Global research from Bazaarvoice, the leading provider of product reviews and user-generated content (UGC) solutions, finds that not only are 61% of consumers globally more likely to browse for new products online compared to in-store, but that they also find it easier (64%) and more enjoyable (54%).
The research conducted among 9000+ consumers globally also reveals that although the majority are browsing and discovering new products online, people are more likely to make spontaneous spur-of-the-moment purchases whilst shopping in-store.
The allure of convenience (60%), ease (48%), and greater product choice (46%) make online an appealing destination to browse for products in the UK, some shoppers still want to physically feel and see an item before committing to purchase. This physical experience is the most popular reason shoppers choose to browse in-store compared to online, highlighting a need for brands and retailers to build greater online trust and confidence through the use of user-generated content (UGC).
Triumph for mobile, but bricks and mortar not down and out
Across devices, smartphones are the top choice for browsing online for over half of consumers (52%), followed by laptops (23%), and desktop (11%) computers. With immediate access at the fingertips of UK consumers, they spend more time browsing for products online compared to in-store, with the majority of those shopping online (53%) spending more than 15 minutes browsing in a single session. This compares to just over a third (38%) spending the same amount of time browsing in shops.
That said, the continued accessibility of essential retail amidst national restrictions means that when it comes to committing to a purchase, 71% of consumers buy in-store at least once a week, compared to 46% making weekly online purchases. Equally, almost two-thirds (64%) of British consumers are likely to buy a spur-of-the-moment item while shopping in-store, compared to 51% likely to do so online. Ultimately, however, consumers are still likely to spend the same amount on a spontaneous purchase regardless of being online or in-store; the majority will spend a maximum of £20 on an impulse purchase.
Ed Hill, SVP EMEA at Bazaarvoice, comments, “The last year has been transformational for retail, and has pushed a lot of consumers into new territory. Brands and retailers have upped their online experiences to make the process of shopping online not only easy and convenient, but also enjoyable. However, at the point of discovery, online shoppers stumbling upon a great product are more likely to simply research the item, rather than purchase it spontaneously. Collecting user-generated content (UGC), like text based ratings and reviews, and visual UGC helps brands build trust with consumers so shoppers can be confident in their purchase and are more likely to convert.”
UGC transforms browsing into buying
Brand and retailer websites have a certain advantage over the likes of Amazon and Google, as they are not only able to customise and make landing pages relevant, but also ensure that a website experience replicates the in-store buying experience. In fact, brands’ images on a website are more likely to lead to the discovery and purchase of new products for over a third of consumers (35%) compared to internet searches on sites like Google (29%).
Ultimately, consumers want full confidence in their online purchases, putting a great deal of importance on ratings and reviews. Product reviews are the top thing consumers want to see from a brand or retailer website experience, and ratings and reviews are one of the most important factors influencing consumers to discover and purchase new products online (44%), after price (71%).
Hill continues, “From browsing to buying, UGC is powerful at every step of the shopper journey and is critical because people trust other people like themselves. When consumers see how a product looks or performs in a real-life situation (not a stylised scenario created by your brand), they’ll trust that a product will deliver on its claims – in fact, 60% of respondents said they’re likely to rely on photos and videos from other shoppers to help qualify or certify a product they’ve discovered online. Quality content provides smarter shopping for customers and business growth for brands and retailers.”
Fickle consumers abandon brand loyalty
The fluctuating availability of products during the pandemic has caused an accelerated shift in consumer brand loyalty. The need to stick with tried and tested brands are diminishing, and now almost half of UK consumers (49%) would make an impulse purchase online from a brand they did not know, compared to 26% who would not – almost a quarter were unsure either way. Impulse purchases from an unknown brand in-store – where consumers can see and feel a product prior to purchase – are much more likely (60%).
Ratings and reviews have become a key resource for UK consumers deciding whether to trust a brand or not, with almost three quarters (73%) relying on customer feedback to help certify the quality of a new product. This becomes even more critical considering that uncertainty about product quality is the main reason consumers wouldn’t test out a new brand.
Hill concludes, “Brands and retailers can boost engagement and sales by focusing on driving product discovery and recreating the in-store experience online to give consumers the confidence to click the buy button. Retailers need to take customers from just buying online to truly shopping online. By providing rich content in the form of easily explorable items featured in imagery, or detailed and up-to-date reviews, consumers will be motivated to move from being a browser to a buyer.”