Shoppers prefer to sofa surf

E-retail is set to grow by almost 50% over the next five years to be worth more than £50bn in 2018, according to new research from Verdict.

One pound in every seven spent on retail will be made online with one of the key drivers being that shoppers increasingly consider online shopping to be as enjoyable, or even more enjoyable, than traditional shopping.

In a survey of more than 10,000 online shoppers, only 4% more people considered physical shopping to be more enjoyable than online, compared to a 25% gap 18 months ago.

“Rather than push online spend outdoors, the rapid adoption of touch screen tablets and smartphones has moved online shopping into the living room,” explains Verdict lead analyst Patrick O’Brien.

“67% said they shopped from their living room, indicating that second screening – browsing websites while watching TV – has had a major impact. This, together with the ability to browse on smartphones wherever you are, and social media, has made online shopping a much more immersive and interactive experience than it was only a few years ago, when more shoppers tended to be restricted to desktops typically located away from the living room.”

As physical retailers appear to be losing their advantage in “enjoyment”, they need to work harder on giving people reasons to enter their stores, through improved customer service, events and so on. Both men and 35–54 year olds already find online more enjoyable than physical stores.

While mobile devices are playing a major role in the rise of “showrooming” – the use of smartphones to check prices of competitors while browsing in stores – their impact is also being felt in the home.

“Rather than making consumers agnostic about where they make their purchases, smartphones and tablets are used in stores mainly to check prices and product details. The idea that showrooming customers are wielding their smartphones in stores to purchase from rival retailers en masse is a myth,” said O’Brien. Only 2% of online shoppers say they have purchased while at a retailer, but 97% say they shop online at home and 15% at work. Mobile phone users generally prefer to wait until they are on a secure and trusted network before committing to a purchase.

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