Hybrid Shopper IBM Institute of Business Value-National Retail FederationReports

Hybrid shoppers are on the rise — IBM study

Consumer purchasing habits have shifted significantly during the pandemic adopting to using multiple platforms when shopping. The second global study of IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) in partnership with the National Retail Federation (NRF) reveals that 27% of respondents said hybrid shopping is their method of choice.

The IBM Institute for Business Value is a business research organization that focuses on managerial and economic issues faced by companies and governments around the world. The NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association.

The study titled “Consumers want it all” found that Gen Z consumers surveyed are most likely to be a “hybrid shopper” — mixing physical and digital channels in shopping journeys — compared to other age groups. Shopping online has become a necessity as governments imposed mobility restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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“Despite the impact of COVID-19, our experience with clients shows many leading retail brands are continuing to rapidly transform operations, customer experience and supply chains with technologies like AI, hybrid cloud and blockchain to help serve these multiple customer preferences,” said Luq Niazi, global managing director IBM Consumer Industries.

The global study of over 19,000 surveyed consumers saw that 72% of respondents say they use the store as all or part of their primary purchase method.

“While many surveyed consumers still place a high value on the traditional in-store shopping experience, they also now expect the flexibility to build their own shopping journey — according to the behaviors prevalent to their age range, available tools, and the product category they are looking to purchase,” said Mark Mathews, VP of Research Development and Industry Analysis at the National Retail Federation. “This ‘hybrid’ approach is a fundamental shift in consumer behavior.”

AI, cloud

Shoppers still want to see, touch, and feel a potential purchase, according to 50% of the respondents. About 47% want to pick and choose their own products while 43% want to get their items right away.

The study also shows that sustainability has become increasingly important to surveyed consumers’ purchase decisions and brand preferences since 2020.

Purpose-driven consumers, who choose products/brands based on their values like sustainability, are now the largest segment of consumers surveyed (44%), while 62% of respondents are willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact, up from 57% two years ago.

The study also found that half of the respondents say they’re willing to pay a premium for sustainability — an average premium of 70%. This is roughly double the premium from 2020. However, there’s a gap between intention and action — only 31% of respondents say that sustainable products made up most or all of their last purchase.

“The survey shows over the last year, sustainability became increasingly important to consumers, though there’s still a gap between their intentions and actions due to lack of information in the buying process,” said Niazi. “Increasingly, it’s becoming essential that retail brands demonstrate sustainable choices and options in each step of the customer experience.  At the same time, hybrid shopping has taken hold in most categories, particularly in home goods and apparel; and while stores continue to play the predominant role in grocery, hybrid shopping is growing in these categories too.”