Excellent.org explains the changed buying behaviour of consumers and explains the trends. The picture shows a woman with shopping bags on the left and a woman shopping online on the right

Changed buying behaviour – online and offline in interaction

Instead of carrying heavy bags, shopping can now be done from the comfort of your own home and the desired goods are delivered to your door. Instead of only being able to choose between a few alternatives, there is now an almost unlimited choice in the most diverse price ranges. Instead of just being online or offline, both channels are now being linked. In addition to friends, influencers also give personal recommendations, searches are mainly mobile and health and environmental aspects are becoming increasingly important when making purchases.

In recent years, buying and information behaviour has changed fundamentally and companies must adapt in order to continue to meet consumer demands.

The fully informed consumer

The origin of this change lies in the development of the Internet, through which consumers became more and more omniscient. Inspiration is sought on social media, product information is called up on various pages and competitive products are used for comparison. Evaluations play a particularly important role here – 56% use them to make purchasing decisions [1].

Since the advent of smartphones, these processes are increasingly taking place on the move and within seconds. Even on the spot in the store, additional information can be easily called up that can either support the purchase or discourage it. However, this development does not lead to the irrelevance of stationary trade, but rather to a seamless connection between online and offline.

Linking Online & Offline

Online trading is preferred above all because of its permanent availability, the large selection of goods and extensive product information as well as the wide range of payment options. Stationary shops score points for this with better advice on site as well as the presentation and clarity of the goods. In today’s experience society, consumers want to be able to see the goods directly in front of their eyes and test them out. Due to the advantages of these two sales channels, two trends have developed that combine online and offline.

Webrooming

Within the framework of webrooming, consumers first inform themselves online and compare different products using the numerous possibilities offered by the Internet. Comparison portals, rating sites, expert blogs and YouTube are particularly useful here. After the decision for a product has been made, the actual purchase is made in the shop. Here the product can be checked again and is then taken home directly. The two channels are often used alternately, so the retailer must be available everywhere.

Showrooming

With showrooming, the process is virtually reversed. A product is inspected and tested in the store, but the purchase is then made online – at a lower price. For many retailers, this trend poses a danger because customers take advantage of local advice virtually free of charge, but make the purchase themselves online from a completely different retailer. Other companies have taken advantage of this phenomenon and have deliberately designed their stores as a kind of showroom – for example Apple with Apple Stores in the best locations.

Excellent.org explains the trends in webrooming and showrooming in the context of changing buying behaviour, the picture shows a showroom with technical gadgetsFurther trend currents

In addition to the combination of online and offline, there are other trends that further influence buying behavior, such as the increased use of language assistants. This is leading to a change in search behaviour on Google & Co. and to information being made available even more easily through voice search. In addition, with the help of voice assistants, useful items such as toilet paper can be re-ordered online by a simple command – a visit to the supermarket is no longer necessary.

Word-of-mouth advertising is being used more and more by influencer marketing, and the effect is amplified many times over. Instead of receiving recommendations only from the closest circle, product tips are now also given by well-known personalities on social media. After all, every fourth person states that they trust influencers. [2] These positive effects are also used, for example, for store openings, for which influencers are invited with great announcement.

Another development that should not be ignored is the increased awareness of consumers with regard to health and sustainability. Aspects such as the packaging and the ecological footprint of a product are increasingly becoming the differentiating factor that ultimately motivates consumers to buy.

What can companies do?

Social media plays an ever-increasing role in the buying process, as consumers use Instagram, Pinterest & Co. to inform themselves about products and gather inspiration. While older users continue to increasingly obtain their information via search engines, almost 50% of 16-24 year olds already use social media for this purpose. [3]

In the wake of environmental and health concerns, consumers are increasingly demanding transparency. Companies must clearly explain the processes behind a product and provide consumers with some additional information. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), i.e. the voluntary contribution of a company to sustainable management, will therefore continue to become increasingly relevant in the future and is even a prerequisite for consumers.

But probably most important for companies: an omni-channel strategy. In contrast to a pure multi-channel strategy, in which different sales channels merely run parallel to each other, here they are interlocked and even used simultaneously. In this way, a customer who is on site in a store can simultaneously obtain information about the products in the company’s own app. To ensure absolutely seamless switching between channels, customer support must also be synchronized between the channels. This is the only way to reach customers everywhere and meet their needs.

Conclusion

Customers expect to be provided with comprehensive information everywhere – whether offline in the form of a consultation or online on the homepage or via social media. Here it is important to pick up the customer and make the switch between the different channels as smooth as possible. In addition to a multi-channel strategy, customer loyalty is becoming an increasingly important differentiating factor. In the future, it will therefore be necessary to make cross-channel information available and to gain and strengthen the trust of customers.


 

[1] Bitkom: Jeder Zweite liest Online-Bewertungen vor dem Kauf (2020)

[2] PwC Deutschland: Zwischen Entertainer und Werber– Wie Influencer unser Kaufverhalten beeinflussen (2018)

[3] iBusiness:Wo sich Konsumenten Kaufinspiration holen (2019)