Brick-and-mortar units outranked shopping websites when it comes to finding product information, according to the E-tailing Group's fourth annual crosschannel shopping study, which compared the experiences at multichannel retailers' stores versus their websites. Physical stores scored a 3.98 out of 5 across the 50 items evaluated, while online stores averaged 3.05.
"Our mystery shoppers concluded that the in-store experience is still far more robust than what one finds comparably online, when store associates are part of the equation," said Lauren Freedman, president of the research group and author of the study. Specifically, in-store associates were found to be knowledgeable, courteous, and friendly.
Their sales knowledge ranked 4.18 out of 5.88. Store associates were found to be easily accessible. Only at one mass merchant unit were mystery shoppers unable to find an associate.
Online stores have more room for improvement, Freedman said. For example, mystery shoppers looked at the search function on each of the retailers' eCommerce sites. Of the sites offering search, 64 percent included options to refine search criteria for a more efficient search experience, Freedman noted. Seventy percent of merchants in the study provided information on product pages, such as guides and ratings and reviews. Less than one-third of merchants with search functionality allowed shoppers to drill deeper for product information, such as quick tips or product demos. Search relevancy scored a 4.03 out of 5.
The study also found that while store locators now appear on many retailers' sites, many don't provide all the basic information consumers need to make a store visit, such as hours, directions and maps. Nor are consumers being enticed on store locator pages with promotions or conveniences, such as saving at a preferred store or checking inventory.
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