The Internet has changed the way we live our lives in major ways and in simple ones, from how we connect with our loved ones to how we order our food. In the commerce space, consumers are more informed than ever and while online shopping is a ubiquitous thing, the data every shopper has access to at their fingertips or in their pockets has even changed the game for in-store purchases.

A study by Deloitte University Press reported the number of shoppers who have already made a purchase decision before setting foot in a retail space is on the rise. Not-so-surprisingly, this percentage is markedly higher when involving high-investment purchases like electronics or home furnishings. The number of shoppers in these categories who have done their research offsite (or, rather, on a website) has actually surpassed the number of individuals who go into a store “blind” to look at different options before deciding what to buy.

Even for smaller purchases where browsing in-store may still be appealing to shoppers, it’s likely they’re still getting some assistance from the treasure trove of consumer-driven content online, as many opt to research products on a mobile device while looking at the items in-store, reading reviews and comparing features to help ensure they’re making the best decision.

Fewer and far between are purchases made without the help of the hundreds or thousands of data points available online for any given product, and more than ever people are skipping the retail experience altogether and making any purchase they can online.

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Why turn a cold shoulder to the in-store retail experience?

The simplest answer is often true and, simply, shopping online is easier. You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home, which means you save on gas money and the time it takes to get ready to go out or drive from store-to-store to find the best deal.

A study conducted by GfK global confirms the obvious: customers crave convenience. The research revealed the top reasons consumers prefer online shopping include better prices, selection and shorter shopping times in addition to better product information being available online.

Add that to the incentivization to shop online by way of promo codes, free two-day shipping deals, and easier-than-ever returns and it’s no surprise that consumers are clamoring for the online shopping experience.

Online, shoppers have a vast breadth of knowledge at their fingertips via consumer news and insights from customer ratings and reviews. On the Internet, you get data instead of a sales pitch, a major win for consumers.

Changing the game for sales staff and marketers.

In many instances, user-generated content has overtaken advertisements as the most significant influence on purchase decisions. This includes social media in addition to traditional customer reviews on third-party websites. This shift poses many challenges for retailers, as they have less control over the information used by customers in various stages of the shopping funnel.

Still, the mass appeal of online shopping isn’t going anywhere, so brands must shift alongside the trend and focus on making the process as simple as possible for consumers. Extra attention must be paid to the user-generated content being created online, because whether a shopper plans to buy online or in a store, it’s a safe bet they’ll be looking your product up online before that purchase is made!