Categories shape consumers' channel choices
The high street is still a vital stop in the customer journey, even for many web purchases, according to research by database and loyalty marketing specialist GI Insight, which found that the customer journey does not usually take place in one channel but instead over several channels.
The vast majority of the UK consumers surveyed by the company said that instead of doing their product research, price checking, and purchasing in a single channel, they take a multichannel approach to buying. And, while consumers tend to purchase from their favourite brands both online and in-store, their buying habits are also affected by the type of product they are intending to purchase.
The aim of the survey was to analyse the trends of shoppers nearing the end of their customer journey. It found that, when it comes to their favourite retailers, 63% of respondents said they purchase from both the brand's website and its high street stores, confirming that UK consumers are not loyal to a single purchasing channel when it comes to the companies they prefer and buy from most.
Indeed, many shoppers use physical stores as showrooms for examining and trying out many products before actually buying, even if they intend to make the ultimate purchase online. In particular, 73% of consumers said they prefer to examine and test bulky items such as bicycles, playpens, garden tools and furniture in-store first, even when they go a website to make the final purchase.
Similarly, 69% of consumers like to try on style products including fashion accessories, clothes, shoes and sunglasses in store, and 60% prefer to look at and try out electronic products such as DVD players, computers, and TVs in the shop before they buy - although many of the actual purchases may in fact be made later online.
But, for other types of products, consumers give the high street a complete miss, preferring to simply make a quick order online - especially for standardised items that are exactly the same regardless of the retail outlet and require little evaluation or examination. In fact, when it comes to uniform products such as CDs, DVDs, light bulbs or kitchen utensils, 68% of consumers prefer to buy such items directly online.
The research also noted no significant preference in terms of consumer response to loyalty points and promotions, with 54% preferring to redeem loyalty vouchers in-store compared to 46% online.
"Gaining insight into how customers buy different products through different channels, or use multiple channels in combination as they come to a purchasing decision, enables a brand to tailor the message and the offer for the channel which best reflects the product and the consumer's preferences," said Andy Wood, managing director for GI Insight. "Key to this is applying the customer data an organisation has to hand - such as transaction details and information supplied on web forms - and analysing it to see what trends and behaviour best categorise that client. That data can be used to improve the segmentation and personalisation of individual messages, ultimately boosting return on marketing investment and profitability."