A growing majority of consumers are using two or more channels to browse, research and purchase products, according to a new study from ATG. The study, titled “Cross Channel Commerce: The Consumer Perpsective,” found that nearly one-third of consumers use three or more channels to being product researching.
The study found that consumers who might start their research online via a computer or mobile device, but then go to a store to make a purchase, because they want to “touch and feel the product.” But respondents also said that they would go to the store or call a customer service representative because they “wanted to compare several brands of the same product” or the merchant “didn’t have all the product/ service information I needed to buy online.” The latter responses highlight a need for better information and innovation to be provided in the online and mobile channels, according to the report.
In late 2009, ATG commissioned the survey to look at how frequently consumers are using multiple channels to browse, research and purchase a broad range of products and services, and the consumer experiences with various channels.
“Our research found that consumers are primarily using the Web and going directly to brick and mortar stores to browse and research products,” said Bill Zujewski, Vice President, Product Marketing, ATG. “Our survey found that 61% of consumers are researching products online via the Web daily or weekly and 37% are going directly to a store daily or weekly.”
Action Items for Retailers
The report found consumers are using multiple channels to research and purchase, and suggested merchants can do more to close sales online.
“We know that people are time-pressed and like to do things in bite sized chunks, and this is why we see consumers bouncing around between channels,” Zujewski said. “For this reason, it’s critical for retailers to offer an integrated cross-channel buying experience.”
Zujewski added that consumers often start browsing and researching on their computers and mobile devices, and ultimately make purchases in the store or through a contact center representative. When asked why this might be the case, a majority said they wanted to “touch and feel the product.”
“There’s likely little that can be done about this online, but perhaps a better product description or more vivid images could help consumers better visualize the product,” he said. “There is definitely room for improvement in the situations where respondents said that they would go to the store or call a customer service representative because they “wanted to compare several brands of the same product” or the merchant “didn’t have all the product/service information I needed to buy online.”
Key Action Items Recommended in the Study:
- Provide more detailed information, ratings, reviews and technical specifications
- Offer some brand comparisons online
- Make it easy to reach contact center associates for online customers (live help solutions; click to call; click to chat)
Zujewski said these tactics make shopping easier on the customer and much more efficient for the merchant. “In fact, in an earlier study we found that 67% of consumers value the option of having both a live text chat and a live voice conversation to get the help they need when making online purchases,” he said.
Mobile is Moving
Though mobile commerce is still in its infancy, the report found that it’s becoming an integral part of the cross-channel experience, particularly with younger consumers. Nearly a third of consumers are using their mobile devices to browse or research products and services at least periodically, while 13% are using them to make purchases.
The 18-34 age group is particularly interested in using their mobile devices to browse and research products and services. Sometimes they’re even doing so from inside a store, to access more information about a product, such as ratings and reviews. In fact, 32% use their mobile devices to browse or research monthly, and 15% are completing transactions with their mobile devices monthly, the report said.
“The purchasing activity is interesting because the products and services that people are buying could span the gamut from iTunes and apps to clothing and higher-priced goods,” Zujewski said. “Some consumers are even paying bills online through their mobile devices. The trend is surely just getting started, but we’re going to see more and more of this with the availability of larger devices like the iPad, which make it easier to browse the Web. The potential for mobile commerce is illustrated in consumers’ current browsing and researching behaviors.”
Keeping pace with the hype around social media, the report said retailers have a significant opportunity to drive sales with it. But the report offered an interesting twist — while 24% of consumers say they incorporate their online purchasing activities on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, nearly the same number of people said they didn’t even know this is a possibility.
Social media is an emerging marketing channel and the statistics aren’t completely convincing at this point, Zujewski said. “Its value and role in commerce experience needs to be more clearly defined and articulated. People still trust their friends and family more than they trust advertising, or even editorial. Like mobile, the use of social media and social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, is currently being adopted more frequently by the 18-34 age bracket, but that may be because most consumers are not yet aware that social technologies can be incorporated into their online commerce experience.”