Shoppers Find Physical Stores Better for Customer Service

But digital platforms hold the advantage of better product selection and availability 

Author: Monica Melton

May 30, 2017

In-store offerings like easy returns and exchanges, better customer service and instant gratification trump the online shopping experience for many shoppers, according to market research firm TrendSource.

In a March 2017 survey of internet users in North America, respondents who made electronics, fashion or home improvement purchases overwhelmingly thought that customer service and returns/exchanges were superior at physical stores. 

But online shopping also had advantages, according to the survey. A majority of respondents said that product availability, as well as product variety and selection, were superior on digital platforms when compared with physical store locations.

For example, nearly three-quarters of fashion and electronics shoppers thought the availability of products was better online than in-store.

Price was one area where shoppers were more evenly divided between digital and in-store shopping, but that also depended on the product category.

More than six in 10 said electronics prices were better online, while fashion shoppers were almost evenly split between digital and brick-and-mortar purchasing channels.

“Except for electronics, shoppers no longer inherently view online as cheaper, so instead of worrying about price matching, retailers should consider creating in-store experiences shoppers value,” TrendSource’s senior director of client and consulting services, Evencia Leite, said in a statement.

Being able to lay their hands on goods immediately had a strong appeal among those who preferred to make in-store purchases, according to the survey. More than 80% of shoppers in all three product categories cited the ability to get items right away as a reason they liked to shop at physical stores.

But physical locations also held other advantages. For instance, the majority (70%) of electronics shoppers liked to draw on advice and assistance from employees in person. Being able to physically inspect an item’s fit or quality appealed to large proportions of home improvement and fashion shoppers—81% and 87%, respectively.

In-store technology and tools remain a comparatively low draw among shoppers who prefer to go to brick-and-mortar stores. Only 14% of fashion shoppers surveyed went to physical stores for that offering. Social interaction was also relatively unimportant to those who favored stores over digital shopping platforms.