In a report released by Google Australia it was revealed that 50 per cent of Australian shoppers research their purchases online before going to the store to buy- a phenomenon that is happening across the developed world.
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While the study looked at buying habits across three major retail categories: Consumer Electronics, Computers & Gaming and Entertainment, it found consumers did value other sources of information such as radio ads, word of mouth and physical inspection in the lead-up to purchase, the Internet was used early in the discovery process; suggesting it holds a vital role in early influence over a shopper’s final purchase.
The report found that of the 50 per cent of shoppers who used the Internet for research, 44 per cent of this group used it to find out about a particular product, with another 36 per cent using it to compare prices. Convenience was highlighted as a major advantage to using the Internet for research by 31 per cent of shoppers.
These findings dovetail neatly into a number of previous studies over the past couple of years which showed that Australian online commercial activity is amongst the highest in the world.
According to Ross McDonald, Industry Marketing Manager – Retail, Entertainment & CPG at Google Australia, the report demonstrates the rising value of consumer Internet research for retailers.
“Retailers could do much more to anticipate the basic needs of customers from their websites. If consumers are researching, they want to know many things such as: which of your stores carry the products they seek? Do you have a website with an easy-to-use store locator? When is their closest store open? Can they park there? This information can be easily supplied on a one-page website”.
The Australian findings were in line with a US study at the end of last year by MediaPost which found that nearly 70 per cent of online shoppers read at least 4 reviews of a product before purchasing it, while almost a quarter of people check eight reviews or more.
Another US study, the Pew Internet Project in September 2007 found that 78 per cent of online Americans agree that shopping online is convenient and some two-thirds of online Americans say they think online shopping saves them time.
Another finding of the local Google report was that official retailer and manufacturer sites were the next most common source of information with 48 per cent and 49 per cent of shoppers using them respectively.
According to Google, Internet research is more prevalent amongst high income customers. The Internet was the ‘most crucial’ information source for households with an income of over $100,000, with 36 per cent of those surveyed citing it as the highest factor (“word of mouth” was next highest, at 17 per cent). The 36 per cent in the highest income bracket compares with 27 per cent for households with an income of $50,000 – $100,000 and 17 per cent for households with an income of less than $50,000.
Similar findings were seen in the US Pew Internet Project which noticed that low-income online Americans are more likely to see the risks of online shopping than herald the time-saving or convenience benefits of using the internet to shop.
McDonald said “This latest report demonstrates the shift that is occurring in the Australian consumer landscape. The proliferation of broadband, comfort with online transactions and globalisation of retail practices is changing the behaviours, expectations and attitudes of consumers.