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Most shoppers prefer stores to online but want better service

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Over half of UK consumers rate their experiences in physical stores as better than online, according to new research published today.

Research firm Arc UK conducted a detail analysis of the shopping habits of 2,000 consumers and found that 20 per cent dramatically preferred the bricks and mortar experience and 39 per cent though it was a somewhat improvement to e-tail.

The findings will add fuel to the argument that the retail outlet still has a fundamental role to play in a multichannel world, however the report from Arc, which is part of the Leo Burnett Group, warns that consumers are demanding more from store formats.

Less than half of shoppers, 42 per cent, believe stores are delivering prompt service and only 30 per cent said that shops have staff who can help them decide what to buy.

It seems that even value chains need to take notice of the way they deliver retail theatre and store service, with 60 per cent of respondents claiming they were unwilling to sacrifice the quality of their shopping experience for a lower price.

High street fashion retailers such as Topshop, Forever 21 and Zara won praise from Arc for offering value products in an innovative and exclusive atmosphere within their stores which shoppers reacted very positively to.

Dr Alan Treadgold, Global Head of Strategy at The Leo Burnett Group, said: “The UK retail sector has taken an unprecedented hit and continues to struggle as the UK economy emerges from the shadow of recession.

“Yet our research shows that the physical store still has an important role to play in daily life and can have a promising future.

“Consumers increasingly want an engaging and entertaining shopping experience, and they also want to be able to move seamlessly between online and offline.”

Demand for cutting edge consumer technologies seems to be keeping pace with innovations, with 59 per cent of smartphone user already saying they value the ability to scan barcodes using their handsets and 55 per cent want more mobile applications from retailers.

Arc’s research, entitled ‘Re-imagining the Retail Store’, also found that consumers increasingly group retailers in their mind by the type of service they offer rather than which products they sell.

Shoppers tend to think of Apple and Selfridges in the same ways as entertainers in a retail space, whereas Boots and Waitrose are linked by the integrity of their offering, and Primark, Ikea and DFS are all known for value.

Treadgold added: “It’s critical that retailers truly understand which competitors they are being positioned against, to keep up with rising service expectations and to stand out.

“Ultimately the key is having a shopper-centric perspective, rather than a product focus.”

Published on Wednesday 27 July by Editorial Assistant

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