The drastic increase in online sales has created new purchasing trends among consumers and new opportunities and spaces for producers and suppliers.
Nevertheless, the purchase frequency is not the same for all product categories. The Nielsen Global Connected Commerce Survey, which was conducted in 2016 in 63 countries, showed that durable products and services top the list of online purchase products unlike consumables, which are the last of the list.
Italian e-shoppers (87%) most often purchase travel (71%), tickets for cultural and sporting events (60%), books and music (48%), consumer electronics (37%) and informatics (45%), in line with the cited trend. When it comes to buying consumer goods, in-store purchases are by far the most preferred; only 6% of respondents state they buy fresh groceries online and 12% packaged foods online. However, the purchase of some consumer goods, such as beauty and personal care products (28%), is gaining popularity.
Another growing phenomenon among consumers is the habit of getting information through heterogeneous sources to make better decisions. The consumer 3.0 is a smart consumer, hyper-connected and able to buy anywhere and at anytime. Its shopping experience is characterized by an interaction between online and offline channels; not only consumers “showroom”, when they gather information in brick-and-mortar shops and purchase online, but they also “webroom”, when the information source is the web and the purchase takes place in-store.
Depending on the product category, information sources, which influence consumer decisions, can widely vary. Among offline touchpoints, visits to physical stores are still important for all good categories, but clearly are the main influential source when the product belongs to fresh groceries (38%) and personal care (31%).
For durable products, however, online touchpoints are the most popular: Italian respondents say browsing store websites (28%) and brand websites (23%) is particularly useful when they want to buy a fashion product; these percentages are respectively 6 and 8 points higher when they decide to purchase consumer electronics. In Italy, online reviews (28%) and blogs (20%) have a great impact as well, followed by social medias (18%). In all sectors, social medias have a greater influence for purchase decisions in emerging markets.
But how to encourage online purchase of consumables? To overcome online shopping obstacles to consumables online shopping, like physical inspection and doubts on the quality of products, online strategies should emphasize benefits such as convenience and variety, but above all to leverage the warranty. In fact, it seems that:
• money-back guarantee for products not matching what was ordered is an incentive for the 36% of Italian respondents;
• product replacement service would encourage 32%;
• precise delivery windows is an attractive incentive for 29%.
In the case of fresh groceries, if the product does not match the characteristics of what was ordered, money-back guarantee should be added to the free product replacement to the next spending according to 32%; 30% would be satisfied with the only refund. Especially among respondents from emerging markets in the global and European context, another effective activation strategy ought to address quality concerns including freshness labels.
A deep and thorough analysis of the decision-making process of consumers, without neglecting the peculiarities of the regions and of the reference product, is the basis for an effective communication strategy to influence consumer decisions. What is certain is that the line between online and offline channels is increasingly blurred and it is necessary to shape the reality of retail in the interests of brick-and-click, i.e. the synergy between digital and physical to offer consumers omnichannel integrated experience.
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