Friday, 13 June 2008

6 Functional Reasons for Buying Online

Following on from my previous post, let’s look a little closer at the reasons that drive customers to browse offline, only to then buy online (usually somewhere else) instead of in-store. This is hugely relevant to retailers whose primary revenue channels are their real world high street shops, not just because of the impact on conversion rates, but because the trend implies that their offline customer experience needs to be improved to provide customers with in-store access to the benefits of buying online.
  1. Bargains and cheaper prices (through general search and via shopping bots): If you just want to consider one primary driver for this trend, then I'd suggest this is it. Consumers want to know not just that they're getting the best deal, but also that they aren't being ripped off in any way. The proliferation of shopping bots (price comparison sites) like Bizrate and Kelkoo are making this so much easier that it is a real threat to any retailer whose customer goes online. It probably outweighs all the others to the point of making them little more than value-add considerations. For any product that is sold by multiple retailers, this is a major risk to consider, especially now that consumers have the internet on their mobiles and can pretty compare products while actually in-store.
  2. Validate product quality and function (via online information and reviews before buying):
    For functional products, particularly electronics, I prefer to be sure I'm not wasting my money, particularly on items I can't really test out. I want to know the realities behind the sales blurb and the knockdown price, and right now there's no way of finding this or comparing against equivalents, except online at review sites like CNET.
  3. Avoid in-store cashier queues:
    I hate queuing and unless I absolutely need the product then and there, am very likely to just go back home and order it online from somewhere.
  4. Delivery rather than carry home on buses or trains (convenience):
    If it's a hot day, or I've already got things with me, or I'm on my way to somewhere else, or I just generally am not feeling like trekking around laden with shopping bags, I'm very likely to head home and make the order online. Ideally from somewhere with free or cheap delivery/postage, or even somewhere that lets me pick-up in store at some later more convenient time.
  5. Search for variant availability in other stores:
    If the store doesn't have my size, or the colour I want, or the specific variant of the product that's customised the way I want it, I'm most likely going to leave the store and go online to see if any other branches have it, or if another shop stocks it instead. As with all the other drivers to online browsing, the problem is that I may never actually bother with the product any further, or even bother to go that particular retailer's website instead of someone else's.
  6. Leverage online promotions / vouchers:
    I know that retailers set these up to encourage people to go online, but essentially all this does is cannibalise offline sales, because the vouchers are not redeemable in-store. Personally I feel this is a major inhibitor to developing symbiotic revenue channels.

No comments: