Online Shopping vs Brick-and-Mortar: What Wins and What Doesn’t

online shopping vs brick and mortar

At Confer With, we discuss the omnichannel experiences eCommerce can provide across personalisation, immersive experiences and product discovery.

Today we look at what drives purchases and deters shoppers away from physical stores and online shopping.

Research taken from YouGov and Retail Gazette illustrate the changes we are witnessing across the high street. The barriers to brick-and-mortar sales, moving away from suburbs and empty storefronts are influencing the drive in online spending.

Relocation, relocation, relocation – will customers still travel to shop?

Let’s take a look at what drives purchases in physical stores and what presents barriers. If anything goes to show, it is how omnichannel experiences can help attract new shoppers and keep loyal ones, whilst delivering brand differentiating experiences.

What are the key motivators? 

Research gathered from YouGov identified motivations and key barriers to purchase goods from brick-and-mortar vs online stores.   

The dominant factors and unsurprising were the desirable human elements of in-store shopping. Physically experiencing a product (62%), can try things in store (53%) and the speed of purchase (45%).  

A further 37% of respondents agreed that the experience influenced physical purchases, with the element of trust coming in at 25%. 

What are the key barriers? 

The aftershock of covid-19 is still evident, with 35% of respondents avoiding brick-and-mortar stores due to social distancing and avoiding public interactions. Creeping behind showcases what online shopping does so well – discounts and offers.  

A further 30% say it’s an inconvenience of visiting a physical store, with 27% saying there is a lack of product discovery. The following points exploit physical aspects with a lack of stores (26%), parking (24%) and accessibility (16%).

What does this mean? 

There is a cohort of shoppers who base motivations on the physicalities of shopping. Touching the product, experiencing in-store shopping either as a solo venture or with other people (17%). These help customers make informed purchase decisions on trust, credibility and the overall experience of the retailer’s offerings.  

Retailers are encouraged to address pain points that discourage new shoppers. Geographical limitations may possibly be exacerbated due to the high street and department closures in local towns. Research also suggests that homeowners are seeking a life away from the city. Although numbers are split (46% are looking for homes outside London, against 46% are looking to stay) these may change due to permanent hybrid working patterns and cheaper homes away from cities. 

In Q2 2021, the high street vacancy rate increased to 14.5% from 14.1% in Q1. This means it has increased year on year since Q1 2018.  

This highlights the conflict across online and physical channels. Online simply has more to offer in terms of product discovery. Whereas the high street continues to see store closures, higher rental increases and lack of inventory. This greatly impacts the opportunities customers have when looking for items that fall in the high consideration category.  

Retailers should begin to optimise online channels to attract missed customers who avoid physical spaces. While it is effective to have showrooms in high footfall areas; distance can only mean so far.   

The highs and lows of online channels: an opportunity for progressive change 

The key motivational factors to purchase goods from online channels included home delivery (57%), ease of purchasing (47%), variety of products available (42%) and easiness to compare products (37%). A further 28% agreed that product details and descriptions served as a key motivator.  

Amazon, for example, is built on quick deliveries and vast product choices. From next day delivery (even same day in some cases) to one-click purchase, it shows the that consumers crave when shopping. However, retailers must be aware of consumers being “tabbed out”, leading to cart abandonment. Accessible virtual storefronts with clear direction and CTAs will help guide customers through your website and mitigating cart abandonment and switching over to a competitor.  

Barriers to purchase goods from online channels include delivery charges (46%), physically experiencing a product (45%) and product return policy (39%). The inability to try things on comes in at 38% along with trust reasons including worries about personal information breaches (32%) and uncertainty of delivery (25%). 

Data uncovers that while shoppers choose online shopping for its convenience, brick and mortar offers something which online retailers struggle to convey – trust.  

It is no hidden secret that online shoppers will turn to reviews across retailers websites, trust pilot and YouTube, with 55% of consumers using videos for purchase decisions. 

The changing high-street will discourage shoppers visiting, but opens more opportunities. 


Future of brick-and-mortar


The future of the high-street remains uncertain, while vacant shops become a familiar siting with department stores small in numbers, it is not all doom and gloom.

Instead, high-streets could see a revamp of showroom stores, leisure activities and a budding space for cultural eateries.  

This of course begs the question; what happens to retail? As high street brands close and become less accessible to those living in small towns and villages; it hits the tension of the brick-and-mortar barriers we covered earlier.  

Combine that with the need to touch and feel products, and embrace in-store shopping experiences, it highlights the need for blended retail which does not sacrifice the physical aspect of omnichannel experiences. 

In a recent State of Consumer Behaviour 2021 report, research suggests that 33% of respondents prefer shopping at brick-and-mortar stores vs online. A further 26% enjoy the overall shopping experience and 13% prefer the immediacy in-store shopping provides; as opposed to waiting for delivery.  

Interestingly, 48% of respondents said they have replaced products they typically purchase at physical stores with competitors’ online alternatives. 25% said that they switch brands more often today than ever before.  

The offset of the pandemic encouraged brands to deliver omnichannel experiences to capture new customer segments, but as restrictions ease, long term shopping behaviours will increase online spending. 

For example, YouGov research uncovers that in Western European countries and the US less than 50% of consumers who wanted to shop in-store were instead shopping online. Conversions rates in brick-and-mortar vs online settings fall short. Of those who preferred shopping in-store, only 22% completed a transaction. 

Live video shopping as a blended retail solution

Confer With is a connected video commerce experience where the video call connects directly with the eCommerce engine.

It makes every product inside the video shoppable, allowing the retail expert to have access to the entire product inventory.

This new immersive experience means customer needs can continuously be addressed, without sacrificing tailored customer service; something that is expected in-store. Connected video commerce combines the power of appointment booking systems to unify the entire customer call in one experience.

The management of ongoing customer relationships is particularly key when handling high-consideration items that require time, patience and understanding. Therefore by coupling video commerce engagement and appointment booking systems, allows online retailers to leverage the beauty of online and brick-and-mortar together.

Interested in finding out more?

We would love to talk and discuss how live video shopping sits within your operations. You can book a time in our calendar right here: Book a Demo.

To find out more about live video shopping, we have some awesome guides here:

Live video shopping: 5 steps to increasing online sales

What are virtual stores? Why should brands get involved?

Live video shopping use case: watches

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