Online Retailers Have Opportunity To Influence Consumers

by Jim Berkowitz on February 24, 2009

Here are several excerpts from an article by Laurie Sullivan that appeared in yesterday’s Online Media Daily, Online Retailers Have Opportunity To Influence Consumers:

User reviews and recommendation sites are more useful for typical online shoppers who plan to reduce the amount of money they will spend on a variety of products, according to a study released yesterday.  They might purchase these products from multiple channels, but have tweaked research and buying habits to get through tough economic times.

“We wanted to know where those who shop online feel the pinch points,” said David Selinger, CEO at Richrelevance, a San Francisco-based company that provides personalized recommendations for eCommerce sites.

About 48% of the consumers who typically shop online said they will reduce spending both in brick-and-mortar stores and on the Web for a multitude of products, from autos to health care, as a result of the economic slowdown. Automotive, travel and consumer electronics took the top three categories at 50%, 46% and 43%, respectively.

Nevertheless, the research suggests that retailers have an opportunity to influence purchase decisions. The number of online shoppers who said they bought items not on their list when presented with an appealing offer or promotion rose since 2004, supporting the idea that consumers are more open to influence. An increase in impulse buying demonstrates that online buyers have become more comfortable with buying online, according to the study.

Only 33% of online shoppers had made their mind up in advance about the price they were willing to pay for the purchase. Even fewer began their research having made up their mind on all other purchase considerations, including the item or title to choose (31%), which store they would use (16%) or when to make their purchase (13%). With many of these considerations, shoppers had made fewer decisions than they had in 2004, indicating that the opportunity for influence has increased.

“This isn’t a time to bury your head in the sand and go back to familiar strategies because more standard advertising isn’t what consumers want or need to make purchase decisions,” said Sam Decker, CMO at Bazaarvoice, Austin, Texas.

About 89% of consumers tend to rely on store and retail Web sites to find products, followed by 86% who rely on search engines, 78% who use manufacturer sites, and 77% who depend on ratings and reviews. Still, 42% of shoppers who plan to reduce spending visited three or more sites to research their most recent purchase. Many of them also relied on content discovery tools.

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