Users Clearly Prefer Local to E-Commerce

The majority of online users conduct e-commerce. Whether they’re teens or adults most Americans buy things online. However the data show pretty consistently and clearly that the majority of e-commerce shoppers also prefer to buy in stores.

According to a December 2012 survey from Ipsos, roughly 60% of American consumers said they preferred to shop in stores vs. online.  An earlier, March 2012 survey from Bazaarvoice found higher levels of satisfaction overall with offline purchases than those conducted online.

teens offline shopping preference

Source: Marketing Charts, data Piper Jaffray

As the chart above reflects large majorities of teens also prefer to shop in stores than online, despite the fact that nearly 75% of teens do shop online. And earlier today I posted on Internet2Go that 63% of survey respondents said they would rather buy locally, in a physical store vs. online.

All this and other data together indicate that between 60% and 80% of consumers prefer to shop locally. But perhaps the most compelling data above, from the Piper Jaffray survey, shows the next generation of consumers strongly prefers shopping locally to e-commerce.

What do you think? Do you accept this or dispute these data?

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7 Responses to “Users Clearly Prefer Local to E-Commerce”

  1. Street Fight Daily: Waze Acquisition Talks Collapse, Wikipedia Launches ‘Nearby’ | Street Fight says at

    […] Clearly Prefer Local to E-Commerce (Screenwerk) Greg Sterling: The majority of online users conduct e-commerce. Whether they’re teens or adults […]

  2. Cory Grassell says at

    Some of the stats are no-brainers. I wouldn’t shop online for a car, furniture, etc. I have reservations about buying clothing and shoes online because I can’t guarantee they’ll fit, plus I pay return shipping if they don’t. With electronics, I usually visit a local store to test out a product, then search online for best prices. I don’t know what to make of the “concerts & events” category (what does that even mean; you can’t tell me that people prefer to buy tickets at local stores versus online?). All in all, my point is that the categories seem skewed toward offline commerce. Offline sales still comprise the majority; just think about all the offline shopping you do in a typical week just by grocery shopping or quickly running into your local Walmart. But I think e-commerce is gaining a stronger foothold, as consumers become savvier, smarter shoppers (and searchers).

  3. Trevor Sumner says at

    The emotional connection to physical stores, local people, interaction and shopping socially contributes highly to this.  I think that’s what makes local special – that connectivity.   While more convenient, online shopping misses that emotional connection.  In the future everyone will both shop locally and online and often as a hybrid (like showrooming).  I remember where I found a great vest in a little boutique in New Orleans even though I ended up purchasing it from Amazon.  

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    Jeff Bezos originally said that e-commerce might capture 10% to 15% of offline retail sales. That may happen eventually. As Trevor says local shopping is about more than buying things. E-commerce is about convenience and then price. But what’s happening because of mobile and other developments is that consumer buying is becoming more complex. In addition, e-commerce capabilities (online payments, scheduling) are coming to local services, even though fulfillment remains offline. That’s a huge growth opportunity.

  5. ben allen says at

    Hey Greg, this is an interesting chart. It makes sense to me. I think that nowadays the consumer doesn’t really see the world as e-commerce vs offline, but how can I get what I want in a way that maximizes what I value 
    – care a lot about price, have plenty of time
    – just need something now
    – just want to buy something… anything
    – really want a specific item
    some stuff seems more personal like clothes and immediate like food, not to mention the serendipity benefits that often come with entering a store to buy either. Other stuff like concert tickets is really just a chore unless you enjoy the social-ness of camping out for tickets with fellow fans.  I’d suspect that if you could magically create instant access, endless selection and universal pricing ubiquity in the physical world, everyone would prefer direct face to face, tactile shopping for the vast majority of stuff (although there is probably a few niche things where arms length shopping may be valued: condoms, herpes medication.)  Does anyone really ‘prefer’ waiting to receive items, or taking on the ‘risk’ of what’s represented on a computer screen not materializing as expected in the real world item? I don’t think so, its just that sometimes there are other benefits that outweigh these negatives, but IMO the default will always be offline as we can generally store locally most of the items people want to buy most often and we are our own most efficient and reliable delivery service. Interesting  note about the 10-15% estimate for e-commerce, although I suspect a much larger percentage of offline shopping may one day be more seamlessly directly ‘tech assisted’ beyond the current ROBO thanks to the availability ofthe location aware mobile internet… so the lines will get quite blurry there indeed.    


  6. Greg says at


    I do think that things will become more category specific as you suggest. I also agree that the O2O or ROBO phenomenon is increasingly prevalent. Most purchases do involve some sort of prior online research even if it’s just for the business location. 

    Agree that the lines are blurring. OpenTable is a long-standing example: online reservation, offline fulfillment. But with online credit card processing starting to happen for local service businesses offline services may include stored credit card purchasing. 

  7. This Week in Hyperlocal: 5/31 says at

    […] Users Clearly Prefer Local to E-Commerce – Great news for local brick-and-mortar businesses: a recent survey shows that between 60% and 80% of consumers prefer to shop in-store versus online. […]

  8. SM says at

    Hey Greg, Great article! I’m of same view that O2O in local markets presents huge opportunity if we are able to streamline discovery (specific product/service , price, quality, location), payment and scheduling. Fullfilment can be done offline as far as i know what I’m gettin, how much I’m paying for and by when I’ll get it. But the challenge is in bringing more transparency in what users are paying/booking for. Secondly, I see there can be a lot of friction in bringing local businesses use online scheduling as most of these small businesses are not tech savvy like their users who wants everything on single platform.

    I would like to hear more from you on how can we reduce this friction among local businesses.

  9. Greg Sterling says at

    Yes, there is a lot of friction in bringing some of these SMBs into online scheduling or other forms of commerce. The business owner has to see clear benefits from doing so as a fundamental matter. After that the process of adoption needs to be as simple as possible and there probably needs to be recourse to a human at some point in the process. I don’t think there’s a magic formula.

  10. Your Weekly Guide in the Jungle of Local Marketing says at

    […] More than 75% of teens prefer to shop in stores than online, despite the fact that nearly 75% of teens do shop online […]

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