US consumers look online

09 February 2011

NEW YORK: Consumers in the US are engaging in an increasingly diverse range of online activities on the path to purchase, a study has revealed.

Marketing firm the AMP Agency surveyed a nationally representative sample of 865 adults, from the 25-49 year old demographic.

Its analysis covered the baby products, electronics, food and beverage, health and beauty and fashion sectors.

The report found 3% of participants described themselves as being loyal to a brand and always bought the same item, meaning 97% would consider alternative choices if given a reason to do so.

Elsewhere, 43% of interviewees typically conducted some kind of research before making acquisitions, peaking at 64% for electronics.

A majority of panellists obtained further information when buying for babies, but totals slipped to 31% regarding areas such as cosmetics, and 25% relating to apparel, food and drinks.

Gaps also emerged by gender, as 46% of men and 32% of women sought to attain greater knowledge prior to purchase, reaching 37% and 25% respectively concerning health and beauty.

Brand websites were the most popular destination, on 47%, ahead of a retailer's ecommerce platforms' 46%, user-review portals' 40%, social media services' 38% and blogs' 18%.

Customer reviews are seen as boasting primary importance when assessing product performance, logging 72%, while 42% of netizens expressed an interest in expert opinions about durability and functionality.

However, only 22% of respondents aimed to gain an understanding of the quality of goods, compared with 50% attempting to discover the best deal.

"New consumer behavior is redefining what we view as 'contemporary loyalty'," said Allison Marsh, AMP Agency's vp for consumer insights.

"With more information, consumers have seized control and are more open to the wide choices in the marketplace."

Overall, 94% of contributors agreed the research they had undertaken ultimately exerted a favourable influence on decisions, and 36% bought a specific item.

Another 30% could not find enough helpful content, measured against 4% "overwhelmed" by the available material.

An additional 52% credited online user-generated reviews with shaping their preferences, including 37% swayed by positive comments and 17% by negative feedback.

Traditional word of mouth also retains a central position, as 41% of those polled suggested the views provided by friends proved instructive.

Turning to the duration of research, 36% spent a few days completing this process and 24% dedicated less than 24 hours to such activity.

At present, though, the 2% of individuals depicted as "restless shoppers" were the sole people regularly finalising transactions "on the spot".

"Consumers are placing new value on the consideration stage within the purchase journey and are actively, and overwhelmingly, seeking out information through digital channels," said Marsh.

"This new path to purchase, with distinct opportunities for brands to effect purchase consideration, has become an everyday part of consumers' behaviour."

Data sourced from AMP Agency; additional content by Warc staff