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Study: Shoppers enjoy virtual window shopping

April 29, 2021

New research from Bazaarvoice finds that not only are 61% of consumers globally more likely to browse for new products online compared to in-store, but that they also find it easier (64%) and more enjoyable (54%).

The research conducted among 9000+ consumers globally also revealed that although the majority are browsing and discovering new products online, people are more likely to make spontaneous spur-of-the-moment purchases while shopping in-store.

The allure of convenience (59%), ease (46%), and greater product choice (39%) makes online an appealing destination to browse for products in the US. However, not all consumers agree, as the study found that some shoppers still want to physically feel and see an item before committing to purchase. This physical experience is the most popular reason some shoppers choose to browse in-store compared to online, highlighting a need for brands and retailers to build greater online trust and confidence through the use of UGC.

Across devices, smartphones are the top choice for browsing online for almost half of consumers (41%), followed by laptops (28%), and desktop (21%) computers. With immediate access at the fingertips of US consumers, they spend more time browsing for products online compared to in-store, with the majority of those shopping online (53%) spending more than 15 minutes browsing in a single session.

That said, the continued accessibility of essential retail amidst national restrictions means that when it comes to committing to a purchase, 68% of American consumers buy in-store at least once a week, compared to 42% making weekly online purchases. Equally, over two-thirds (69%) of US consumers are likely to buy a spur-of-the-moment item while shopping in-store, compared to 52% likely to do so online. Ultimately, however, consumers are still likely to spend the same amount on a spontaneous purchase regardless of being online or in-store; the majority will spend a maximum of $20 (€16.50) on an impulse purchase.

“The last year has changed retail as we know it, catapulting e-commerce adoption years ahead of what we expected it to be right now,” said Suzin Wold, SVP Marketing at Bazaarvoice. “With all of these new online shoppers, brands and retailers have been forced to quickly improve their digital offerings to make the process of shopping online not only easier and more convenient, but also more enjoyable, to help replace the in-store experience. Unfortunately, online shoppers who discover a great product are still more likely to simply research the item, rather than purchase it spontaneously. To help bridge this gap between browsing and buying, brands and retailers need to continuously collect and display user-generated content UGC such as text based ratings and reviews, and customer photos and videos on their websites and social channels. UGC helps brands build trust with consumers so shoppers can confidently make the decision to purchase a product online without having to see it in person first.”

The research showed that brand and retailer websites have a certain advantage over the likes of Amazon and Google, as they are not only able to customise and make landing pages relevant, but also ensure that a website experience replicates the in-store buying experience. In fact, brands’ images on a website are more likely to lead to the discovery and purchase of new products for over a third of consumers (39%) compared to internet searches on sites like Google (30%).

Bazaarvoice said that utimately, consumers want full confidence in their online purchases, putting a great deal of importance on ratings and reviews. Product reviews are the top thing consumers want to see from a brand or retailer website experience, and ratings and reviews are one of the most important factors influencing consumers to discover and purchase new products online (47%), after price (67%).

Wold continued: “From the point of discovery to the point of purchase, UGC is powerful at every step of a shopper’s journey. This is because, much more than brands, people trust other people like themselves. Seeing a product used or worn by someone just like them in a real-life scenario, rather than by a model in a staged shot, is far more authentic, and helps shoppers trust that a product will deliver on its claims. In fact, 62% of US respondents said they’re likely to rely on photos and videos from other shoppers to help qualify or certify a product they’ve discovered online.”

Furthermore the research revealed that the fluctuating availability of products during the pandemic has caused an accelerated shift in consumer brand loyalty. The need to stick with tried and tested brands is diminishing, and now almost half of US consumers (48%) would make an impulse purchase online from a brand they did not know, compared to 29% who would not – almost a quarter were unsure either way. Impulse purchases from an unknown brand in-store – where consumers can see and feel a product prior to purchase – are much more likely (58%).

Wold concluded: “Brands and retailers need to focus on converting online product discovery to product purchase by recreating the in-store experience online. By providing rich, authentic content in the form of customer photos and videos, or detailed and up-to-date reviews, consumers will be motivated to move from being just a browser to a buyer.”

Bazaarvoice commissioned investigative research with Savanta in March 2021, among 9082 consumers from the USA (2,005), UK (2,015), Germany (1,500), France (1,529), Canada (1,006), and Australia (1,027) via online collection.

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