More Shoppers Trust the Internet Than TV

In the Game of Shopping, the Web Is the Source for Facts

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Shopping is no longer a chore. It's a scavenger hunt where the win is defined as consumers finding deals that feel specially tailored for them or when they feel they've somehow out smarted their fellow shopper. These new dimensions have opened new paths and resulted in more opportunities for marketers to message and connect with their consumers.

When it comes to shopping, "Winning!" is the word of the day, and not just because Charlie Sheen says so.

Yahoo and Universal McCann worked together on a three-part study featuring a Comprehensive Online Quantitative Survey of nearly 2,500 people who have purchased or intend to purchase electronics, automobile, personal care, retailers, finance and OTC medicine. In addition, interviews with marketers in each category and 45 tech-savvy consumers across the U.S. were conducted.

The study found that with the maturation of the internet as a communication and content platform, usage is universal and has fundamentally shifted how consumers make purchases. Getting a great product at the right price is only one part of the equation to a satisfying buying experience. There's a renewed energy and passion for shopping, and consumers are having fun.

We call this new dynamic "Gamesmanship of Shopping." And every marketer, from retailer to packaged goods company, in every category, from pharmaceutical to finance, can benefit from understanding the consumer mindset and what it means for them.

Consumers' path to purchase has fundamentally changed ... again. The internet is no longer viewed as an overwhelming information source, but rather a platform of controlled chaos. This path is important as ever with nearly 4 in 5 consumers open to switching brands before a purchase. Consumers are also no longer confined to heading to a brick-and-mortar location to get the goods they need nor are they confined by cables to computers. Thanks to the mobile Internet and the rise of the social media, consumers can get up-to-the-minute connection to content and communities to help with purchases. All in all, when it comes to shopping, consumers have upped their game and the internet is a key driver in this behavioral shift.

Better Informed: The Internet has become the first stop on the path to purchase. The Internet has earned a level of trust greater than traditional print or television outlets. Increasing familiarity with search and digital articles has enabled consumers to act as their own filters, picking and choosing which sources to rely on and which to ignore. When it comes to media, the Internet comes out on top as 2 in 3 people stated they trust the Internet for researching their purchases followed by 43% for magazines and 35% for TV.

Savvy and Social: With all of these new research tools at their disposal, consumers have become much more price conscious, and their price savvy is a key component to "winning." Their game plan includes searching for online coupons, sharing discount codes and snapping up group-buying offers. But winning isn't only about landing the best deal; it's also about having the best teammates. Thanks to social media, 49% of consumers give advice to others, motivated by a feeling of solidarity with other shoppers. What's surprising is that consumers aren't just pulling in friends, family but also strangers to help them play -- and win -- the shopping game.

Less Impulsive Competitors: All of these factors have led consumers to be less impulsive with their purchases. In fact, 55% of our category buyers say they are less impulsive because of the internet. They're committed to thoroughly researching products and reading reviews from consumers and experts. Consumers are also committed to finding the best price with the feeling of winning directly related to finding the best price. (Indeed, in our study of 2,500 shoppers 60% said getting a better price on an item than other people made them feel like a winner.)

As consumers play their new retail game, it's up to us to define our role. We could cast ourselves as opponents, trying to stay one step ahead of the latest technology and information, blocking access to the information consumers are seeking about product and price. Or we could play the role of coach, becoming a trusted adviser who will guide consumers on their path to winning.

Obviously, we recommend the latter, though playing this role will require a new perspective when it comes to consumers, their game and the media they use. As a marketer/coach, you must:

  • Inform Intelligently. Become a part of the conversation. Use brand authority to become an indispensable resource on a topic. Leverage credible media to aid consumers. Focus less on friendship, and more on trust.
  • Connect Emotionally. Consumers are playing the shopping game for emotional satisfaction, and your presence in it doesn't have to be purely rational. Look for approaches that delight on an emotional level.
  • Reward Effectively. Devise reward systems that make the consumer feel special. Tailor deals to their expressed interests, and encourage viral sharing.

We do not like to use the phrase "win-win" too often. It has become trite, overused and generally untrue. But in the case of the gamesmanship of shopping, we feel it is absolutely appropriate.

Edwin Wong and Karen Ring are director-strategic insights and research at Yahoo and VP-research director at Universal McCann, respectively.
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