Value of In-Store Customer Service Highlighted In New Academic Study: Kellogg Shopper Index Finds More Than Price Driving “Showrooming” Behavior This Holiday Season

Results from the annual holiday shopping report by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University sheds new light on the "showrooming" phenomenon that has been in the news this holiday season. According to the recently issued 2012 Kellogg Shopper Index, many consumers who visit a store but then buy online are not driven there by price alone, but rather by a less-than-satisfactory in-store experience.

The survey found that 59 percent of shoppers sampled said they received poor or average service in the stores they recently shopped — and, among shoppers who said they engaged in showrooming, 40 percent reported that they actually never intended to buy online, but they were driven there after experiencing poor customer service and support in stores.

"The relationship between in-store service quality and shoppers' propensity to engage in showrooming, especially when they had not intended to, is consistent with our knowledge on the psychology of the consumer and about where, how and when they shop," said associate professor of marketing Derek Rucker in a news release.

"The showrooming conversation typically focuses on price as the impetus to purchase online," continued Eric Anderson, Hartmarx Professor of Marketing at Kellogg. "While the growth in online shoppers is clear, our data shows that there is still a robust segment of consumers who prefer to shop bricks-and-mortar stores. For retailers, this reinforces that how consumers want to shop is as strategically important as the price they are offered, and underscores the importance of face-to-face customer service."

Other findings from the Kellogg Shopper Index include:

  • Shoppers are more optimistic this season; 59 percent of respondents report that their household financial situation will be better in the next year. More than a quarter said they were planning on spending more on holiday gifts for others compared to last year.
  • Female shoppers are more loyal to their favorite stores, but are being lured into low-touch online channels because of poor or frustrating in-store experience.
  • Men with higher education levels and higher incomes are more likely to seek discounts by showrooming and engaging in mobile buying than women.

"As consumers continue to migrate into online and mobile channels, there is evidence that retailers are digging a hole that will be harder to get out of, as word-of-mouth about poor in-store experiences drives away more of their core shopping loyalists," said Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing Richard Wilson. "These shopper insights confirm that top product brands and their retail partners are likely at a major crossroads in the evolution of multi-channel routes to market."

Supported by the Kellogg Center for Global Marketing Practice, the Kellogg Shopper Index is a national survey that collects data from an online panel of more than 1,900 participants. The purpose of the index is to develop a 360-degree perspective of consumer spending habits that explores what and how people plan to purchase items or services, as well as the underlying psychological and financial drivers of their spending behavior.

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