Consumers Do Homework Online

Discussion
Mar 02, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


It’s not news that consumers often research products and services before going into a store to make a purchase. What may surprise some is the number of people who are actually
doing it.


According to a survey of over 7,300 consumers by BIGresearch, 75 percent of shoppers regularly or occasionally go online to do their homework about a product before going to
a store to buy it.


Joe Pilotta, PhD, BIGresearch, said in a released statement. “Most retailers have focused on their in-store experience but for many consumers online research is replacing the
store as a way of gathering information on products and pricing before purchasing at the store level. The new consumer shopping model fits the needs of today’s shopper who is
more knowledgeable and wants to have the option of purchasing goods and services where they want, when they want.”


BIGresearch found the products and services consumers research most often varies by demographic factors. For example: the product category researched most by consumers making
less than $15,000 a year is food. Those earning in excess of $100,000 research financial services most often.


The most often researched category by women online is travel. For men, it’s electronics.


Moderator’s Comment: What multi-channel retailers do the best job of integrating their online and in-store environments? What is your to-do list or Best
Practices for retailers looking to most effectively merge the virtual and actual shopping worlds?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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9 Comments on "Consumers Do Homework Online"


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David Livingston
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

I’m with Karen – the electronic stores. You can compare prices and find exactly how many of the items are left in their inventory and if they are available.

I shop for travel the most online. I can get a site that shows me the lowest priced airfares, then go directly to the airline site and get fares even cheaper. The same with hotels.

Soon I hope to see medical procedures with prices posted online by various Priceline type companies. Need dental cleaning and exam? Find the best price online. Need a hip replacement? Let your insurance company provide incentives, such as cash rebates, if you go to the hospital with the lowest price.

Lisa Everitt
Guest
Lisa Everitt
15 years 9 months ago

The “user review” part of online browsing and product research is something that I think deserves more attention as a best practice. I often read the reviews on sites like Amazon and ePinions, even if I have no plans to purchase online. Although I ask myself why I place credence in the opinions of people I don’t know, these reviews influence my decisions. (A crock-pot that chips easily–who needs it? A PDA that’s easy to use–why not?)

Some online enterprises refuse to publish negative comments about the products they sell, but why? I think companies like Amazon that let negative reviews stand are boosting sales, long term, by being seen as a consumer-friendly site. And who knows, if you get enough comments about what a piece of junk some product is, you might even listen to the consumer and take the product out of your assortment.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
Both my best and worst comments go to Lowe’s. Their website was great in doing research on purchasing home appliances. There was plenty of detail, plenty of means to compare levels and pricing. Even better, they were able to check local inventory to determine the in-stock status or lead time on your choice. That was great stuff. The loss came when they weren’t clear on their claims. It was a simple claim — we’ll deliver, set up and take away your old. What they didn’t say was, except for anything related to gas appliances. In that case, we found out at the store it wasn’t the case. They didn’t even recommend a local contractor that would connect the gas appliance. Since, a purchase of that sort, at least for our household, required an actual physical look at what we were buying, we made a trip to the store. After the disappointment, a trip to the local appliance store was next. They were a small outfit, no website, no big advertising, etc. In the end, their… Read more »
Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 9 months ago
I find this topic very interesting in that it varies depending on what I’m researching. When I looking for electronics, camera equipment or PC related items, I usually do a combination of online research and in-store. Before purchasing a digital camera, I started by checking reviews in the print version of Consumer Reports and then more extensive reviews online. After tentatively deciding on the model, I then went to local stores and actually handled the model chosen and asked questions of the sales person to get their perspective and expertise, and of course checked prices. After confirming that I could save a significant sum online, I called the vendor of choice and had the rest of my questions concerning accessories answered over the phone. By the way, that person was by far the most knowledgeable. The best of all worlds is to be able to learn and buy from one company that has both online and in-store experiences, the old one-stop shopping. The online research is very handy, usually more complete and can be done… Read more »
Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 9 months ago
I think the electronics stores are most effective. After researching the products, it is possible to order the product at one’s local store, reserve it, and pick it up within an hour, or order it online for delivery. The worst – in my experience – was Sports Authority. At Christmas, I’d researched an expensive toy ($100+) online, but was too late to risk ordering it online. Going online, it was not possible to determine whether my local store had the product in stock. So I called the local number provided for Sports Authority. I was routed to HQ. (Apparently, it is not possible to actually reach the local store.) When I asked if the item was in stock, they said it probably was, but didn’t actually know. They offered to send an e-mail to the store, who would e-mail them back, and then e-mail me whether the item was in stock. Seriously? They insisted there was no way to put me in touch with the store. I bought it at Toys R Us who were… Read more »
ashish jandial
Guest
ashish jandial
15 years 9 months ago

As consumers go multi-channel, it is increasingly important for retailers to realize that the consumer shopping experience needs to be seamless across channels. Integration of the online and store channels requires a significant alignment of business objectives and operations. Customers expect the same quality of service irrespective of the channel they shop from. Retailers need to master this art or stand to be left by the wayside in the future.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Anything above $100 or so, I am likely to do some online investigation of different stores online. Then, when I understand that a particular product has features I want, I either order online or visit the store depending on the urgency of the need, and how much of a hassle I figure it will be to go to the store, park, find the product, stand online waiting, and get out of there. This second part is very significant. Also significant: some online operations obviously use shipping charges as a profit center. If it’s outrageous, it can get me really bent out of shape and I’ll stop shopping the retailer entirely, on principle. I don’t think many people ever make this plain. A couple years ago, one online retailer wanted to charge me more for shipping than the product, and I wrote a nasty letter back and said “never mind.” They shipped it free, wrote me an apology, and changed their policy. Totally blew my mind.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Since no one has yet ventured out on the “who does it best” limb, here goes.

I agree with Karen that the CE retailers do this well, and my nominee for best in class is Best Buy. A recent experience with setting up a wireless home office set up to connect with our regular office system involved online and in-person contact with both my local retail outlet and the “Geek Squad”. It was almost seamless and relatively painless. More important, it worked.

Interestingly enough, my second category of nominees would be the sporting goods stores, and in particular “the World’s Foremost Outfitter” Cabela’s. Their website comes closer to duplicating their experience-driven retail environment than any other I know of. Both are heavy on shopper interaction, product knowledge and service.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
A few years back, when online research was possible but minimal, we stopped in Singapore en route to Australia. We went equipped with information on the digital camera my husband thought would most suit our needs and headed for a shopping centre devoted entirely to electronics. Each and every shop we entered poo-pooed the one we had intended to purchase and each and every sales person had a different idea of which we should purchase instead. The result was massive confusion. We did eventually buy a camera which was excellent for approximately 1 week then jammed in Sydney, first week of our proper vacation. My husband spent an entire day schlepping out to the factory which couldn’t fix it (“such a new model we don’t even have it yet,” they said) and was given a more expensive one instead. We have had it for several years with varying problems. Maybe it was just bad luck but my point is that the value of internet research can be diluted by going into stores where sales people… Read more »
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