My take: More consumers are researching online and buying in-store

Home News My take: More consumers are researching online and buying in-store

About a year ago, when we began conceptualizing our 2013 editorial calendar, I thought I had come up with a brilliant idea; it happens from time to time. You know what they say about blind squirrels. The idea was for FCNews to conduct consumer research for the entire shopping process. Dig deep—where no man has dug before.

Well, this project was just like any other major undertaking—it took twice as long and cost twice as much than initially anticipated. So the good news is that this research, which I believe to be very insightful and in some ways groundbreaking, will be ready for prime time next year. The bad news is that if prime time begins at 8 p.m., it’s only around 4 p.m. now.

So we did the next best thing—publish 10 pages of consumer research we thought our readers would find interesting. Some are general articles on consumer shopping trends and some are flooring-specific that were recently conducted by GE Retail Bank, Mohawk and Invista. I think you’ll find it all useful information.

One consumer trend we do not talk about in this issue but certainly bears mentioning is showrooming, the act of researching a product in a store and then buying it online. It’s not a new concept, but the proliferation of smartphones has made this a rising trend over the last two years. With smartphone in hand, a consumer can test drive just about any product, check the reviews online, locate the best price and make the purchase from a different retailer while they’re still standing in the store. And don’t think floor covering is absolved from this for one second.

The Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group surveyed 1,000 consumers to find out how technology is impacting their shopping behaviors. They published the results in a study called “Catch and Keep Digital Shoppers.” It was revealed that in 2011, 38% of consumers engaged in some type of showrooming. They checked out products in a store but bought online. In 2012, that number rose to 40%. I’m sure the numbers are not too high for flooring, but the process still occurs.

This might sound like bad news, but consider this: In 2012, a larger number of people researched with a computer or mobile device, then made the purchase in the store—94% vs. 81% in 2011. That sounds more in line with our industry.

The Cisco survey also demonstrates the consumers’ love for online ratings and reviews. They prefer them by a 4:1 margin over advice from salespeople in stores. In fact, 85% said they want access to self-service digital content while shopping on site; only 4% wanted help from a salesperson. So, anytime you can put online reviews in the hands of the consumer, you’re giving her the power to buy with confidence.

It was interesting to see what factors influence shoppers’ purchasing decisions and how they have changed from 2011:

•52% of consumers seek online reviews from retailer websites, up from 44%.

•49% of consumers seek recommendations from friends and family, down from 60%.

•42% of consumers seek online expert reviews, up from 29%.

•11% rely on store employees, down from 21%.

•10% rely on social media (non-friends and family), down from 23%.

So, instead of worrying that mobile usage will eat into brick-and-mortar business, retailers need to learn to embrace the technology. All a customer wants are straight answers to her questions. Once she has that, she’ll gladly give you her money rather than wait for the product to be delivered in a week.

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