Since the COVID-19 outbreak struck flexibility has been an important aspect in retail. Consumers are becoming more flexible in their daily routines thanks to ever more digital lifestyles and expect their shopping activities. This is in order to fit their busy and variable schedules as seamlessly as possible. Therefore, retailers are confronted with new challenges. Those who stick to their original, well-established sales channel have a hard time competing with those who offer flexible solutions.
Retailers counting on a multi-channel approach and connect online and offline services, profit from more touchpoints with customers. In addition, they are able to reach a broader audience with their products and services. Shoppers around the world were asked how important flexible combined online and offline solutions are in their point of view. Furthermore, it also asked which services they would prefer to use.
Across the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy, the service which is most frequently used by consumers is checking online if a product is available in a local store. Around half of respondents in the four countries analysed stated that they would like to use this service. The interest is highest in the UK. In the UK, 57% of consumers like the idea of having a look on the website whether a product is available in their local store before going there.
Ordering online and then using further services at the local store is also rather popular. 45% of respondents in the UK would like to order a product online and pick it up at the store. Or they would like to return or replace the item at the store (41%). The numbers are similar in the other three countries. France has the highest share of respondents who would like to pick up items at the store that they ordered online (47%). Moreover, Italy has the highest share of respondents who would like to return products at the store that they bought online (44%).
The other way around – returning an item by mail which was bought at a local store – is a lot less popular. Less than 20% in each country stated that they would like to use the service. Italy having the lowest share of interested consumers (10%). Buying at the store and returning by mail is also the only service which is attractive to less than 20% of consumers in all four countries.
All other services relating to an online-offline integration approach are interesting for more than 20% of consumers. This is a strong sign for retailers that it might pay off to open up their business strategies towards a more flexible combination of online and offline services.
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