User reviews and recommendations on online retail sites are more useful for typical web shoppers who plan to reduce the amount of money they spend on a variety of products, according to a recent study. While shoppers might purchase products from multiple channels, they have tweaked research and buying habits, especially at this time, when they are scrutinizing their spending as perhaps never before.
The research, sponsored by Bazaarvoice and Richrelevance, is based on the JupiterResearch consumer study. It identifies how economic conditions affect future spending, changes in consumer online purchase behavior, what tools are used before making purchases, how multiple channels change online shopping and how online retailers can improve the relevance of products and services throughout the purchase process.
"We wanted to know where those who shop online feel the pinch points," said David Selinger, CEO at Richrelevance, a company in San Francisco that provides personalized recommendations for ecommerce sites.
The research revealed that approximately 48 percent of 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, ranging from autos to health care, as a result of the economic slowdown. Automotive, travel and consumer electronics took the top three categories designated for reduced spending at 50 percent, 46 percent, and 43 percent.
Nevertheless, the research suggested that web retailers have an important 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.
Just 33 percent of online shoppers in the study 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. For instance, 31 percent already knew what item or title they went online to buy. Sixteen percent had already decided which store or retailer they would buy from, and 13 percent knew when they would make their purchase. 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 of Bazaarvoice, which is headquartered in Austin, TX.
About 89 percent of consumers indicated that they tend to rely on store and retail websites to find products, followed by 86 percent who said they rely on search engines. Seventy eight percent said they use manufacturer sites, and 77 percent said they depend on ratings and reviews. Still, 42 percent of shoppers who plan to reduce spending visited three or more sites to research their most recent purchase. Many also relied on content discovery tools.
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