To win a sale and reduce returns, retailers need to provide easily accessible, relevant product details. Salsify’s latest research shows that consumers are reliant on the digital shelf to make purchasing decisions: They’re online shopping on mobile, even during brick-and-mortar shopping trips.
Post-Pandemic, New Recession: The Global Guide to Consumers in 2023
To see the research in its entirety and discover the latest consumer trends and behaviors in 2023, download the report.
Consumers Are Straddling Digital and Real-Life Shopping Experiences
According to Zippia, 63% of shopping journeys start online, but things can go either way after that. While there are plenty of consumers planning to ramp up in-store shopping this year, there’s still a good chance that the majority of journeys will end with a digital touch point — whether that’s an online purchase made by someone standing in a physical store or an online purchase that needs to be picked up in-store.
Salsify’s latest consumer research, “
Post-Pandemic, New Recession: The Global Guide to Consumers in 2023,” revealed that the top five ways shoppers discover new products are digital:
1. Social media
2. Shopping apps
3. Browsing in store
4. Search engines
5. Catalogs or brochures
Only 17% of consumers said they carry out product research on a brand’s own website. This data shows just how important it is to have a strong presence on marketplaces like Amazon, which tops the list for product research and comparison platforms. Its closely followed by in-store research, search engines, retailer sites, and retailer apps.
But here’s the thing: Shoppers are just as likely to end their journey in a physical store as they are online, so it’s up to brands and retailers to ensure their websites and stores are set up for a slick omnichannel experience.
How Shoppers Are Shopping on Mobile in Store
Our smartphones are glued to us 99% of the time. For 71% of us (Reviews.org), it’s the first thing we check every morning, so it’s a no-brainer that consumers are online shopping on mobile while in store.
Salsify asked more than 6,000 consumers from around the world what they do when they’re in store.
Here’s what they said:
- 39% looked up a product online.
- 35% picked up something they ordered online.
- 16% checked prices on a digital kiosk.
- 12% scanned a product’s QR code for more information.
- 9% used digital shelf labeling.
Over one-third of shoppers use their phones to find out more about a product while they’re physically standing in front of it. As such, it’s crucial that brands make it easy for shoppers to find the information they need and present it clearly for quick and easy consumption.
Think about your online product descriptions as an extension of the in-store experience. What information might shoppers need that they can’t get in person?
The number of consumers who buy a product online and those who buy a product on a retail site were evenly split: Sixty-eight percent are more likely to buy online, and 68% will buy from a retail site. Twenty-eight percent buy from a brand’s own site, and 24% buy directly through a search engine.
More than a third of shoppers frequently ordered online and then picked items up in the nearest store. Brands and retailers need a way to share up-to-date inventory information in order to answer shoppers’ questions about which products are available in what location.
The New Omnichannel Approach to Shopping vs. the Traditional Path to Purchase
Despite clear evidence showing that the shopping journey is no longer linear, many brands and retailers are still stuck on the traditional awareness to consideration to decision to purchase path. This isn’t to say that’s a bad way of doing things, but it doesn’t account for the wealth of research shoppers have available at their fingertips.
It assumes that all consumers go through the same thought process and will buy on the same platforms they began their research on. As Salsify’s research shows, this is far from the truth.
Today, we need to consider the “messy middle” approach to shopping. This refers to a modern decision-making model by Google that promotes a “complex space between triggers and purchase, where customers are won and lost.”
It essentially explains that people look for information and weigh up their options in two different mental modes:
- Exploration: The act of adding product options to a list.
- Evaluation: The act of paring back choices to decide on the best fit.
Shoppers go back and forth between these two modes until they settle on a final purchase decision.
Case in point: Imagine you were looking for a new desk chair last week. You started your search on Google Shopping and found a couple of styles you liked. Then, you refined your search to those styles and started to browse retailer websites and Amazon. But as you were doing this, you came across new styles that you preferred, so you expanded your search to include these. Rinse and repeat for two days until you finally settled on a style you liked that fit your budget, had great reviews, and arrived in less than a week.
Looking back, it’s clear you entered the exploration and evaluation modes multiple times.
How Brands Can Set Themselves Up for Omnichannel Success
The answer to omnichannel success and thriving in this new shopping ecosystem lies in engaging product information and clear content. With more than half of consumers admitting they won’t buy a product with bad product content, brands and retailers need to provide accurate and compelling product information to persuade shoppers.
What does “bad product content” look like? Consumer research participants stated that not enough product information or low-quality product images were a huge deterrent. They’d actually be more likely to buy a product from an unknown brand or one with a bad reputation than they would a product with missing information.
Here are some of the key reasons shoppers wouldn’t buy a product online:
- Bad product content (55%)
- Bad product reviews (54%)
- Unfamiliar or disreputable brand (32%)
- Concerns of counterfeit products (26%)
- Delayed or out-of-stock products (25%)
- Inconsistent product data between retailers (20%)
Accurate and accessible product content can be the difference between a loyal customer and a missed sale. As more and more shoppers research online and scrutinize a product’s quality across dozens of digital touch points, simply showing up is no longer enough.
Instead, brands need to be doing the following.
1. Highlight Product Attributes
Brands and retailers must showcase a product’s best attributes quickly and clearly. You have just seconds to reassure shoppers that your product is the right choice, and highlighting key information clearly and concisely is critical to success.
2. Try New Channels and Technology
Consumers continued to buy directly through social media in 2022, and that theme will continue into 2023. But shoppers are also keen to try new digital channels: Forty-two percent of consumers bought a product via social media, and 25% use augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) to shop. Brands and retailers should continue to experiment with social selling and powerful technology to enhance the customer journey across a number of touch points.
3. Consider the Cognitive Biases That Influence Buyer Decisions
According to Google’s research on the messy middle, there are six cognitive biases that influence shopper decisions:
- Category heuristics: short descriptions and key product specifications that are quick and easy to access
- Fast shipping: shoppers don’t want to have to wait to get their items
- Social proof: reviews play a vital role in decision making
- Scarcity: dwindling stock levels or limited product numbers create desirability
- Authority bias: experts, trusted sources, and influencers are top persuaders
- Freebies: giving away something free is a powerful motivator
Incorporating these elements into your digital product descriptions can help shoppers make speedy decisions from their desks or in-store.
Create a Seamless Online and In-Store Experience
The future of commerce lies somewhere in the middle of online and in-store experiences. The journey is fluid, with consumers switching between shopping on mobile and in-person stores to make purchasing decisions.
Brands and retailers should venture away from the traditional, linear buying journey and instead implement engaging, compelling content at every touch point, whether it’s digital or in-store.