Broadband is First Step in Complex Online Shopping Experience

Two recent studies of online shopping behavior provide evidence of the growing complexity evolving around the multi-channel retail experience. The new Nielsen//NetRatings MegaView Online Retail service, which tracks online consumer retail activity and purchasing behavior, reveals that broadband consumers make two-thirds of online purchases—and spend a third more than narrowband-connected consumers in doing so. And a joint study from Fry Inc. and comScore Networks shows that consumers vary widely in their online and offline behavior depending on the product.

Nielsen//NetRatings recently reported that 69% of retail purchases transacted online were conducted via a broadband connection, compared to 31% transacted via narrowband or dial-up access during November 2004. This custom research from MegaView Online Retail found that broadband consumers spend on average $158.21 per person, 34% higher than the $117.89 average spent by narrowband users. In addition, the conversion rate for broadband users reached 26%, compared to the conversion rate of narrowband users at 21%. Broadband users connected to the Internet 34% more times than narrowband users during November, visited online retail Web sites more frequently, and spent more time online.

Meanwhile, the results of the first Fry/comScore Evolution of the Multi-Channel Consumer (EMC2) study, based upon the attitudes, experiences and expectations of U.S. online shoppers, provides new details of consumers’ migration to a more complex multi-channel experience that includes in-store pickup, gift registries, store kiosks, online coupons and many other resources. Among the findings of the study:

–34% of consumers shop online before they ever get to the store.
–39% go directly to a retailer’s Web site without any prior online research. (Offline media spending will need to be increasingly focused on driving people to the Web, says the study.)
–36% of shoppers have bought online and picked up in-store; 81% of these had a positive experience. Retailers not offering this option may well be left in the dust.
–One third of those picking up in-store waited more than 10 minutes for the item, but only 5% expected to wait this long. (This “expectation gap” is likely to catch up with retailers who don’t offer the same consistent service between online and offline storefronts, concludes the study.)

Once consumers have initiated a shopping trip online, says the report, they unanimously expect that retailers will conveniently support the continuation of the purchase process throughout other channels. In fact, 97% of consumers expect a seamless shopping experience across online and offline channels. But significant differences exist across product categories in shopping styles, motivations, and experiences:

–35 % of shoppers look to retailers for ideas and suggestions when shopping for Gifts, while only 10% want such assistance when buying Computers.
–Consumers were three times more likely to buy Home Electronics online and pick up the product in-store compared to Books, Music & Videos.

The EMC2 results clearly show that retailers must develop a combined online/offline strategy. At the same time, Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst for Nielson/NetRatings, suggests that with 55% of online surfers utilizing broadband, and broadband users spending more money online than narrowband surfers, “there should be less concern about alienating the narrowband shopper. Retailers (should) rethink their online business strategies to integrate rich media into Web site design and advertising campaigns.”

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