September 25, 2003, 12:00 AM

The differing shopping expectations of consumers vs. retailers

Online shoppers do not conduct the linear purchases that many retailers envision, says researcher/consultant Kelly Mooney. “Retailers think of shopping as a funnel,” Mooney says. “But it’s non-linear, sporadic and non-predictable.”

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

Customer convenience is speed and ease, right? Wrong, consultant/researcher Kelly Mooney told the Shop.org Annual Summit meeting in New York this week. “Retailers think of convenience as saving time,” says Mooney, president of Ten Resource. “Consumers describe it as giving them more control.”

Online shoppers do not conduct the linear purchases that many retailers envision, Mooney says. Rather, they browse a catalog, talk to friends, go online to research a product, visit the store to experience it, go back to the web to comparison shop, then make the purchase either online or offline, she says. “Retailers think of shopping as a funnel,” Mooney says. “But it’s non-linear, sporadic and non-predictable.”

Mooney bases her conclusions on the results of video interviews with 60 consumers, conducted at the behest of Shop.org and presented at pre-conference workshops on Wednesday. Mooney and colleagues boiled the 60 one-hour interviews into four 12-minute presentations highlighting the various findings.

“Under the old model, the purchase was the end result, under the new model confidence is the end result,” Mooney says. “It used to be that consumers would make the purchase and hope they made the right decision. Now they can say they know they made the right decision.”

While the current system of multiple online visits, store trips and browsing catalogs seems cumbersome, it’s easier than going from store to store and back again, Mooney says. Nonetheless, just like the rest of the Internet experience, consumers will continue to look for easier ways to shop. “Consumers are celebrating their empowerment,” she says. “Multi-channel shoppers feel empowered so they are willing to create work-arounds. But that won’t last for more than two years. By then, they won’t tolerate a system that doesn’t save them time.”

Interestingly, that confidence makes consumers more open to being upsold, Mooney concludes. “They are not wary of being taken advantage of because they are informed,” she says. “They’re open to being upsold because they know the differences among the different products.”

The new consumer means that stores will face challenges in keeping up with them.” The challenge to the store will be not just to hire smart people, but to train and keep them,” she says. Retailers also will find that store kiosks will help sales associates stay informed.

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