New research by Cisco Systems, Inc., reveals that digital content from the Internet is the most powerful influence in buying decisions for the majority of shoppers in all channels. Jon Stine, director of Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), the division that produced the study entitled “Catch and Keep Digital Shoppers,” notes the importance of this research to brick and mortars. “Increasingly, the Internet is the front door of a brand. Neighborhood shops think ‘locals know me,’ but shoppers are researching online in increasing numbers. Some 65 percent of U.S. shoppers research online on a regular basis, and they are making decisions which may obviate going to retailers’ stores if shopkeepers don’t have an online presence to drive them in.” The Cisco study, which surveyed 5,000 shoppers across the U.S., U.K., Brazil, Mexico and China, also found that online ratings and reviews are the most influential source for making purchasing decisions by 52 percent of respondents. “I was speaking with a Gen Y guy, and I asked him how he makes his buying decisions,” Stine shares. “His response was ‘show me the stars.’ What he meant was, ‘If I don’t see peer reviews, I don’t buy it.”
One of the most surprising findings of the study, Stine continues, “is the size of ‘uber digitals’ who never shop unless they shop through technology. By 2015, millennials will be the largest demographic group in the U.S. They demand transparency, trust and sustainable product sources. That age group is rolling towards retail and the big wave is going to hit in 2015.”
“We talk to retailers all the time who say they need to create a dot com strategy,” Stine points out. “What they need to do is provide access to content consumers rely on to make decisions.” Retailers should have large screen TVs in their shops that provide web scrapes from independent ratings and review sites. A small hardware store, for example, can share the features of both one and five star rated lawnmowers, so consumers can make a decision based on their individual needs. “Making content available should be part of the selling process.”
Robust Wi-Fi a Must
In addition, the Cisco study shows that 71 percent of shoppers want access to digital content in the store, through retailer touchscreens or via their own devices, and shops must have strong Wi-Fi. “Robust, reliable, secure Wi-Fi is a critical element for retailers,” Stine stresses. A web presence, not necessarily eCommerce, and a mobile version of the website are core to succeeding with today’s consumers. According to the study, cross-channel shopping involving mobile devices rose on average 20 percent over last year and mobile search to in-store purchase is now actively used by 29 percent of shoppers. Loyalty programs also are key, and they should offer personalized welcomes and targeting. “Consumers’ footprints are at the heart of it, and retailers can access pay by use, cloud-advanced analytics for business intelligence.”
According to Cisco, shoppers expect stores to operate with the same information, transparency and speed as their favorite websites. Retailers that provide faster, more engaging shopping experiences, access to ratings, reviews and content, and personalized programs will be well positioned for success with today’s and tomorrow’s consumers.