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NEW DELHI: Shoppers in India bought more essentials offline while making more discretionary purchases online over the last three months, according to findings of a survey carried out by research group YouGov.

Consumers shifted between shopping for essential goods such as food and beverages, and medical supplies in stores while buying clothing, mobile phones, cosmetics, and footwear online, the survey said.

“In terms of discretionary items, clothing (45% online vs 34% brick-and-motor) and mobile phones (29% vs 15%) are sectors that showed greater online penetration. When asked about factors that motivate consumers to buy online, home delivery emerged as the top reason cited by consumers globally, with highest numbers coming from Mexico and India," YouGov said in its findings.

Most urban Indians claim the ease of purchasing and the ability to compare products are also top motivators for them to shop online. Although online shopping offers convenience, product return policy and the inability to physically experience products were stated as major barriers for this medium in India, the survey said.

YouGov’s ‘International Omni-Channel Retail Report 2021: Shopping in the pandemic and the implications for the future’ mapped shopping attitudes and behaviours across 17 markets. In all, it surveyed over 19,000 respondents globally.

Consumers surveyed said the ability to physically experience products is the top reason to shop from stores, with more than half in India saying this. Even though this is a huge pull for consumers, factors such as lack of offers and variety dissuade them from shopping in stores. "The current restrictions and social distancing norms add to the reasons (33%) for shoppers to avoid brick-and-motor stores in the recent past," the survey said.

Online sopping had seen a significant spike during India’s first lockdown prompting more companies to scale up digital offerings. Meanwhile, the second wave has again restricted mobility and forced state governments to shut non-essential stores further aiding online sales.

Channel usage by consumers surveyed in the past three months suggests that 84% of Indians bought various categories in store. Of those surveyed, 81% also acknowledged buying goods online. Globally, brick-and-mortar and online channels reported an average penetration across markets of 86% and 81%, respectively, in the last three months.

“Looking specifically at the shopping behaviour of urban Indians in the past three months, we see that brick-and-motor penetration levels are higher for every essential category apart from personal care products. The largest gap is seen in medicines and medical supplies, where penetration is 14 points higher in brick-and-motor channels than online (40% vs 26%), showing a positive sign for retail pharmacies in the country. Food and drinks are yet another essential category that people mostly bought from brick-and-motor channels than online," YouGov said.

Most shoppers globally use both online and brick-and-mortar stores to meet their needs, with nearly three-quarters having made purchases through both channels in the past three months, it added.

The pandemic has led to shifts in shopping behaviour among consumers across the globe. It is therefore imperative for brands and retailers to be cognizant of these changes and understand the cross-channel interplay between online and offline stores, it added.

"As consumers are open to embracing new technologies, retailers need to start devising innovative strategies backed by latest technological solutions to enhance the shopping experience and drive greater channel penetration," said Deepa Bhatia of YouGov India.

The survey also noted that Indians are keen when it comes to adopting artificial reality and virtual reality solutions, especially for clothes and technology and home appliances. "This indicates that the future of augmented shopping in India looks bright and by adopting these technologies online retailers can drive greater channel penetration," it said.

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