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3 Charts: Understanding Research Online, Buy Offline Behavior

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In 2015, Deloitte expected 64 cents of every dollar from in-store sales to be influenced by the internet that year. Over two years later and the impact of digital media on the path-to-purchase continues to evolve, with slightly different paths when it comes to purchasing from a brick and mortar location vs. a service area business.

But regardless of the type of business, there are many variables impacting the consumer purchase journey. Consumer surveys and behavior data are essential to understand today’s multi-media consumer and develop marketing plans and tactics accordingly.

In an effort to quantify the research online – buy offline consumer behavior, here are three charts with analysis from various studies that explore just how important digital media, specifically websites, are on influencing consumer behavior.

Top Consumer Behaviors that Preceded an In-Store Purchase

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There are a number of consumer surveys that help marketers understand what happens before an in-store purchase. For example, a 2016 Google and Purchased Digital Diary survey shows that 58% of consumers visited a retailer’s website or app before making an in-store purchase, while 54% used a search engine.

Of the five “actions” featured in the chart above, four of them are related to some form of digital media. Even the 53% that said they “visited a store or other location” before making the in-store purchase very likely discovered the store information/directions online, though it isn’t clear in this case.

How Often Consumers Go Online to Research Before Buying In-Store

Consumer_Chart2

While we see that digital media is critical before the in-store purchase, the frequency with which this happens is equally important. According to an LSA survey of 1000 consumers (above), roughly 63% of respondents said they consulted the internet at least 50% of the time. But the more striking finding is that 46% of users (almost half) are doing online research at least 75% of the time before buying offline.

Younger consumers and urban residents do more of this, but it’s growing across the board. The specific level of internet influence will vary by product or service category. Yet any category involving any level of consideration, is probably now touched by the Internet.

Channel Consumers Turn to When Ready to Purchase

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Once the “research” phases is complete, consumers, again, turn to digital media when ready to buy. According to a 2017 study by the Local Search Association, 27% of consumers view a company website when they’re ready to make a purchase. Twenty-four percent of consumers utilize a search engine, while 10% seek information from a family member or friend.

While consumers are conducting research both online and offline, digital outlets are facilitating the purchase decision.

Given the importance of the website at this phase of the path-to-purchase, a “good” website can be the difference between a new sale/lead and a missed opportunity. Of course what makes a website good is somewhat subjective, but simply having a website and one that is easy to navigate is a start.

According to a 2016 survey of 2,000 US adults, 45% of consumers are unlikely to buy from a business with a poorly designed website. This could be anything from a poor mobile experience, to broken links, a confusing user experience or something similar. More compelling still, 34% were unlikely to buy from a business if they didn’t have a website. This suggests simply having a website provides credibility.

Conclusion

Digital’s influence on the purchase journey, including offline buying, is clear. However, the continued role of websites may come as a surprise, as more marketers question their importance in the era of mobile search, review sites and Facebook. Others see websites as the foundation of any digital strategy, which the data still seem to support.

Consumer behavior is complex, depending on the purchase category, consumer’s age, device used, location and other variables. The more insight marketers have into their target customers’ behavior, the better and more efficient their strategies will be on behalf of SMBs and brands alike. A mix of data, both both internal and external, is needed to fully understand the path to purchase.

For more on how the Local Search Association can help you develop new reports, surveys, thought leadership and more, click here.

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