UK consumers look to the web

06 December 2010

LONDON: Nearly three-quarters of UK shoppers like to research products on the web prior to purchase, four times the number who mainly do so in store.

GI Insight surveyed 2,000 people, and found 72% would rather utilise the net to learn about goods and services, measured against 19% affording bricks-and-mortar outlets a similar status.

"Consumers often look for and research products online - doing price comparisons and checking product reviews - before going to the high street to buy in-store," said Andy Wood, managing director of GI Insight.

When it comes to completing transactions, 46% of the sample generally like to buy non-supermarket goods from the internet, and 47% from the high street.

"The results show a large majority don't mind if a brand is only available over one channel for purchasing - underlining the fact that most consumers are flexible enough to switch channels where necessary," said Wood.

Indeed, just 28% of respondents would not buy from a company that failed to offer e-commerce facilities, while 23% would reject a product which was not available on the high street.

However, the biggest earners still seek reassurance from brands that are accessible in the traditional way.

Among participants with annual salaries exceeding £150,000 ($234k; €177k), 44% agreed the firms they did business with must operate physical outlets, compared with 20% from lower income categories.

A niche group remain faithful to print catalogues, which 5% of contributors continue to use as a source for browsing and 3% when actually buying.

Men are the most likely to undertake the entire purchase process online, with 74% using the internet for this purpose.

Women show greater loyalty to the high street, with 52% picking up goods in-store, bettering the 41% total registered by males.

Elsewhere, 39% of the panel said they would switch brand if the firm they currently dealt with did not provide a range of methods - such as call centres and social media - to resolve any enquiries.

"Brands can't view their businesses in silos - as stand-alone web or bricks-and-mortar operations with separate customers - because that is not how consumers view them," Wood concluded.

"More than ever, businesses operating across channels need to understand their customers' shopping habits and preferences."

Data sourced from GI Insight; additional content by Warc staff