The Devil Is In The (Research) Details

04.10.2017 Articles

By Sean Wargo, VP of Research at BDSmktg

Beware of the sweeping generalization!

One of the great misperceptions within the ranks of consultants and analysts is the idea that one size fits all when it comes to retail. Or, to put it another way, the way in which we shop holds constant regardless of the product category. Thus, consultants and researchers will talk about the ‘trends in retail’ as if these truths will help you navigate the retail landscape regardless of your product category, your brand, your consumer, or your message. This couldn’t be farther from the actual truth. Allow us to be among the few to say – your individual situation matters.

One of the big misconceptions is within the Path to Purchase research. According to general findings presented at many research conferences, you might think smartphones are purchased the same way as a television or a PC. The consumer goes online to do research, MAY go into the store, MIGHT try out the device, POSSIBLY talks to an associate but ultimately makes a purchase based on the lowest price that they find while cross-shopping or show-rooming because that’s what millennials do. Right?

In truth, it’s subtler than that and believe it or not, you may have more control and can ‘steer’ the consumer more than you think.

Dig deeper into results.

The key is in taking a harder look at the results. Recent research from BDSmktg into the purchase path of recent smartphone and PC buyers help exemplify this point. Specifically, it demonstrates both the importance of the in-store experience and its relative impact on two different product categories.

For starters, the study found that a clear majority of buyers in both categories made their purchase in-store – 63% among smartphone buyers and 81% among PC buyers. Thus, while the online experience may have played a part, consumers relied on the brick and mortar locations for fulfillment.

Even better is the role that the store played in changing minds. Yes, the vast majority of consumers that were surveyed went into the store having a pretty good idea what they wanted to buy, regardless of the product category. However, a sizable percentage switched their choice while there. One in five smartphone buyers admitted to purchasing something different in the store than they originally intended and among PC buyers, this shift accounted for 62%. or almost two out of every three purchases! Perhaps what’s even better is that almost half of them switched their choice of brand.

What was going on? For some it was simply a pricing and availability issue, since the reason for the switch came down to a better deal or what was in stock. For others, a live demo of the device or a conversation with a retail sales associate made the difference. The drivers vary, depending on the consumer segment in question.

Find your point of influence.

So, what’s the point? Don’t give up on the purchase process just because you hear more are made online than in the store. This doesn’t mean that price and availability are all that matter or that consumer choice is unmalleable. Instead, consider the above and plan for how you can steer the process. Perhaps look at your retail readiness – do you have demos up and running in stores? Are the sales associates equipped to answer questions about your brand and advocate for it? All of this can move the needle, and as we all know, even 1 or 2%, let alone 10 or 20%, can mean a tremendous lift to sell through and market share, especially in a high-volume category like smartphones.

Fortunately, research can help answer these questions. Give us a call here at BDS if you have questions about how to approach it. We stand at the ready to shine some light into the dark tunnels of retail to help illuminate the possibilities for improvement!