Nine out of 10 Back-to-School Shoppers Will Hit the Bricks

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They'll visit stores to touch product and avoid shipping fees, but eight of 10 plan to consult mobile devices in the aisles, a study says.

'Webrooming' fills parking lots.
'Webrooming' fills parking lots.

Mobile's growing influence on shoppers may be forging a new retail regime, but brick-and-mortar is still king during the back-to-school shopping season. A new study from Accenture says that 89% of parents of school-age children will be scouring stores to touch merchandise and save on shipping fees. What stores they walk into, however, will often be determined by “webrooming”—browsing online to determine pricing and in-stock status.

“The idea that we're seeing the death of the physical store is not borne out by the results of this survey,” says Dave Richards, managing director of Accenture's global retail practice, which polled 500 parents of kindergarten-to-college-age kids on their back-to-school plans.

Learning whether an item was in stock was the chief reason people gave for engaging in webrooming, according to the survey, with 47% naming that purpose. Avoiding shipping costs (43%), touching and feeling products before buying (43%), and asking stores to match lower prices (33%), were the other key motivations.

"The fact that the majority of parents we surveyed plan to participate in webrooming underscores the significance of having a consistent and convenient experience across all retail touchpoints," Richards says, noting that it's imperative for retailers to arm store associates with mobile devices to solve problems and move transactions.

“Customers have to have the current information at their fingertips,” Richards adds. “Retailers need to look at how to integrate interactive experiences that connect in-store shopping experiences with omnichannel capabilities.”

Just over half of parents (52%) told Accenture they expected to spend more on back-to-school items this year, while only 11% said they would spend less. Two fifths put their budgets at $500 or more. Right now is the peak period for marketers to be reaching out to shoppers via their mobile connections. Some 58% said they'd do most of their shopping between July 16 and August 15.

Those who plan to do their shopping online will stick primarily to home computers (89%), though nearly a third said they'd likely make purchases via mobile devices. Price, not convenience, was the key reason named for going the digital route. Nearly two thirds said they expected to find better discounts online, 59% were after the lowest prices, and 44% named the convenience of home shipping.

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