According to Raydiant’s 2021 consumer behavior report, 40 percent of consumers have decreased their visits to physical stores because of COVID-19, but if given the choice, 46 percent would rather shop in person than online.

Raydiant’s findings, based on a survey among 1,000 US consumers on December 8, give marketers insight on what customers value about physical shopping experiences, and how brands can adjust their strategies to meet evolving preferences in the new year.

Despite concerns around COVID-19, nearly half of consumers said that if given the choice, they prefer to shop in person rather than online—a nine percent decline from Raydiant’s 2020 report.

One major reason for that preference is the ability to interact directly with products. For example, 33 percent of respondents like to see and feel products, while 26 percent enjoy the overall experience of shopping in person.

In addition, 13 percent say they appreciate the immediacy that in-store shopping provides, as opposed to waiting for delivery. Nine percent prefer a visit to the store because it lets them avoid high shipping costs.

Still, 40 percent of consumers have shopped in store less frequently due to the pandemic, while 13 percent have actually increased their trips to the store to a “major” degree.

Interestingly, perceptions of customer service have generally remained the same during the pandemic. A little over half (52 percent) said they haven’t noticed a change in customer service quality over the past 12 months, while 17 percent said it’s gotten worse.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted brand loyalty, with many consumers switching from brands they used to purchase in-store to online competitors. In fact, 49 percent of respondents said they’ve done so. Another 25 percent said they switch brands more frequently than ever.

For marketers, this means creating a superior, seamless in-stores shopping experience, as 60 percent of respondents said that they’ve abandoned a brand for good due to one poor in-person experience. What’s more, 90 percent said that a good in-store experience makes them more likely to return, and 60 percent said they’ll spend more as a result.

The same is true for online experiences. Sixty-five of consumers said a good in-store experience will inspire them to buy other products online.

According to respondents, the top characteristics of an excellent in-store experience include availability and variety of products (33 percent), quality of service from in-store staff (30 percent) and the layout of a location and organization of products (14 percent).

To win consumers’ loyalty, 31 percent of respondents said brands must offer discounts exclusive to the physical location, 15 percent said brands need to have clear health and safety protocols and another 14 percent said businesses should offer exclusive products not available online.

When asked what kind of items they’re most likely to buy in-store, 70 percent said groceries, 65 percent said medicine, 47 percent said household supplies and 47 percent said alcohol.