80% of shoppers compare prices online before shopping in stores

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The higher the item price, the more likely consumers were to research costs online.

While most consumers still prefer to make purchases in physical stores, they do their research online first. According to a recent study by Market Track, which surveyed 16 product categories, 80% of respondents said they would do online price comparisons in all categories before making a purchase in a physical location.

The higher the item price, the more likely consumers were to research costs online. Respondents buying computers, tablets, electronics and major appliances were more likely to compare prices online before going to a store to buy. Plus, those buying big-ticket items often look for expert advice and information that's best found online. 

"Even with consumers indicating their preference to purchase items in-store, the highly competitive online environment is impacting brick-and-mortar results. Decreases in profit margins can be attributed to shoppers being armed with more pricing and comparison information,” said Traci Gregorski, senior vice president of marketing at Market Track. “With real-time price data and other online information such as ratings and reviews at their disposal, it is much easier to decide which retailer to visit and which brand to buy. With prices fluctuating more frequently due to competitive pressures, it behooves shoppers to do their homework no matter where they decide to make their purchase.”

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However, the preferences are skewed a bit based on demographic. In the "digital native" age group of 18 to 20, 40% prefer to shop for nongrocery items on mobile, 38% prefer shopping online and 22% prefer shopping in a physical store. For those aged 21 to 29, 47% primarily shop via mobile, 31% indicate they prefer online and 22% prefer to make a purchase in store. 

"Younger demographics are socially driven, and like getting feedback from their friends while shopping. Sometimes that is happening over social media, but they still enjoy going in-store for the interaction and experience," Gregorski told FierceRetail. 

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Unsurprisingly, even a love for in-store shopping does not trump consumers' affinity for Amazon. Of all respondents, 87% shop on Amazon and 1 in 3 do so at least once a week. The selection of products is the No. 1 reason for shopping the e-commerce giant. Every age group, except those over the age of 50, had more than half as Prime members, and those ages 30 to 39 had the most Prime members at 63%. 

But Gregorski says that physical stores can still compete with Amazon.

"In order to differentiate, offering an experience is critical to remaining relevant. Whether it is through expertise, in-store events, trial, or just an enjoyable interaction with the shopping experience itself, retailers still have the advantage of established locations and recognition," she said.