May 18, 2023
Updates monthly

Tracking Trends in the Retail Industry

Consumers consistently prefer shopping in stores over online
Shares of each demographic who said they prefer to shop in stores or online

To help retail and e-commerce brand leaders identify which consumer shopping behaviors are taking hold and which are not, Morning Consult is tracking shifting consumer e-commerce and retail industry trends through a monthly survey of U.S. adults.

Find a more detailed methodology for this monthly tracker below.

Key Takeaways

  • Persistent high inflation is contributing to ongoing financial anxiety, and financially anxious consumers show a stronger preference for shopping online than those who aren’t anxious. It’s not just because they feel they can save money shopping online (though 41% named that as a reason); they’re also more likely than unanxious shoppers to rate the experience as enjoyable (44% versus 34%).

  • Financially anxious consumers are also more inclined to use grocery delivery services, including both same-day options (34%, compared with 28% of unanxious shoppers) and traditional shipping for pantry and household items (37% versus 31%). This may be counterintuitive given the additional fee for these services, but ordering online also helps to curb impulse spending that tends to happen at the store — and with food inflation still quite high, delivery may be the more economical choice.

  • More retailers are introducing return fees and constraining policies in an effort to combat margin-killing returns, but consumers don’t appear to have responded yet. Shoppers are returning products at higher rates than they were six months ago: 34% said they made a return in April, up from 26% in November. The silver lining? The rate of in-store returns, a substantially lower-cost option for retailers, is increasing faster than the rate of mail-in returns. In-store returns are up 9 percentage points over the same period, while mail-in returns are up just 4 points.

Reasons Consumers Prefer Online and In-Store Shopping

Share of respondents who said they choose to shop in stores or online for the following reasons:

Consumer Preference for Online Shopping by Category

Share of adults who said they prefer to make purchases online in the following categories:

Utilization of Fulfillment Channels by Category

Share of adults who used the following fulfillment options when ordering in each category:

Return Method Used by Purchase Channel

Share of respondents who returned items in the following ways in the last month:

Source of This Data


The Morning Consult Retail Monthly Trend Tracker relies on data collected through Morning Consult’s proprietary survey research capabilities. The interviews are conducted online, and the data are weighted to approximate a representative sample of U.S. adults based on gender, educational attainment, age, race and region. Results from the full survey have a monthly sample size of 2,200 to 4,400 U.S. adults and an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

On April 1, 2022, Morning Consult updated its general population weighting targets for the United States to be more representative of the most recent population data. Historical data has not changed. 

About Morning Consult

Morning Consult is a global decision intelligence company changing how modern leaders make smarter, faster, better decisions. The company pairs its proprietary high-frequency data with applied artificial intelligence to better inform decisions on what people think and how they will act. Learn more at morningconsult.com.

Email [email protected] to speak with a member of the Morning Consult team.

Claire Tassin
Lead Retail & E-Commerce Analyst

Claire Tassin is the lead retail & e-commerce analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where she conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises leaders in the retail & e-commerce industry on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Before joining Morning Consult, Claire was an analyst at Gartner, where she conducted research on shifting consumer behaviors and expectations, as well as trends and technology relevant to marketing leaders in the retail sector. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected].