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Study: Half of In-Store Apparel Purchases Inspired by Digital

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Retailers content to bask in the belief that digital channels are not a threat because brick-and-mortar shopping still accounts for more than 90 percent of sales aren’t looking at the bigger picture.

A recent report by Deloitte, titled “Navigating the New Digital Divide,” found that while only 6.5 percent (about $305 billion) of U.S. retail sales occurred online in 2014, $1.7 trillion worth of offline sales were influenced by digital beforehand—a sum the consulting firm predicts will swell to $2.2 trillion by the year’s end.

“Retailers often use the wrong metric—e-commerce sales—to indicate whether their digital strategy is working,” said Kasey Lobaugh, head of the study and Deloitte Digital’s chief retail innovation officer. “Retailers that prioritize and design digital functionality with the sole purpose of driving sales in the e-commerce channel marginalize the consumer experience and risk ceding authority to competitors.”

The numbers don’t lie: Deloitte polled 3,016 consumers and found that nearly 80 percent interact with brands or products online before arriving at the physical store. Furthermore, 34 percent of respondents use digital while in-store (for product research, not price comparison) and those shoppers convert at a 20 percent higher rate than other customers. When it comes to clothing, 49 percent of in-store purchases are inspired by online browsing before the customer has ever crossed the brick-and-mortar threshold, while 30 percent are influenced by in-store smartphone use.

Still not convinced of digital’s pull on purse strings? One-third of consumers reveal they actually spend more when they use their mobile devices during the shopping journey. The retailers that take this into account when shaping their sales and growth strategies will be successful, as the report pointed out: large, established retailers have lost 2 percent of their combined market share in the last five years, while smaller players that have come on the scene with digital at their core have gained ground.

“Instead of measuring moments that matter during the shopping journey, retailers continue to focus on measuring the buy button—the point at which they actually have the least influence,” said Jeff Simpson, a Deloitte director who co-authored the study.

Simpson noted that retailers that simply track channel sales and fail to measure the influence of digital along the entire path to purchase can miss key indicators of performance and customer behavior. “Retailers should focus on designing and building customer experiences that play to how their customers are shopping for their products—rather than direct consumers to the point of purchase if what they really seek is inspiration or information.”

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