European shoppers look online

08 June 2012

PARIS: A majority of European consumers now conduct online research on products prior to purchase, and over a fifth do so using a mobile phone, according to a study by McKinsey.

The consultancy surveyed 40,000 people in eight markets, and found that 60% regularly turned to the internet before buying goods, and nearly half made 25% of their purchases via this channel.

Among the sectors that have already "gone to digital" are electronics, video games, DVDs and computer software, as over 40% of shoppers make a quarter of category acquisitions through the net.

The "digital battleground" covers areas like furniture, apparel, health and beauty, office supplies and home décor, as between 16% and 26% of consumers complete at least one in four category transactions online.

By contrast, grocery and household products remain very much "still in store", as a modest 7% of customers had reached the same purchase levels, and less than 20% researched such offerings using this medium.

More broadly, 30% of shoppers visit just one website when seeking information about goods and services, with 17% viewing two sites, matching the number accessing three, while 36% logged on to a minimum of four.

Retailer websites were the starting point for 23% of people, ahead of Google's search engine on 19%, and both manufacturer and price comparison sites on 14%.

Some 21% of respondents undertake this process on a mobile phone, up from 12% year on year. Of this audience, 77% participate in this activity at home, with 40% doing so in stores.

For consumers using their phone in such a way in bricks and mortar outlets, professional review sites were the favoured source of information, on 32% apiece, followed by the website of the retailer concerned on 30%.

When at the "consideration" stage, what McKinsey called "company-led" activities, such as ads, direct marketing and sponsorship, were seen as holding the greatest influence by 39% of the sample.

Previous experience with a brand posted 28% here, in front of "consumer-led" factors like online research, recommendations and word of mouth on 21%. In-store contacts or speaking with sales agents yielded 11%.

By contrast, 37% of interviewees prioritised peer-to-peer and internet information at the evaluation phase, where corporate initiatives and staff contact recorded 26%, and previously buying the brand had 11%.

Upon making purchases, contact with in store staff and sales agents registered 42%, beating customers' own information gathering on 31%, marketing efforts on 22% and prior experience on 5%.

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff