The Informed Shopper: End of the Impulse Buy?

Impulse shopping on the high street may be becoming a distant memory, as consumers increasingly take to the internet to research their purchases, before buying online.

9 Sep 2014

by Andrew Hearn

Impulse shopping

With the growth of e-commerce in recent years, impulsive shopping on the high street is slowly becoming a thing of the past; today’s consumer is seen as the “well-informed shopper”, one who typically spends around 10 hours researching online and visiting two to three websites before buying from a website.

And these informed shoppers don’t stop once the purchase has been made. They continue to monitor the product they have just bought to ensure they got the best deal.

Online research

Today’s consumers have the tools – literally at their fingertips – to immerse themselves in a retailer’s brand and also to express their feelings on blogs or social media if the product is broken, the online shopping experience disappoints, or a purchase costs more than if it had bought from another website. According to PwC’s latest Global Total Retail Survey of online shoppers, 55% provided positive or negative comments about their experiences with a product or brand on social media.

“A brand can’t survive in today’s online world simply with a website as a digital presence.”

With the rise of the informed shopper, having an integrated, multi-channel, total retail marketing strategy is essential to boost engagement and ultimately improve the bottom line. A brand can’t survive in today’s online world simply with a website as a digital presence.

Today’s consumers now expect a multichannel shopping experience. Physical stores, a website capable of handling purchases, a mobile site or app and a presence on social channels such as Facebook, twitter, YouTube and google+ are viewed as essentials to maintain a healthy relationship with a consumer.

Zero moment of truth

A brand’s first encounter with a potential buyer starts with the “Zero moment of Truth” when the prospect (or shopper) has first heard about the brand and knows nothing about it. The shopper starts by searching the brand on Google and will continue to research while switching between different channels to immerse in the brand. To get an overview, an informed shopper will start with a brand’s own claims to know what the brand has promised to deliver, then check on social channels to find out how the brand is actually delivering, what efforts are being made to keep the customer happy, what latest technologies have been adopted by the brand and, finally, if all goes well, making a purchase. This is Phase 1 of the Customer Life Cycle.

Phase 1 of the Customer Life Cycle: discovery, research and purchase

Phase 2 determines the customers’ life-time value, which depends upon their experience with the brand. If they are happy with their first purchase, they are likely to follow the brand, engage with it via social channels and provide productive comments about their experience, which will not only help their friends, but also the brand.

This doesn’t end here. Most important is to maintain this relationship with the customer. It is so easy to distract your customer in today’s online world, where your competitors are trying their best to steal your customer away by offering them low prices, free vouchers, free shipping, easy payment options, personalised emails and many other inducements.

Phase 2 of the Customer Life Cycle: following, interacting and feedback

Building trust

Phase 3 involves building trust. A 2013 survey by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten revealed that trust is key to competing beyond price online. The survey found that while consumers love nothing better than a bargain (61%), almost half of global shoppers (49%) surveyed consider the reliability of the retailer to be paramount when making purchase decisions online.

Retailer trust was most valued in the East, where countries such as Indonesia (69%) and Thailand (65%) ranked reliability as the number one feature when shopping online. In the US, reliability came second only to price, with 75% of Americans citing price as an essential purchase driver.

Shipping and payment options

Contrary to the popular belief that shipping and payment options are of high importance to consumers, research also revealed that less than a third (29%) of shoppers surveyed globally saw shipping options as a key factor in their purchase decision. This average falls to around a quarter (26%) in Europe and 33% in the US.  Meanwhile, payment options were even less significant, accounting for just 20% of responses globally. Notably, this fell to just 6% for British shoppers and 9% for Americans.

So for a brand to succeed in this new market of informed shoppers and pro-active competitors, the key is a multi-channel consumer-focused approach.

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