Retail stores still dominate ecommerce when it comes to new product discovery and conversion

The stat: After discovering a new brand or product while browsing in-store, 31.5% of shoppers immediately purchase the item, compared with 19.1% on retail sites and 10.4% on brand sites.

While there’s no doubt that the combination of all digital activities drives far more product and brand awareness than the physical store, no single online channel—whether third-party retailers, brand websites, or social networks—has overtaken the power of the store.

In an excerpt from our recent deep dive exploring the consumer path to purchase in 2023, we compare how ecommerce stacks up against physical stores when it comes to consumer behavior vis-à-vis newly discovered products.

Discovery: Physical stores are still relevant for driving upper-funnel awareness, with brick and mortar reigning supreme in certain categories.

  • The store is most important in grocery. Roughly half of shoppers who purchased a new brand or product in food and beverage (50.8%) or household supplies (48.6%) discovered it while shopping in-store.
  • In-store discovery is also highly relevant in categories where “touch-and-try” shopping is popular. The ability to try on and physically evaluate products is likely what has kept stores relevant in categories like furniture and home goods, beauty, and clothing.
  • A digital channel drives the same level of discovery as physical stores in only two categories: consumer electronics and accessories. In these areas, stores and retail websites were equally relevant.

Conversion: While digital is making strong headway in the purchase of new brands and products, both online and store are relevant.

  • Grocery is the last holdout, but there’s still a strong online conversion rate in these categories. Stores lead in conversion for shoppers buying new brands and products across food and beverage, household supplies, and health and personal care. But ecommerce still plays a role: More than one-third of shoppers who purchased a new food and beverage item did so online.
  • Beauty and furniture and home goods were evenly split. The rate of shoppers who purchased new products in these categories was essentially even, falling within the margin of error.
  • Apparel and consumer electronics skewed most heavily in favor of ecommerce. Still, around half of shoppers in these categories purchased new items in-store.

The big takeaway: Digital has had a massive influence on product discovery, but no single online channel has yet replaced the physical store.

  • Retail and brand sites (including mobile apps) do collectively drive greater awareness, according to our proprietary survey of 1,447 consumer goods shoppers.
  • But stores are still highly relevant in most product categories, even those with high ecommerce sales rates.

Go further: For the full story on how physical stores and online channels compare when it comes to the consumer path to purchase in 2023, see our recent deep-dive report.

First Published on Nov 20, 2023

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