The State of Retail: Trends in Consumer, Retail and Payment Preferences

October 2, 2019

Amid the rapid pace of transformation across the retail industry, new research from Blackhawk Network reveals how people want to shop, pay, and engage with retailers today. Although digital growth in retail continues, traditional modes of shopping and payments such as in-store purchasing and cash maintain a strong foothold in U.S. retail consumer behavior. These are among the findings of the latest research commissioned by global branded payments provider, Blackhawk Network.

“Transformation is occurring across retail in response to changing consumer preferences, advancements in technology and the evolution of payments,” said Theresa McEndree, Vice President of Marketing for Blackhawk Network. “Our research highlights areas of vast disruption. Brands that are thriving are those actively looking for ways to overcome new challenges by creating fresh, seamless experiences to engage customers across the channels they find most valuable. At Blackhawk, we are continually examining and embracing these changes in order to evolve and enable our partners to meet shifting consumer needs.”

Key trends currently shaping the retail industry according to Blackhawk’s latest research:

  • In-store shopping is alive and well. Despite widespread retail innovation and disruption, traditional brick-and-mortar retail shopping remains relevant.
  • Consumers are purchasing at retail stores as often, if not more often, than they did last year. Sixty-three percent of consumers surveyed are purchasing in-store as often as last year. Twenty-eight percent of consumers surveyed said they are using retail stores more frequently, compared to only nine percent of shoppers who report using retail stores less often.
  • Convenience and speed are top motivators. Seventy-six percent of consumers surveyed reported convenience as their top motivation for shopping in-store. Fifty-six percent cited speed of purchase as a top motivator.
  • In-store shopping provides the highest satisfaction out of all purchasing options. Ninety-two percent of shoppers surveyed report being somewhat or very satisfied with the in-store shopping experience, more than other purchasing options.
  • Brick-and-mortar stores have the greatest repeat use. Physical retail stores see a significant amount of repeat use, driven largely by the buying power of loyal, older generations. Eighty-two percent of boomers surveyed said they purchase from retail stores at least monthly.

Online purchasing growth trends. Brick-and-mortar still has a strong foothold in the market, but with the support and purchasing power of younger generations, digital, and mobile shopping continue to grow.

  • Online shopping on a laptop or desktop computer with delivery selected is the second most frequently used shopping method. According to the research, nearly half (46 percent) of consumers surveyed currently use this method to shop at least monthly.
  • Consumers are utilizing multiple channels for online purchasing. Forty-nine percent of consumers surveyed purchase on a laptop or desktop computer at least monthly, and 41 percent purchase on their mobile phone.
  • Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to shop using their mobile phones. Eighty-one percent of Gen Zers and 83 percent of Millennials surveyed have used a mobile purchasing option, compared to just 69 percent of Gen Xers and 43 percent of boomers.

Traditional payment methods still dominate. Payment option usage among those surveyed has remained steady, but how the payment options are being used is changing. For example, paying through a retailer’s app still requires a credit card or debit card, but it is uploaded to and used through the app.

Top payment methods among shoppers surveyed:

  • Credit card (52 percent)
  • Cash (43 percent)
  • Debit card (42 percent)

Digital gift cards continue to gain momentum. Physical gift cards are still preferred by in-store shoppers surveyed, but digital and physical gift card usage has evened out online. Eleven percent of shoppers surveyed report using digital gift cards as a top method of payment online, compared to 10 percent for physical gift cards.

There is growing interest in points-based payments, especially among younger generations surveyed. Twenty-nine percent report paying with points more often than they did last year. Additionally, 70 percent of consumers surveyed said they are somewhat or very interested in paying with points.

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