Modern consumers are showing greater preferences for sustainability and shopping journeys that are splintered across multiple digital, physical and mobile touchpoints.


The revelations are the result of new research conducted by the IBM’s Institute of Business Value in association with the National Retail Federation in the US.

The global study, named Consumers Want It All, took in the views of over 19,000 customers to consider how physical and digital channels have become mixed when it comes to shopping through the Covid-19 pandemic. Among key takeaways, retailers are advised to become more agile if they are to integrate digital and in-store experiences, thus meeting customers where they are.

Most (72%) of respondents said that they use the physical store as all or part of their primary purchase method. Top reasons for this include the need to touch and feel products before buying them, picking and choosing their own products, and getting products right away.

Almost a third (27%) of respondents said that hybrid shopping is their method of choice, with Gen Z consumers most likely to be a ‘hybrid shopper’ compared to other age groups.

The study also showed that sustainability has become increasingly important to surveyed consumers’ purchase decisions and brand preferences since 2020.

Purpose-driven consumers, who choose products/brands based on their values like sustainability, are now the largest segment of consumers surveyed at 44%. Well over half (62%) of respondents said they are willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact, up from 57% two years ago.

Half of respondents say they’re willing to pay a premium for sustainability – an average premium of 70%. This is roughly double the premium from 2020.

Mark Mathews, Vice President of Research Development and Industry Analysis at the National Retail Federation, said:

“While many surveyed consumers still place high value on the traditional in-store shopping experience, they also now expect the flexibility to build their own shopping journey – according to the behaviours prevalent to their age range, available tools and the product category they are looking to purchase.

“This ‘hybrid’ approach is a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour,” Mathews added.

Luq Niazi, Global Managing Director IBM Consumer Industries, said:

“The survey shows over the last year, sustainability became increasingly important to consumers, though there’s still a gap between their intentions and actions due to lack of information in the buying process.

“Increasingly, it’s becoming essential that retail brands demonstrate sustainable choices and options in each step of the customer experience. At the same time, hybrid shopping has taken hold in most categories, particularly in-home goods and apparel; and while stores continue to play the predominant role in grocery, hybrid shopping is growing in these categories too, Niazi added.

“Despite the impact of COVID-19, our experience with clients shows many leading retail brands are continuing to rapidly transform operations, customer experience and supply chains with technologies like AI, hybrid cloud and blockchain to help serve these multiple customer preferences,” Niazi continued.