81% of consumers prefer physical stores, research shows

81% of UK consumers see the physical store as vital to the shopping experience and 70% say they enjoy the full experience of going into stores to browse, see what's new and buy what they like, new research from Vista Retail Support shows.

59% of UK consumers surveyed say they prefer to find and buy goods in person, while only 30% are "showroomers" using retail stores to try goods out before they buy online.

"It is clear that bricks-and-mortar stores are still very much the lifeblood of retail," said James Pepper, technical services director at Vista Retail Support.

"Those who believed 'showrooming' was the future of the high street may have to think again. Our survey has found that the great majority of consumers prefer to use stores for everything from browsing to buying and making returns.

"Of course the role of the physical store has now evolved, it's much more than a place to shop, physical stores are now showrooms and forward stock locations essential to success of online retail".

The survey also revealed that 60% of consumers prefer to use physical stores to return unwanted items, many citing the hassle and worry of using post or courier services. 67% of respondents admit that they often order more than they originally intended when shopping online because returns are free.

Consumers also said that exciting use of technology would entice them inside a store, with 61% saying they would visit regularly to use virtual and augmented reality applications, smart mirrors and interactive gaming. Half (50%) said they would buy more if they received recommendations and personalised offers on smart devices.

"The physical store is alive and kicking and set to be given a real uplift by the implementation of some dazzling new technologies," added Pepper. "Growth in online sales is widely reported, even though we know that online sales are not all they appear to be, as some retailers encourage customers in store to use technology so that a transaction is credited as an online sale. Many purchases also start online and are completed in store, which is a growing trend.

"With such a large volume of online purchases being returned in-store the brick-and-mortar premises will continue to play a vital role, with huge potential efficiency and cost savings to be made by reducing false online purchases and expediting returns back onto hangers and shelves instore."

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