Purchase decisions 'increasingly complex', study finds
Shoppers tend to avoid talking to brands about their products and even dodge the websites of the retailers they will eventually buy from until their decision to purchase has already been made, according to research commissioned by European social commerce company, Reevoo.
The study found that, on an unexpectedly large scale, consumers do their pre-purchase research by tapping into a variety of social sources including friends and family, consumer reviews and Facebook friends. Then, when they do decide to buy, they spend an average of only six minutes on the retailer's website after a purchase journey that started some 24 hours earlier.
At all stages of the purchase journey, consumers' faith in social sources of information is now higher than in any alternative: 70% rate friends' recommendations as important, while 62% of people rate consumer reviews as important - significantly more than those who rate the media, or shop assistants recommendations as important at 35% and 28% respectively.
The research also found that mobile and Facebook have become the tools of choice for a significant proportion of shoppers. The proportion using their smartphone to research and solicit information - even while physically standing in a bricks-and-mortar outlet - is now 38%, and a further 39% turn to their social network on Facebook to research and make purchase decisions.
Among the key findings of the study:
- Participation in the social commerce process is now the norm rather than the exception; 47% of consumers report that they have written a product review, more than those who haven't.
- Shoppers spend a long time deciding what to buy, with 90% spending at least 24 hours researching a major purchase. However only 6 minutes is actually spent on retailer product pages, highlighting the need for retailers to engage and influence consumers across the web, offline and on mobile. This increases to 14 minutes for retailers using social content effectively.
- It's not just what people are buying, but from whom they're buying that's important to them. 73% of shoppers will check consumer opinion before buying from an unknown or little-known retailer, with 58% specifically searching online for service reviews before they purchase.
- People have no qualms about publicly using a mobile device to make checks, even in-store. 38% now use their mobiles to help them research and make purchases in some way, with a third using their mobile phones to research product information, read consumer reviews and check prices.
- 39% of people turn to their social network on Facebook to research and make purchase decisions. While buying activities on the social network is still a niche pursuit, it is increasingly popular for the research and recommendation-type activities that typify the early stages of a purchase journey.
- Advertising is not as relevant as it used to be. Only 24% of consumers believe that their purchase behaviour is influenced by advertising.
- Product reviews and ratings remain core to the buying process. 87% of shoppers sometimes or always read reviews before making a purchase.
- Good reviews matter, but bad reviews matter more. 69% of consumers trust reviews more when they can see bad reviews as well as good. In fact, 38% are more likely to read the bad reviews than the good ones - but only 5% say they won't buy a product with bad reviews.
- Additional social information is welcome, with 86% of shoppers using smart recommendations including what others are buying, frequently bought with, or stock levels, to decide what to purchase. Calls-to-purchase based on what shoppers ultimately bought, urgency, stock levels are deemed useful by 64%, 58% and 45% of shoppers respectively.
- In social commerce, independence is cherished. Consumers trust independent reviews more, at 56%, versus reviews collected by brands or retailers themselves, at 19%.
The purchasing behaviour identified in the survey results suggests that retailers and brands may need to re-evaluate their social commerce strategies in order to establish consumer trust at key decision points in that journey, because customers will only engage with a retailer who has managed to establish trust earlier in the purchasing journey.
According to Richard Anson, Reevoo's CEO and founder, "What is clear is that no longer can any retailer control the purchase journey - but all retailers are in a position to influence it. Consumers spend a lot of time considering what to buy with 90% spending at least 24 hours researching significant purchases. While it's vital for retailers to fine-tune their on-site experience to ensure that consumers get what they need to make a purchase, this is no longer enough; retailers need to engage with shoppers everywhere - and that means on the web, social networks, Google, as well as through offline and mobile devices."