In-store shoppers likely to head online next time they buy: IBM

NEW YORK Tue Jan 15, 2013 9:17pm IST

Shoppers pass a clothing shop during the Boxing Day sales on Oxford Street in central London, December 26, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Winning/Files

Shoppers pass a clothing shop during the Boxing Day sales on Oxford Street in central London, December 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Winning/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The overwhelming majority of shoppers made their last purchase in a store and not online, but far fewer are committed to do so the next time they buy something, according to a study released on Tuesday.

More than 80 percent of shoppers in the study from International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) last bought something at a store, but only half said they would go to a brick-and-mortar retailer next time.

The study showed both the importance and global reach of "showrooming," in which shoppers examine products in stores and then make their purchase online.

In China, 26 percent admitted to showrooming, compared with 13 percent in India and 7 percent in the United States, IBM said.

The study is the latest to underscore the importance of online and mobile shopping.

Thirty-five percent of the store shoppers surveyed around the world in November said that they were unsure whether they would shop at a store or online for their next purchase, according to IBM. Nine percent said that they would make their next purchase online.

Retailers that do not embrace the small but growing group of showroomers risk losing those shoppers to Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and other online-only competitors that often offer merchandise at lower prices.

"Where do you want to place your bets for the future?" Jill Puleri, the global retail leader for IBM Business Services, asked executives at the National Retail Federation conference in New York this week.

Nearly half of all online purchases resulted from showrooming, which is popular with younger shoppers - typically males - who tend to be more affluent than average, Puleri said.

"This is not the enemy, far from it," she said. "They are your best friends, your advocates."

While in-store transactions still make up the vast majority of sales, online purchases are increasing at a faster clip than those in stores.

Some retail leaders say chains are not quick enough to adapt to this trend.

J. Crew Chief Executive Officer Mickey Drexler scolded a panel at a Financo event on Monday for retail CEOs and other business leaders for not addressing the threat of Amazon during a discussion about how essential stores are for branding.

"How do you have a panel like this without mentioning Amazon?" Drexler asked the group, which included Coach Inc (COH.N) CEO Lew Frankfort and VF Corp CEO Eric Wiseman (VFC.N).

Of eight categories tracked in the IBM survey of 26,000 shoppers, the two most popular for online purchases were consumer electronics and luxury items, including jewelry and designer clothing.

Nearly 25 percent of Internet shoppers had intended to buy in the store but ultimately purchased online, primarily for price and convenience, IBM said. Retailers that only operate online account for one-third of purchases by showroomers, IBM said. (Reporting by Jessica Wohl in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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