With the wide variety of ways that retailers make shopping available to consumers through stores, brands, discounters, and shopping sites all developing multiple platforms, consumers make personal choices on how they like to browse, comparison shop, test or try products, and ultimately purchase them.
Although some apparel and footwear brands have made it easy for consumers to order online, try it on at home, and send it back if the item doesn’t fit, some consumers still find the process a troublesome one that forces them to pay for return shipping. These barriers can make it important to get it right the first time – especially for older Americans who prefer more tried-and-true methods to shopping.
And of course, the internet (and Amazon) have made it easy to comparison shop, especially for discount hunting, as a part of the shopping experience. But what is the path to ultimately ringing the cash register? And how do those paths differ for various demographics? Who is willing to use both the internet and in-store shopping to find the best deals? And lastly, does anyone value brand equity over price cuts anymore?
CivicScience recently polled U.S. adults to gauge their path-to-purchase habits when buying apparel and footwear online or in-store. When zeroing in on a specific retailer or brand ahead of time, 25% of all U.S. adults have visited an apparel company’s website first before shopping in person at the store at least ‘somewhat often.’ But adults aged 55+ are much less likely to say the same (12%) – and over half have ‘never’ done this purchasing sequence before.
Looking at the reverse process – going to an apparel brand’s store first to browse or try on items before visiting the brand’s website to purchase – tells a similar story. The 55-and-over set is less than half as likely as the Gen Pop to say they attempt this sequence at least ‘somewhat often’ (9% compared to 20%), and just 2% of older Americans claim they’ve done this ‘very often.’
One might conclude that older shoppers tend to focus on shopping either in-store or online but don’t combine the two to either find different products or better deals. This is especially important when considering location tracking or on-site push messaging to shoppers, when older customers may not be paying attention to that type of marketing.
Middle-Income Shoppers Most Likely to Use the Internet to Price Shop
But which methods are older Americans using to chase a better deal? They’re nearly as likely as the Gen Pop to visit an apparel or footwear brand’s website to browse products and then visit the site of another retailer (like Saks or Amazon) to look for a better deal (43% of 55+ adults have done this, compared to 45% of the Gen Pop). But surprisingly, older Americans with an annual household income under $50,000 are the least likely to have done this before.
Brand Equity is of Highest Value to Older Shoppers
Despite their willingness to purchase a specific brand from a department store or discount website, the 55+ demographic is influenced most by brand faithfulness. A majority of the Gen Pop also places the greatest importance on a brand they ‘already know and trust’ (57%), but that figure jumps to two-thirds (65%) of 55-and-older Americans who say the same. Also, in keeping with other age groups, recommendations from friends and family are the second most-valued insight before purchase (11% for 55+ and 12% for Gen Pop) but older Americans hardly place ads, stories/photos about products, or in-store recommendations above all other factors.
Older Shoppers Don’t Visit Stores First, Then Go to the Internet
The apparel and footwear industries thrive on brand loyalty and repeat purchasers – especially among the 55+ set. Perhaps as a result of this dynamic, older Americans aren’t as likely to sample products in-store before buying online and vice versa. However, they’re still as likely as any other adult to browse around for the best deal on third-party websites. Their brand loyalty extends only to the product itself, not necessarily the company website or storefront.
We might surmise that older adults are focused on the type of shopping they are doing, while they are doing it. Not combining their in-store visits with online research or vice versa may indicate that when they are shopping in-store, they are focused on the in-store experience. And brand loyalty is potentially the most important factor that gets them to the brick-and-mortar store. But when they are shopping online they, like other demographics, are focused on that experience, and like everyone else, are looking for deals across store, brand, discount, and third-party shopping sites.