Complex Purchases – Why Retailers Must be Quick and Slick. A Retailer Guide to Helping Shoppers Find the Right Products

Make it easy for shoppers to discover the information they seek, and then lead them to the answers. Fail? They’ll leave. Our latest research study shows that when it comes to complex purchase decisions (purchases of goods and services that consumers don’t normally make every day of the week) it’s about the journey, not just the destination.

A recent article in Ad Age commented,

A recent study of a major U.S. retailer’s customers found that 73% followed an omnichannel purchase journey, compared with just 7% who were purely digital. What’s more, the fluidity between channels is increasing, which allows retail brands to shape shoppers’ experiences and ultimately build a competitive advantage founded on omnichannel customer intelligence.’

As Conversity’s research study looking at how consumers went about making complex purchases showed, the same seems true of a UK audience.

So just how are consumers across the generations choosing to behave when they shop for complex purchases? Examining just how people go about this process gives a good starting point for how the customer experience can be improved by retailers across the board.

We explore some of the findings, pitfalls and key takeaways retailers should be aware of…

Download the full Conversity Research Report into Complex Shopping Journeys »

The devil is in the detail – research still rules

It makes sense that a complex purchase needs a considerable degree of research before a consumer takes the plunge and parts with their hard-earned cash. During a recent Consumer Research Study by Conversity, it was shown that across the generations,

Over 75% (of consumers) will consider more than two retailers or 43% over three.”

The conclusion is if you do not understand what they need and make slick recommendations they will leave.

When it comes to online shopping in particular, the findings generally reflect the broader trend of consumers shopping around before electing to make a purchase – a total of 67% visited at least two retailers, with this figure as high as 69% for both millennials and Generation X, and dropping to 63% for baby boomers.

The question is, are retailers doing enough to give shoppers of all shapes and sizes the level of service and personalised recommendations that they want?

Key Takeaways

  • Make information easy to discover – especially when it comes to complex purchases
  • Avoid the generalised and instead focus on personalised recommendations. Customers want to feel nurtured through the complex purchase decision-making process.
  • Make it easy for shoppers to get answers to their questions 24/7 while they are in “shopping mode” and weighing their options

Consumers (especially the older generations) still value the traditional shopping experience

Despite cries announcing the end of traditional retail, research by Conversity found there is still a distinct appetite for consumers to visit a traditional in store environment when shopping for complex purchases. It’s true that when shoppers decide to hunt for their complex purchase in a physical store, they generally focus on a smaller number of retailers. A third of consumers (33%) only visit one store, which increases to 36% for baby boomers and goes down to 29% for millennials.

However, it’s when we examine the number of people who will visit two or more stores that we see the most interesting variation. Just 43% of respondents visit two or more stores, with this figure standing at 38% for baby boomers and 39% for Generation X. Perhaps due to needing more guidance for complex purchases, millennials are the anomaly here with 51%.

Key takeaway:

  • The imperative for marketers, therefore, is to devise an omnichannel strategy that connects with core customers as they move between retail channels and touchpoints. Yet, as the Ad Age article points out, ‘most retailers don’t outperform across audience development, measurement and activation plans, the combination of which is the key to success. It’s not simple to accomplish. So start by building support and commitment within your organisation to begin this journey toward marketing excellence.’

Online wins for complex purchases – but in-store holds potential too 

So where are consumers converting their complex purchases? Well when it comes to parting with that cash, the figures are broadly reflective of online’s status as the channel of choice. Half of all purchases are made online – as might be expected, this is lowest amongst baby boomers (44%). In contrast, 38% of buys are made in a physical store – again, in line with their status as less frequent users of technology, this figure is higher for baby boomers, at 45%.

The fact that many people aren’t shopping and converting in store for complex purchases at all is also an area where lessons can be learned. Online holds most of the aces, so retailers should be looking to integrate the best features of online with their in-store offering, creating a more consistent experience across every channel that they deploy to entice their customers.

Key takeaway:

  • Research shows that retailers creating a more consistent, personalised experience online and in-store will entice customers to go ahead and complete sales
  • Integrate the best features of online with in-store offering
  • Savvy retailers and brands should remain agnostic to where and how a customer chooses to buy – but ensure they support them with personalised advice seamlessly across the channels

Beware! Loyalty is low for the dissatisfied consumer

The modern customer certainly isn’t afraid of taking their business elsewhere – or at least voicing their concerns – if the service they receive isn’t to the high standards they expect. 29% made a complaint to the retailer, which rises to 50% for baby boomers.

Most crucially though, 21% said they delayed their purchase, with the same proportion saying they bought from another retailer. If customers are turning to competitors, then the alarm bells at a retailer or brand should be ringing at full blast.

Key takeaway:

  • Poor product knowledge and an inability to provide an extra layer of detailed information to prospective customers when needed can be dangerous when considering any purchase, especially with younger shoppers who are more likely to return a product and turn to a competitor than raise a complaint and get it solved. This is where retailers can do more to improve the customer sales journey and the level of needs-based personalised service they can offer.

To conclude, it is important that customers are guided to a decision at a pace that works for them when making a complex purchase – with emphasis on the word ‘guided’. Differentiation is key – it’s about being able to combine a competitive price with a positive, enlightening customer experience and service – across all channels. If you want consumers to choose you then ask yourself, ‘how easy, smart and tailored is their journey?’ Make sure the tailored information is readily available across all channels and consumers are much more likely to settle on you when making that final purchase decision.

These are just some of the research results gleaned from Conversity’s latest research report. To download the full report, simply click here.

The Conversity team