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Research + Studies

Physical stores vital to global e-tailers, new report says

March 27, 2019

Physical stores contribute significantly to the success of retail websites, whether in North America or in Europe, according to a new ICSC report.

More than half of online shoppers (53 percent) on both continents say it is important to have a store near their home or place of work when buying online, according to the report, titled Bricks Drive Clicks Globally: The Positive Physical-Digital Relationship. This is especially crucial for online shoppers in Poland and Spain (59 percent of respondents) and in France (57 percent). In Canada some 60 percent of online shoppers expressed this view, as did 53 percent of the respondents in the U.S.

This international survey of the so-called halo effect of physical stores on online sales follows a similar ICSC study conducted last year of U.S. consumers. Those respondents cited the convenience of being able to pick up or return purchases to stores; a desire to avoid shipping fees; and the wider selection of merchandise available on retailers’ websites. Click-and-collect shopping, whereby shoppers order things online and then pick up those purchases at a physical store, is soaring, according to another recent report.

“The existence of a physical store is particularly a priority with Millennials — those born roughly between the early 1980s and the mid-'90s”

The existence of a physical store is particularly a priority with Millennials — those born roughly between the early 1980s and the mid-'90s — roughly three-fifths of whom, in Europe, Canada and the U.S., cited it as being “very important” or at least “somewhat important.”

The survey also carries an implicit warning for retailers that contemplate closing stores: Approximately two-fifths of consumers across Europe and North America patronizing a particular retailer said they would cease doing that — shunning both its other stores and its website — if that retailer were to close down the location those shoppers had been frequenting. Conversely, about one-third of consumers said they would increase the frequency of their visits to a retailer’s website if it were to open a store near their home or workplace.

The impact of physical stores is considerably greater when it comes to new and unfamiliar retailers. Globally, some four-fifths of consumers said they would visit a relatively unknown retailer’s website as a result of that retailer's opening a store nearby, the study found. This jibes with a growing trend among digitally native brands and e-tailers that seek to open physical stores.

By Edmund Mander

Director, Editor-In-Chief/SCT

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