In order to thrive in the modern age of multichannel retailing brands have to be aware of the relationship between their offline and online sales channels.

Smart retailers such as John Lewis, B&Q and Marks & Spencer already partly attribute online sales to their brick-and-mortar stores as it’s naive to think that people buying through ecommerce haven’t been in-store for product research at some point.

A survey published by eBay gives a new insight into the relationship between offline and online retail by asking respondents about the channels they used to research a specific purchase.

In both the UK and Germany around a third of consumers used multiple channels during their purchase journey, including 31% of consumers who visited a store before buying online and 34% of consumers who did online research before a recent in-store purchase.

Purchases of electronics or home and garden products were most likely to involve prior research, which are among the main product categories sold by John Lewis and B&Q.

Prior to your recent online purchase, did you do any of the following?

Smartphone usage

Delving deeper into how consumers use smartphones while shopping, the data shows that German smartphone owners are more likely to use their mobile to aid the purchase journey.

Among UK respondents the most popular shopping-related smartphone activities were finding nearby stores (31%), taking a picture of a product (30%) and comparing prices or researching product details (both 23%).

In contrast, 41% of German smartphone owners have taken a picture of a product to retrieve information, 40% use their phone to find nearby stores and 31% have scanned a barcode to access additional product information (vs. 17% in the UK).

Econsultancy’s Mobile Commerce Compendium contains a range of recommendations for how retailers can implement mobile technologies in-store to improve the customer experience, including scannable barcodes and free Wi-Fi.

For which of the following activities do you use your smartphone? (click to enlarge)

Regardless of the differences between German and UK consumers the results reiterate the importance of smartphones as part of the multichannel shopping experience.

Conversion rates on mobile might still lag behind tablet and desktop, but research often begins on a smartphone so retailers have to ensure they are delivering a decent customer experience regardless of the device.

The eBay/Deloitte consumer survey was conducted online in September 2013 among 1,000 UK and German adults. It can be viewed here.