Consumers may still prefer to purchase from bricks and mortar businesses, but according to a new report the pre-purchase journey is increasingly being undertaken online.
So, what does that mean for business looking to better tap into evolving buying trends and an omnichannel world?
Late last year Big Commerce released their 2018 Omnichannel Buying Report, delving into the detail of global spending habits in the internet age.
After surveying 3000 participants globally, they noted the vast majority of spending in Australian retail occurs offline, but digital is playing an increasingly important role in consumers’ offline purchase decisions.
They found Australians spend five per cent less than the global average when it comes to online purchases, designating just 26 per cent of our discretionary income to shopping online.
Compared to the US and UK, on average Australian respondents cap online spending at $473, which is far below a maximum of $922 in the UK and $798 in America.
And when it comes to where Australians had been shopping in the six months prior, it turns out:
- 65 per cent of Australian survey respondents shopped instore
- 63 per cent shopped at eBay
- 48 per cent shopped in an online store
- 24 per cent shopped at Amazon
- 13 per cent shopped on Facebook
- 5 per cent shopped on Instagram
- 4 per cent shopped on Snapchat
Meanwhile, desktop narrowly retains prime position as the preferred way people shop online.
“When they do make online purchases, respondents indicated that they shop on mobile (39 per cent) nearly as frequently as they shop on a desktop (41 per cent), and that they prefer PayPal to a credit card when making an expensive purchase online, 54 per cent to 28 per cent,” the report found.
The informed shopper
The majority of Australians might be making their purchases instore, but more and more are turning to the internet to arm themselves with insight long before they buy.
“While still a growing component of the overall buying mix, Australian consumers rely heavily on digital tools to aid their decision process. Nearly half (48 per cent) of Australian respondents visited a brand’s website before making a purchase in store, and another 28 per cent read customer reviews about the brand or product,” the report noted.
“Interestingly, TV plays a larger role in Australia than it does globally, with 31 per cent of Australian respondents seeing a commercial about a brand prior to purchasing in store (compared to 25 per cent globally). In contrast, price matching does not play as significant a role for Australian consumers. Regardless of channel, Australian respondents price matched at a lower overall rate than their global counterparts.”
Data and privacy
Compared to other countries, Australians are also more willing to share their data. Not because they are immune to privacy concerns, but rather because they believe the ends justify the means.
The report found only 58 per cent of survey respondents indicated they would opt out of sharing data with retailers if given the option.
“This is nearly 12 percentage points lower than the global average. Similarly to other countries, Australian respondents view product discounts and free shipping as the best ways to incentivise data sharing.”
The Amazon effect
When the report was compiled, Amazon had just entered the Australian market, but elsewhere the impact was obvious.
In the US, for example, Amazon has a significant hold, and while 87 per cent of retail still occurs offline, around a third of all consumers sought out Amazon for price-matching purposes.
“Offline commerce may still dominate, but digital plays an important role in consumers’ offline purchase decisions,” The report notes.
“Specifically, when asked about their shopping behaviors prior to making a purchase in a physical retail store, 39 per cent of digital consumers visited a brand’s website, 36 per cent read customer reviews, 33 per cent attempted to price match the product online, with 32 per cent finding the brand on Amazon.”
Meanwhile, Amazon is becoming an integral part of the retail journey as a place to find all the latest trends
“Consumers flock to Amazon as a destination to discover new products, and in fact, 30 per cent of consumers saw a brand on Amazon before ultimately purchasing it on a brand’s website.
“Conversely, 22 per cent of consumers visited a brand site before purchasing it on Amazon, highlighting the complex relationship Amazon sellers have with the marketplace and the constant need to balance Amazon’s massive reach with the desire to elevate their own brand presence in consumers’ consciousness.”
But what does it all mean for business?
The report findings come as little surprise in an age where every consumer has a smartphone in their hand and the internet at their fingertips. But for retailers and business looking to improve the customer experience, new challenges emerge.
Negotiating them comes down to having an omnichannel sales strategy where customers are catered to online, offline and in the social media realm.
“Regardless of where a final purchase occurs, it’s clear brands must now have a strategy that encompasses an ever-expanding range of physical and digital channels where their consumers are shopping,” the report states.
“Moreover, brands must now factor how their digital presence — including their website, content and social channels — serve to influence potential customers, even those shopping on marketplaces like Amazon.
“Does the brand website convey the product value and offer detailed reviews and product descriptions; is the brand’s social media presence compelling and does it offer high-quality lifestyle imagery; can the brand’s products (or similar products from a competitor) be purchased on Amazon; does it rank highly in search results?
“The answers to all of these questions influence where and how consumers ultimately choose to purchase. Remember, every interaction with a consumer is another opportunity to create brand awareness, and making the product available across all avenues of the shopping journey – from discovery to research to purchase – helps increase the likelihood that a consumer will buy no matter where they ultimately make the decision to do so.”
Where to from here?
In many ways, a brand website is the digital front door of a business. It allows consumers to understand the brand’s story, ethos and the products on offer.
On a purely practical note, this website also performs the critical service of allowing a brand to be found online through search engine optimisation.
But there’s more to a website than just having a digital space.
Websites offer an opportunity to engage in a conversation with a retailer or business’ consumer through compelling content such as videos, testimonials and blogs that showcase products or services and illustrate why they are required.
The desktop website experience only narrowly inches ahead of mobile websites when it comes to how customers view a brand online, with just three per cent more consumers seeking desktop over mobile.
This makes a mobile optimised websites a must. Quite simply, a mobile optimised website allows for a better user experience when consumers seek out a business via smartphone or tablet.
Increasingly, it is also an attribute Google considers when ranking search engine results.
Forbes recently explained: “Google considers your level of mobile optimisation on both desktop and mobile devices, and soon, it may switch to a mobile-first index; in other words, Google will prioritize crawling mobile sites over desktop sites.”
Social media plays two roles in the communications strategy for any brand. On one hand it is the channel where consumers talk “about” you, in the form of reviews, testimonials, recommendations and sharing.
On the other, it is the most natural space for a business to engage directly with their clientele – answering queries they may have, hosting polls, offering product insight, featuring behind the scenes information and indulging in an informal conversation.
That means social media has immense power, and it continues to grow as socially savvy generations become the prime spenders in many households.
Importantly, social media is emerging as a marketplace where people actually buy products that they see used in influencer’s or their friend’s worlds.
The final word
The modern customer journey is more complex than ever before with a greater array of digital and physical touchpoints available. For brands, it means the pressure is on to ensure the experience is seamless across all the channels that their consumers frequent.
Omnichannel is the new normal. Digital and physical will soon be interchangeable. The business and brands who best understand the multi-faceted playing fields and cater to the changing landscape are best primed to survive.
At Openseed we specialise in planting the seeds of customer reach through compelling brands and SEO optimised websites. We then nurture kernel of great content, devising strategies and storytelling to support business in their ongoing conversation with their customer. Ultimately it reaps an ongoing harvest that delivers business real and proven results.