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Run the Numbers: 3 Reasons Consumers Choose to Shop Online Versus in Stores

Samantha McDonald

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Run the Numbers unpacks the data that’s driving top retail trends in the industry.

Brick-and-mortar shopping still has its benefits — and sticking power. Although e-commerce has become increasingly appealing to ever-connected consumers, many have pointed out digital’s inability to replicate the touch-and-feel experience of in-store retail — particularly when it comes to footwear.

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However, a new UBS study shows that a growing number of consumers are warming up to the idea of buying shoes online. The survey of more than 2,500 respondents revealed a 24% drop in the number of consumers who opted against shopping online because they were unable to try on products and considered the returns process to be difficult.

What’s more, researchers said that American shoppers are allocating a greater percentage of their total footwear spend to e-commerce. There are three main reasons for this shift: Consumers are not only finding a larger product selection online, but also greater convenience and lower prices compared to those in stores.

Reasons consumers choose to shop online

Reasons consumers would choose to shop online, UBS

According to UBS, roughly 25% of all apparel and footwear is sold online today, driven by demographics and increased online adoption.

Shoppers under the age of 34 are said to be 29% more likely to buy soft goods through e-commerce sites than their older counterparts. At the same time, the younger age group shops shoes and clothing online more frequently; over the last five years, the report shows that online penetration among shoppers under 34 years old has risen 15%.

Year-over-year change in online spend for footwear as percentage of total spend

Year-over-year change in online spending on shoes, UBS

The percentage of total footwear spend done online by age group over the years

Total online spending on shoes, UBS

Additionally, for the sixth straight year, consumers have told UBS that the ubiquity of online shopping is leading them to visit regional and outlet malls less than they did in the past. More and more of the study’s respondents said that the primary reason they visit malls today is no longer to visit a big-box store; instead, they would make the trip to either hang out or eat at the food court.

And even the option to buy online and pick up in store isn’t enough to significantly boost mall traffic: The survey showed that consumers only “sometimes” consider whether a retailer offers the service and suggested that BOPIS does not stand out as a major decision driver for purchasing footwear, apparel and accessories.

“Today, the vast majority of fashion discovery happens online,” added UBS analysts Jay Sole and Megan Foo. “The trend shows no sign of slowing down.”

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