Consumers' shopping experiences in America and in many places around the world have been revolutionized in recent years. American consumers now have the option of shopping digitally wherever they happen to be, as well as in person at brick-and-mortar stores. This option has changed not only where they shop, but also when and how. Prior to this, American consumers had to walk up and down store aisles looking for what they wanted and often made their purchases during the same visit after seeing and handling the items they were interested in buying. Today that shopping paradigm is just one option, as consumers increasingly shop online using their digital devices 24/7. Also, the benefits of online shopping have changed the experience, because many consumers now divide their shopping into two distinct phases: research — searching for what they want to buy; and then actually buying -- either at a brick-and-mortar store or an online store. Researching and buying the same item are often done at different times (websites don't close at night) and in different places (online or in a store where an item can be seen and touched). Also, it is now very easy for consumers to shop around for the best prices online.
Nowhere is this omnichannel shopping approach more evident than among affluent American shoppers. As there are different points of view regarding at what household income levels affluence begins in the United States, the following exhibits focus on the two shopping phases for all adults and for two affluent household income levels: $75,000 or more, which includes 44 percent of adults; and $250,000 or more, which includes only the top 4 percent of adult consumers.
In the following exhibit, which focuses on consumers’ research phase of their shopping journey, three quarters of all American adults report they now conduct this part of their shopping digitally. Notably, the two affluent segments are more oriented to online researching; and the segment with household incomes of $250,000 or more is most likely to use mobile devices (tablets and smartphones) — 28 percent, compared with 15 percent for mass-market consumers (with household incomes under $75,000) and 18 percent for affluent consumers with incomes of $75,000 or more.
Omnichannel Shopping: Research Phase
The following exhibit highlights the buying phase of the shopping process, in which only about half of all American adults (46 percent) report they conduct this phase of their shopping digitally, primarily on computers. Again, the two affluent segments are more oriented to online buying (50 percent and 56 percent), and the $250,000-plus segment is least likely to buy in person at a brick-and-mortar store (29 percent compared with 50 percent and 41 percent for the other two segments). Notably, one out of seven (14 percent) of the highest income segments, a very valuable shopper, uses other ways of making purchases. Of course, these buying habits will differ depending on the goods or services the consumers are purchasing.
Omnichannel Shopping: Buying Phase
It is clear that omnichannel shopping has provided American consumers, especially affluent consumers, with more options to consider and use during their shopping journeys, depending on their own shopping habits and what they are considering buying. The merchants and marketers who operate both the brick-and-mortar and the digital stores that service these consumers now conduct their businesses in a much more complex environment than before, with Amazon continuing to disrupt old shopping habits by offering consumers a growing list of benefits through its Prime offerings
By Bob Shullman, CEO/Founder of Shullman Research Center