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Survey reveals how customers make online product decisions

One factor drives most consumers away from purchasing an item online.

Despite extremely low levels of brand loyalty, there are steps brands can take to help influence the path to online purchase.

According to “Inside the mind of an online shopper,” a new consumer survey from product information management technology provider Inriver, only 14% of respondents say they likely wouldn’t switch to a competitive product if their first choice was unavailable. The survey also reveals almost seven in 10 (69%) of respondents have decided against buying products generally due to poor descriptions.

In addition, 82% of respondents are likely to look at multiple locations for information on products, with 45% of respondents feeling frustrated when faced with bad product information.

According to the survey, online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay are now the starting point for 44% of all product research, accounting for the largest share of search, compared to only 19% for search engines themselves. This trend was particularly pronounced in 18-24-year-olds. More than half (52%) of respondents in this age group use marketplaces as their starting points, and 18% use search engines.

Brands’ own websites are even less popular as a starting point for product research, commanding only 9% of initial searches among all respondents.

A recent survey from Bazaarvoice indicates that more than half of respondents are “sometimes” influenced to buy a new and “unknown” brand from social, while 73% indicated that they had shopped for a new brand recently from social and 55% said they had opted for a new brand over their go-to-brand.

When asked to identify the top three drivers for why they choose a new brand from social, a leading 50% of respondents said relevance – based on their needs and wants. Product benefits/feature/ingredients closely trailed (49%), followed by price (29%).

In addition to making their products available via online marketplaces if possible, the survey also reinforces the importance for brands and retailers to provide high-quality online product information to consumers. More than eight in 10 (83%) respondents agree that product information was either an essential or very important factor in purchasing decisions.

Respondents most frequently chose written description as the most important detail (39%). Written products descriptions proved more popular with surveyed shoppers than images (24%), customer reviews and ratings (19%), and video (12%). 

“It’s no longer good enough to excel across just one or two channels. Consistently high-quality experiences, findability, and availability are a must across all domains or brands and retailers risk losing significant sales. That simply isn’t an option during this year’s Golden Quarter with many expecting this year to reach record numbers,” said Thomas Zanzinger, CEO at Inriver. “Brands can no longer rely on their name alone to seal the deal. Loyalty has shifted and brands need to ensure they’re meeting customer expectations both of the product and in the purchase journey to beat stiff competition on the digital shelf.”

This independent survey was conducted by OnePoll between April and May 2021 in the U.S. and U.K. and in September 2021 for Germany. Insights were collected from 6,000 online shoppers 18 – 64 years old from across each region.

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