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Consumer behaviour expert reveals what tempts online shoppers to surf sites


New research carried out by a consumer behaviour researcher at Henley Management College has investigated what drives people to search online. The findings reveal that convenience, time-efficiency and personal control are the key drivers for consumers to search online, rather than cost. It also shows that the relationship between traditional and online retailing outlets needs to be more unified.

E-shopping has changed the face of retail, and surfers are now looking for Spring sale bargains. This is following a bumper e-Christmas, where Internet shopping soared almost 50% during the 10-week run-up to Christmas 2005 (IMRG).

However, the new findings reveal that convenience and personal control are the key drivers for consumers to search online. Dr Susan Rose, from Henley Management College, said: “What motivates online shoppers is the ability to shop, where, when and how they like. Nowadays people can shop over their Shreddies in the morning, rather than wait for stores to open.”

The research, that analyses data from 304 electrical goods Internet shoppers, provides businesses with a guide to getting the information highway buzzing with potential customers.

Big-ticket items such as digital TVs, cameras, or iPods now feature on our e-shopping list. The Internet provides a rich source of information about brands and retail channels that enable us to search and find information to help us with our final purchase decision.

For businesses there are some steps to hep them embrace the Internet revolution with success.

A key factor driving Internet use for ‘online window shopping’ is its usefulness in our personal lives. The Internet frees time and makes the information search process, and buying, less irksome.

Research suggests that people search online for some goods, yet buy from a traditional high street retailer, or look around for goods in shops, then take their search online. In turn, it is essential for retailers who operate both on and off line to ensure that they embrace a joined up process that appears seamless to the customer. Some retailers have still to successfully unite the two retailing methods - this is key to contemporary customer service.

Factors such as how much the medium challenges us mentally and our confidence to navigate and understand the technology can turn us on or off the idea of browsing online for products. A clear divide is appearing between the occasional online shopper and the regular experienced user. Concerns about how easy the system is to use have almost disappeared for online shopping enthusiasts, but for occasional users e-tailing sites need to be easy to navigate. Websites must be accessible and operate efficiently.

The research found that the expectation of getting a good financial deal is still a strong motivator to seek out products online, but this is secondary to the importance of convenience and control.

But, many people steer clear of electronic buying because of security worries. Only once online retailers can reassure customers about fraud and privacy, will the online shopping curve really take off. Worries about the risk involved, in terms of financial transaction and privacy remain. A move from ‘big brands’ to ‘bargains’ may only take place once surfers are assured of safety.

Susan Rose added: “Retail sites need to be quick and simple for users. But trust is fundamental – it is important in all trading but in distance trading it is crucial. Many consumers may subsequently buy elsewhere, but the Internet provides a ready source of product information, which is key when making a decision about technology products.”

Jenny Murray | alfa
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