explore how the internet and mobile technology are reshaping consumer behavior.

Social media is more than an information source— it is a key selling tool.

The internet is the third-most-shopped channel each week, after supermarkets and mass merchandisers, according to WSL Strategic Retail's How America Shops® MegaTrends 2012 report.

Internet shopping has had a significant impact on many categories in bricks-and-mortar stores. Shoppers prefer internet ordering and re-ordering of bulkier items, to be delivered to their doorstep, often at better prices.

Information and the rise of social retailing

Price-savvy consumers are using the internet to research products before they buy. Price comparison websites and consumer forums are frequently browsed during shoppers' “path to purchase.”

Social networking has affected the way shoppers come to brands and products. Shopper reviews are generally considered more trustworthy than retail sales associates.

Social media is more than an information source— it is a key selling tool. Retailers and brands have realized its importance in shopping decisions and are reallocating resources to support social media efforts.

Online research drives the buy

The highest conversion rates, those in which online research drives the buy, are in categories such as baby products, books, pet products, clothing and groceries.

Cars have the lowest conversion rate at 35%, suggesting shoppers look for information online, but few actually buy.

For most categories, the narrow range around most of the conversion rates suggest that when people go online to research, they intend to buy.

Mobile muscles in

With the growing accessibility of smartphones and faster technology, people have access to internet shopping at their fingertips.

Retailers realize that mobile technology has transformed the in-store experience. iPads are available in several stores for shoppers to:

  • View catwalk shows
  • Browse product specifications
  • Enter their information for customer relationship management purposes and marketing lists

Mobile shopping has enabled retailers to find new places to sell beyond stores, such as virtual stores in subway stations and airports. Shoppers can view images of products, scan a QR code to add items to their baskets and buy through their phone. The product is delivered to their home, with no need to go to a physical store.

Digital technology has extended the retailer's reach by eliminating the need for shoppers to enter a bricks-and-mortar environment, or to be at a computer.