Study Finds Consumers Prefer Buying Electronics In-Store Versus Online

As consumers become increasingly empowered to engage with retailers and their products through a number of channels, much has been said about the future of traditional brick-and-mortar in some key product areas. This is especially true when it comes to consumer electronics­––a category among the most researched online alongside books and apparel.

To uncover how consumers are interacting with these products from initial discovery all the way to the checkout line, StellaService carried out a study to better understand where customers are finding the most rewarding shopping experiences.

Specifically, the study found that although technology is increasingly playing a larger role in the discovery and research of electronics products, consumers still prefer to make their final purchase in-store. An explanation of some of the key findings gives us clues as to why the in-store retail environment is still the preferred place to complete an electronics purchase.

Background of the study and initial findings

The study compiled opinion data of over 2,000 consumers across a wide range of demographics; including age, income-level, gender, and location within the US. Distributed online, ages of the participants ranged from 18 to over 65. In terms of location breakdown, the respondents represented each of the five major geographic regions of the US as well as Canada.

The findings reveal interesting shopping behaviors among particular groups of consumers, which seem to show a trend retailers may find valuable from a strategy perspective. Among the top three methods for researching electronics products before making a purchase, two were based online while the third involved in-person engagement within a store. Overall, most people (63%), found that the retailer’s website provided the best means of looking at products with visits to the manufacturer’s website coming in at a close second place (60%).

Although these numbers show the growing influence of online research within the retail world, over half of the participants (57%) still use stores to discover and learn about products. These small statistical differences point to a very large opportunity for retailers looking to meet the expectations of customers using all three channels. The numbers make it clear that even in terms of initial research, consumers looking to invest in electronic products are actively taking part in the omnichannel process.

When it comes to making purchases, in-store remains the leader

While the results regarding product research point to a growing shift toward online as consumers find themselves able to compare prices and find the best deals, the survey also asked customers about their preferred means of purchasing electronics after their research is complete. The results mark a major distinction within the habits of shoppers as the majority of participants (81%) reported preferring in-store retail locations when actually making a purchase.

When the numbers are broken down according to demographics, some subtle trends emerge that retailers should find useful when considering their customer experience strategies. In terms of age groups, the 55 and older group was found to be considerably more likely to buy in-store versus online.

This gap between online and offline closes when looking at the 18 to 34 age group. In-store purchases still dominate consumer preferences among younger shoppers (75%), however online sales seem to be catching up quickly at 63%.

After looking at these numbers, retailers might wonder what exactly this means for the future of customer experience. While some point to advances in technology one day making eCommerce the primary means by which people shop, this study shows that outcome is not going to happen any time soon.

Although consumers are increasingly leveraging the convenience of online shopping tools to research new gadgets and compare prices between vendors, the convenience of in-person interaction with products and people offline is still resonating the most with customers when making purchases.