A very interesting survey conducted by Harris Interactive reveals the variety of online and offline channels from where consumers begin their purchase cycle.  Knowing the different channels and their relative strengths will allow you to expend your current reach and gain more customers.

Survey highlights:

Online: 20% of all customers begin their purchase cycle via search engines, other relevant online channels includes: multi-brand websites, like Amazon (9%), price comparison sites (8%) and blogs/forums (4%).

Offline: 15% of all customers begin their purchase cycle path through word of mouth, 15% in retail stores and 9% look in print media first.

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Differences between segments include:

  • Affluent respondents are more likely to use search engines (26% vs. 13%)
  • Affluent respondents are more likely to use price comparison websites (10% vs. 7%)
  • Less affluent respondents tend to discuss purchases at a higher rate with family and friends
  • Men are more likely to start their path to purchase with search engines compared to women (25% vs. 15%)

Consumers who end up making their final purchase online rather than in-store stated that “broad choice of products and brands and ease of search” were the top three reasons for doing so.

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What can you implement from this survey?

  • Expend your search engine reach to its full 20% potential by acting an all major search engines both organically and via paid search.
  • Starting activity with multi-brand websites (eg. Amazon) since 9% of all customers begin their cycle there.
  • Open a professional blog about your industry for reviews, consumer’s tips, etc.
  • Since 15% of customers start their purchase cycle via word to mouth, make sure that your inventory includes all products which people are likely to recommend, usually this will be your industry best sellers.
  • Try to present the largest choice of brands and products possible in your website.
  • Give extra attention to your in-site search, customers gave it a very high priority in their decision to purchase.

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