Consumers expect online presence

Amid retailer uncertainty and predictions that a renewed global recession could be on its way, new data into the purchasing behaviour of Australians indicates shoppers are turning to the internet for pre-shopping research.

In August 2011 Global Reviews compared findings with a replica study in 2009 to compare trends. The study focused on the search and online buying behaviour of Australian consumers for jeans, lounge suites and air conditioners.

The Global Reviews study highlighted the impact that consumers’ online pre-purchase research was having on offline retailers. In each of the product categories, study participants were most likely to start their buying cycle online – 54 per cent for jeans, 91 per cent for lounge suites; and 100 per cent for air conditioners.

While the study showed that online dominated product research, consumers still had a preference to go into the store to try and buy.

Reflecting on the results, Greg Muller CEO of Global Reviews, said, the data demonstrates that retailers need to be very conscious of a multi-channel strategy. 

“This doesn’t mean just having a website and a physical store, rather it requires a whole new way of thinking to engage and win the modern consumer,” said Muller.

“Now, more than ever, traditional retailers must work harder to retain a captive consumer audience to give them a worthwhile reason or incentive to walk in to their store,” he said.

A key finding of the 2011 study showed that while typically two thirds of consumers start their buying cycle through research via a search engine, an increased number of participants go directly to brand websites because of their previous experience with that brand.

“Customers expect the main retailers to be online. Australian retailers have invested heavily over the years with brand awareness and their physical stores. Customers are willing to give them a first chance because there is history, and trust. While overseas shops are having an impact, it’s Australian retailers that typically get the first bite. It’s up to them to get the experience and engagement right,” said Muller.

Some of the study’s other findings included:

  • A previous buying experience with a particular shop or brand dominated participants’ initial search and discovery behaviour. More than 80 per cent of participants in the study used a direct web address or brand name to find an online shop where they had previously purchased something.
  • Facebook was the most influential social media platform compared to Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare and MySpace, when it came to conducting online research and influencing purchases online. However, for more than 50 per cent of people, social media did not influence their research or purchase decision. 
  • PCs and laptops were the predominant devices consumers used when completing online purchases. Mobile phone and tablets made up less than two per cent.
  • Although the frequency of online research had increased for high-cost purchases since 2009, visiting a retail store was still the most popular next-step for most consumers, once they found a product of interest online. 

‘No shipping costs’, ‘payment security’ and ‘easy to buy’ were cited as the top three influencers to purchase online.

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