The store makes a significant contribution to converting the sale, even though the transaction is eventually registered online.

MIAMI—For all the talk about e-commerce eroding brick-and-mortar sales, a new study from A.T. Kearney offers a totally different perspective. The Omnichannel Shopping Preferences Study reveals that although e-commerce is grabbing headlines and shaping commercial real estate strategies, physical stores are still the preferred shopping channel for most consumers.

The study was based on a survey of 2,500 US shoppers that asked respondents about their shopping preferences and behaviors. The survey covered all age segments—teens, Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and seniors.

According to the study, stores play a critical role in online purchases. Specifically, two-thirds of customers making purchases online use a physical store before or after the transaction.

“A strategy based on leveraging the appeal of the physical store supported by digital is the best formula for capturing the maximum number of sales, building sustainable customer loyalty, and creating opportunities to cross-sell,” says Michael Brown, A.T. partner and study co-author. What’s more, the store makes a significant contribution to converting the sale, even though the transaction is eventually registered online. The source of value creation (brand building, product awareness) is often distinct—or decoupled—from the place of value capture (sales transaction).

“The decoupling of value capture is important for retailers to understand as they consider resource allocation decisions across channels to ensure that the true value the physical store creates is accounted for properly,” says Mike Moriarty, A.T. partner and co-author of the report. The survey asked respondents to rank the channels they used in each stage of the Shopping Journey—Discovery, Trial and Test, Purchase, Delivery or Pickup, and Returns.

Consumer channel preference varies by stage in the shopping journey, although the most common preferred shopping journey is exclusively store-based for each stage. Fifty-five percent of consumers in the survey prefer to use both stores and online throughout the entire journey.

The bottom line: Most shopping experiences are journeys that span multiple channels. “Whatever the strategy, format, or channel, the future of retailing will be characterized by consumer-centricity as operators continue to capitalize on emerging opportunities to better serve the customer demands for ‘anything, anytime, anywhere’,” says Andres Mendoza Pena A.T. principal and study co-author.