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NEW: David Trewern

SmartCompany /

Important purchases are usually made physically, instore, but the ‘journey’ often begins on the net, where buyers check out products and compare prices. Retailers take note.

Clicking with real-world customers

While working over the past week on a strategy for a client, I came across some interesting information about the way that online and offline communications, commerce and processes work together hand in hand.

Being an early adopter and an experienced web user, I always need to remind myself that the way I use the web is not typical of the average user. However, findings from a recent Accenture survey in the US indicate that more people use the web the way I do than I had previously thought.

For example, 69% of respondents to the survey said they research product features online before they visit a physical store; 68% said they compare prices online before shopping in a physical store; and only 13% said the internet had not improved their in-store shopping experience.

With over a billion Google searches daily, it’s is increasingly important for companies to think about the ways in which their customers find, evaluate, discuss and ultimately make a decision to purchase a product.

Let’s think for a minute about the journey a customer embarks on when making an important purchasing decision in our new digital world:

First a catalyst causes an intent to consider a purchase. The catalyst could be an event (such as Christmas), a change in functional needs or desire created by advertising. The potential purchaser may then start researching online, or may contact a ‘peer expert’ for advice. Over the course of hours, days, weeks or months (depending upon the type of purchase) the potential purchaser is likely to window-shop in physical stores, visit manufacturers’ websites, visit eBay, compare prices online, read magazines, discuss their options on online discussion forums and read blogs. It is then likely that they will in-fact make the purchase in a physical store.

The statistics quoted indicate that the majority of people still prefer to transact in the real world; however for more than 87% of shoppers, the internet has enhanced their shopping experience. The web provides complete control and means that shoppers can avoid pushy sales people. Customers can also research their decisions 24 hours a day, at home after dark, or even at work during the day.

It’s important for all businesses to stop and think about the journey that their customers undertake leading up to a transaction. This customer journey equally applies to service business as well as manufacturers and retailers.

How important is the web to your customers when it comes to finding information about your products and services?

One tip is to use the Google keyword tool to get an indication of what people are searching for online in your category. Your own website statistics should also provide an insight. However, the best thing to do is to actually ask your customers.

To read more David Trewern blogs, click here.

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