Retailers may improve in-store traffic and sales by leveraging growth in on-line shopping, said Nielsen, which reported a fourth of global consumers order grocery products on-line for home delivery, and 55% said they are willing to use it in the future.

Nielsen’s Global E-Commerce and the New Retail survey polled 30,000 on-line respondents in 60 countries to evaluate how consumers are using digital technology and offer insights into how retailers and manufacturers may use flexible retail options.

While interest in on-line is growing, 61% of global respondents enjoy grocery shopping in a retail store, and 57% consider the experience a fun family activity. Building an on-line presence, however, may lead to increased traffic in brick-and-mortar stores, as retailers engage consumers along the path to purchase as they make shopping lists, check prices, research products, and share reviews on social media before buying an item in the store.

“The connected commerce era has arrived,” said Patrick Dodd, president, global retailer vertical, Nielsen. “Consumers are no longer shopping entirely on-line or off-line; rather, they’re taking a blended approach, using whatever channel best suits their needs. The most successful retailers and manufacturers will be at the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds, leveraging technology to satisfy shoppers however, wherever and whenever they want to shop.”

Opportunities abound in in-store digital engagement, which adds ease, convenience and personalization to a brick-and-mortar shopper’s experience. Less than a fifth of global consumers use on-line and mobile coupons (18%) and mobile shopping lists (15%), but nearly two-thirds said they would use them in the future. Fourteen per cent of respondents use a loyalty program app on a mobile phone to receive information or offers, but 63% said they would use one if available. Other digital enablement options, such as in-store WiFi or computers and QR codes, are used by about 1 in 10 consumers, but roughly two-thirds of global respondents showed interest in using these options.

“At present, shoppers do all of the work putting the pieces together to arrive at their final purchase decision,” Mr. Dodd said. “In a competitive retail environment, retailers and manufacturers can add value and differentiation by providing digital tools to help consumers take control of their shopping experience while also increasing sales potential. Mobile in particular can tip the scales in favor of increased shopper control, empowering them to shape the shopping experience more than ever before.”

Driving the trend in on-line shopping are younger consumers, who are more likely to use six options of e-commerce, including home delivery, in-store pickup, drive-through pickup, curbside pickup, virtual supermarket and automatic subscription, Nielsen said. Thirty per cent of millennial consumers (ages 21-34) and 28% of Generation Z respondents (ages 15-20) order groceries for home delivery, compared with 22% of Generation X (ages 35-49), 17% of baby boomers (ages 50-64) and 9% of shoppers 65 and older.

“Millennials are at the beginning of their careers and are starting to form households, while the oldest members of Generation Z will soon be graduating college and joining the workforce,” Mr. Dodd said. “These generations will shape our economy for decades to come. Therefore, it is critical that retailers and manufacturers understand how these consumers are using technology and include digital touch points along the entire path to purchase.”

But a virtual shopping cart hardly mirrors a physical one, Nielsen said. In the United States, the mix of on-line product sales is about 60% non-food and 40% food, while the reverse is true for the mix of in-store consumer packaged goods sales.

“Consumers are embracing the idea of buying certain packaged goods on-line, but some categories are simply better suited for e-commerce than others,” Mr. Dodd said. “While certain fast-moving consumer goods categories will serve as ‘on-ramp starter’ e-commerce categories, adoption rates will vary market by market. Understanding what consumers are buying both on- and off-line allows you to prioritize digital initiatives and take action with the categories that drive in-store trip count and basket size.”

Categories such as personal care and household products are better suited for on-line purchasing, while immediate-use items like fresh or frozen foods, condiments and beverages may be slower in adoption, Nielsen noted.

As the retail landscape continues to evolve, store-switching behaviors remain largely driven by price (for 68% of global respondents), quality (55%), convenience (46%) and special promotions (45%). Cleanliness and assortment are top reasons for about 1 in 4 consumers, and store staff is a factor for 27% of respondents.

Most consumers will continue to shop for the majority of purchases in store, using whichever format best meets their needs for convenience, choice and value, so retailers and manufacturers should leverage both physical and digital assets to improve the in-store experience.

“Time-starved consumers want to use technology to make shopping faster, easier and more efficient,” Mr. Dodd said. “As we’ve seen with self-checkout, one of the more mature flexible retailing options included in the survey, as more retailers incorporate these options in their in-store and on-line offerings, adoption rates will likely increase.”