Research - 25.08.2014 - 00:00 

Study on purchasing behaviour

Online shops are popular sources of inspiration with customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The way in which the retail trade responds to changing purchasing behaviour was examined by the Institute of Retail Management (IRM-HSG) together with the hybris software, a SAP company.<br/>


26 August 2014. The fact that cross-channel dealers’ online shops play a key role in the purchasing process is revealed by a study on cross-channel management in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Customers are becoming choosier, and dealers have to realign their sales strategies.

The study examines the purchasing behaviour of 2,780 customers with an affinity for cross-channel shopping. They are defined as customers who are able to name a dealer whose online shop and sales outlet they know and from whom they can remember having made a specific purchase. These customers’ analysed purchasing processes show that online shops are frequently used as a source of inspiration and the starting point of a purchase.

In the clothing sector, in particular, many customers first visit a dealer’s online shop. In the electronics, entertainment media, foodstuffs and cosmetics sector the online-shop is the second most used starting point for a purchase. If we look at the entire purchasing process, online shops already have almost the same significance as sales outlets.

Search engines and price comparison portals are popular
Online contact points (63.3%) have even become a slightly less important than sales outlets (62.6%), whereas one in four customers visits both channels. Search engines (39.4%), discussions with friends and acquaintances (18.6%), price comparison portals (16.7%) and the dealer’s newsletter (14.5%) play an important part in purchasing decisions.

Also, customers often visit competitors’ online shops and sales outlets when they are shopping. Customers who visit more than one sales channel of a dealer use competitors’ sales channels more frequently than those who only shop online or in a sales outlet. In almost seven out of ten cross-channel purchases, customers visit a competitor during the purchasing process. In pure online or sales outlet purchases, however, only five out of ten customers visit a competitor. Customers with an affinity for cross-channel shopping provide themselves with an overview of different dealers’ goods and services before they transact a purchase with their preferred dealer.

Swiss consumers primarily like Swiss cross-channel dealers. Five out of the ten most frequently named Swiss cross-channel dealers are domestic companies. Migros with its companies is particularly popular as a cross-channel dealer in Switzerland; it occupies the first three places. Coop and Interdiscount are also among the first six.

New sales strategies required

Dealers try to respond to changing purchasing behaviour patterns by being flexibly responsive to customers’ wishes and steering customers away from the online shop towards the sales outlet. The study reveals that customers have a particularly strong perception of some of their dealers’ cross-channel services.

This includes the possibility of using a dealer’s loyalty cards both online and in the sales outlet (increase in perception of 9% since 2011), click & collect services, which enable customers to order the products online and to collect them from the sales outlet (increase in perception of 13% since 2011), as well as the option to enquire online about the availability of certain products in the dealer’s sales outlets (increase in perception of 18% since 2011). Measures aiming to shift customer frequency from sales outlets to online shops are on the decrease from a customer’s perspective.

Photo: Photocase / Christian Haeringer

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