Online and Retail Shopping – Not All Buyers Fit in the Same Big Box

Many dot-com pundits spelled the death of brick-and-mortar retail years ago. Consumers of technology products were assumed to be tech-savvy enough to skip visiting their local Wal-Mart. However, many consumers enjoy the social aspect of shopping, while at the same time others have integrated the web into their shopping process.Now that over half (50.1%) of Americans with home PCs agree that “My computer is a big part of my life,” it should be no surprise that it plays a big part in their shopping behavior. This is based on 7,958 households with Home PCs that were surveyed as part of the most recent MetaFacts Technology User Profile survey.

American consumers have been well-trained to wait for lower prices. Technology companies have further reinforced this through continued emphasis on “the next big thing.”

Nearly 8 times as many consumers agree than disagree with the statement “I hold off on buying technology products until their prices come down.” More than four in ten (41%) of home computer owners agreed with this statement, while one in twenty (5%) disagreed.

Best Buy customers aren’t as hesitant about shopping for technology products as are customers of other major retailers. Perhaps the “Geek Squad” has helped. Just over a third (36%) of Best Buy shoppers agree, much less than the 43% of Wal-Mart and Walgreens shoppers. Nearly ten times as many Wal-Mart and Walgreens shoppers agree than disagree with the above statement.

Further, retail consumers are strongly incorporating the web into their shopping, even while some shoppers strongly value the social interaction of shopping.

Why is this important?

As technology product shoppers transform what they value – low prices, brands, social interaction – as well as their sophistication with integrating the web into their buying processes – then this can split the market into pieces. This can leave some retailers following their customers, instead of the other way around.

There’s a sizable group that have integrated the Internet into their retail buying process. Over a third (35%) of American shoppers prefer to do their buying research online and then purchase in person. This is four times as high a rate as among those that don’t. Among the major retailers, Best Buy has attracted most of these, with 41% that agree while 7% disagree.

Low prices resonate with many buyers. Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) agree with the statement “low prices are more important than brand names.” Almost three times as many agree than disagree. 14% of Barnes & Noble online buyers disagree that low prices are more important than brand names, a small number, but the largest among the national online and retail outlets. The national rate is 11%.

Many buyers value in-person social interaction in their shopping process. 29% of shoppers with home PCs agree with the statement “I enjoy shopping in person because I can talk with and meet people,” compared with 15% that disagree.

Dell or Amazon shoppers are less interested in the social value of shopping than most other consumers. More Dell & Amazon customers disagree than agree. One-fifth (21% of Dell and 20% of Amazon shoppers) disagree, higher than the 15% national rate.

We expect the market to further splinter as Americans continue to learn and evolve how they buy consumer electronics. As the Internet becomes more integral in certain American’s lives, they will be very different from who they are today. At the same time, shoppers who haven’t embraced the web or have pulled the plug will be taking completely different shopping approaches, further frustrating those retailers attempting to fit all buyers into the same big box.

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Filed under Consumer research, Market Research, Technology, TUP 2005