Local Corporation, an online local media company, unveiled preliminary data from a research report into the process consumers follow along the path to purchase.
The online study was commissioned by Local Corporation and conducted by the e-tailing group to explore consumer shopping behavior across a growing array of mobile devices, including consumer preferences and plans for researching and purchasing multiple categories of products. The study analyzed responses from more than 1,000 consumers.
Initial findings reveal that today's consumer takes a highly personalized path to purchase, utilizing multiple devices, from PCs to smartphones to tablets. Moreover, a physical store is still important for 90 percent of shoppers, and 60 percent of respondents reported that they have researched products and services several times a month using a mobile device, while PCs still play an important role in the shopping process.
Driven by the proliferation of devices and channels available today, consumers are exhibiting increasingly disparate pre-purchase behavior based on their specific needs and the specific products they are interested in. The shift in shopping behaviors adds complexity and challenges to advertising for national brands and retailers trying to reach consumers as they are shopping for products.
"The path to purchase has changed very quickly over the past few years from a relatively predictable, linear progression with less channels and options, to something much more fluid and personal," said Sherry Thomas-Zon, vice president of local shopping, Local Corporation. "The challenge for national brands and retail marketers is to keep pace with consumers as they move among devices and locations and to provide timely, compelling, engaging information that guides them to the purchase."
The multi-device path to purchase
Retailers will be continually challenged to follow consumers across an increased number of connected devices and shopping journeys. The survey highlights how savvy consumers take the reigns of their shopping experience even within the brick and mortar store:
- Despite the proliferation of devices, shopping applications and consumers' growing comfort with the mobile channel, 90 percent of both online and offline shoppers involve the store in many of their purchases.
- Almost two out of three shoppers use at least one device to research and transact while shopping and 28 percent use two devices at a time.
- Over 60 percent of shoppers research products/services several times a month using some type of mobile device; PCs still play a role.
- More than one in three shoppers has made at least one purchase via their mobile devices over the past six months and tablet shoppers have an even higher propensity to purchase with their tablet, with one in four having purchased six times or more in the past six months.
- Forty-seven percent of consumers confirm they use their smartphone to search for local information, including information about the local store they want to visit.
- Prior to visiting a store, they use smartphones to conduct further research including looking for competitors' pricing, checking for sales, previewing products and reading reviews.
- Forty-six percent of shoppers look up prices on a store's mobile site where they intend to shop and 42 percent check inventory prior to shopping in the store.
The balanced buyer: advertising's big opportunity
Cross-channel or device research and buying provides advertisers with opportunities to tailor messages. The good news for retailers is that shoppers take a balanced approach to their research across devices, leading up to a purchase, and advertising continues to play a strong role in a consumers' choice of shopping destinations.
Consumers embrace channels beyond the store for both research and buying:
36 percent of consumers report buying more via laptop or desktop than last year, 20 percent report buying more via mobile device (tablet and smartphone), and; 14 percent report buying more in stores.
Not surprisingly, high-consideration product categories such as home improvement, consumer electronics, sporting goods, etc., see the greatest research planning.
- Ratings and reviews (41 percent) and search results listings (37 percent) top the list of things that most influence a shopper's destination.
- Display advertising (20 percent) and even Facebook ads (14 percent) are also significant.
- Consumers have quickly embraced the functionality and convenience of mobile devices however they primarily use the devices as research tools, not for conducting the heavy lifting including completing a transaction of major purchases.
- Almost half of consumers spend 50 percent or more of their total shopping time researching products online or via mobile devices, and 40 percent of shoppers research somewhat/significantly more than they have in the past given the proliferation of mobile devices.
- In the past year, consumers report spending 42 percent more time than they had previously researching via PC or laptop, 34 percent more via smartphone, 28 percent more via tablet and 19 percent more in stores.
Seventy-nine percent of respondents say purchases of these high-consideration products are planned with extensive research, compared to more than half for both self expression purchases, such as apparel, home décor, accessories, etc., and discovery purchases such as media, books, hobbies, and gifts.
In the next year, 31 percent of consumers expect to research more via smartphone and 41 percent of consumers expect to research more via tablet.
"We learned that once again the customer is in control and will consume information in ways that are convenient for them. They are increasingly leveraging mobile devices to power their browsing and shopping activities. Retailers and brands have to be flexible and adjust to these behaviors and be able to deliver not only timely but relevant, localized information," said Lauren Freedman, president, the e-tailing group, inc.
The e-tailing group conducted an online survey, fielded to 1,026 consumers; 49 percent male/51 percent female in March 2012. Respondents were qualified as having shopped online four or more times during the past year and typically spending $250 or more annually. 100 percent own smartphones and 54 percent own tablet devices.
Additional findings from the study will be released later in the second quarter.