The social shopping aspect of the internet is constantly changing as more people join the craze of shopping or retailing as a social media activity. A recent study on social shopping was released by PowerReviews along with the E-tailing Group presenting insight into the how online shoppers research, select and purchase goods. The findings support “retailers in identifying a more positive approach for connecting with potential and current customers.”
The reported is called The 2011 Social Shopping Study, which is formulated from surveying more than 1,000 consumers about their online shopping experiences and habits. The survey even covered how engaged they were with brands and retailers that are connected to online channels, including in-store purchases.
The breakdown of the survey offers information that will prove to be valuable for any online or in-store retailer:
1) Purchasing Decisions are based on Product Research
Consumers do invest more time researching online before making a purchase. Fifteen percent of those surveyed said that 90 percent or more of all online shopping time was spent researching products (compared to just 21 percent in 2010).
Also confirmed was search engines, like Google, are still the main starting point for research by 44 percent, followed by gathering information from retailer and manufacturer websites. It is obvious that search engine optimization (SEO) is still a crucial task for online retailers.
Nadim Hossain, VP of marketing at PowerReviews, confirmed that the first step in the research process for consumers is Google. “Google is where people start, so SEO is really important to online retailers. Our research found that product reviews are the number one factor impacting the buying decision.”
2) Social Shopping and Customer Reviews Influences the Purchase
Another big question playing on the minds of many retailers is just how much influence social media has on the customer’s purchase decision, but only 2 percent of respondents used Facebook or other social recommendations as their main research starting point. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed said they have never researched products on social sites.
Where social media does stand out is at Facebook Business Pages and Facebook newsfeeds, with 13 percent of respondents saying those social media tools impacted their buying behavior. “Merchants are testing social media by trying to integrate it and understand how to monetize it,” said Lauren Freedman of E-Tailing Group. “Retailers typically evaluate then go first for the promotions to increase their fan base, in a way that is similar to email list building.”
A number of community and social media tools impact buying behavior with customer reviews (user-generated product reviews) They influence purchasing the most with 59 percent of respondents, followed by customer Q&As (42 percent) and community forums (26 percent).
Consumers still favor writing product reviews as an activity. How do they find the time!? The survey indicated that 70 percent of respondents participated in “rate a product purchased” compared to 49 percent who engage in using the “Like” button for a retailer or manufacturer.
3) Mobile Phones Empower Consumers In-Store
I am not surprised by the fact that mobile phones are popular influence in customer purchase decisions. Mobile phone usage in the retail stores is also increasing. The device gives consumers immediate access to research, price shopping and promotional coupons for immediate redemption.
Rightly so, merchants are interested in the mobile phone and the tablet audience. These are the consumers who are going to shop and consume.
What is most interesting about the mobile portion of the study is the break-down of how consumers use mobile phones. Responding to the question “How likely are you to do each of the following using your mobile phone when researching a product while in a physical store?” the top three answers were:
-Access promotional coupons for redemption at the store (38 percent)
-Look for competitive pricing at Amazon (36 percent)
-Look for competitive prices on products at retailers online other than Amazon (36 percent)
Shoppers also use their mobile phone for scanning bar codes, scanning QR Codes (quick response codes) or use mobile apps to receive points, rewards or badges. Retail stores can benefit as well by offering in-store social shopping with various methods to research and save via the mobile device.