American Marketer


Forrester: Digital main research tool, in-store main transaction channel

August 30, 2012


New research from Forrester has shown that consumers search via digital methods, but actually buy in-store. Therefore, the experience should be seamless across all channels.

Approximately 82 percent of consumers research products before they buy and use digital as their main channel to do so. Many use traditional digital channels such as Web sites, while mobile and social media are not ideal platforms on which to research.

“Consumers depend on digital channels to research products as they seek better value from their purchases,” said Corinne Munchbach, Cambridge, MA-based researcher serving chief marketing officers and marketing leaders for Forrester.

“Marketers need to add digital elements based on the experiences their consumers want, which varies by segment,” she said. “Better-defined shopping segments will enable marketers to deliver superior brand and shopping experiences with the right technologies, at the right times, in the right places.”

Product searching
More than half of the United States population, 54 percent, uses digital researching tools. Meanwhile, 18 percent use offline channels and 28 percent use a combination of both.

Search engines are a big part of how consumers research products.

Out of any channel, 20 percent of consumers say that search engine Google is the No. 1 reference when researching products.

Gucci search results on Google

Also, 19 percent of consumers say that Amazon is the most-helpful research tool.

About 12 percent use traditional Web sites and 5 percent use other search engines.

Meanwhile, consumers are slower to adopt to more modern technologies.

For example, only 1 percent of consumers found that Facebook was a helpful resource when researching products.

Despite consumers' favoring of digital channels for research, the majority - 67 percent of consumers - still prefer actually buying in-store.

Channeling mobile
Meanwhile, only 7 percent of digital researchers used the Internet on their mobile phones to research a purchase and 4 percent used the Internet on a tablet.

"The impact of mobile has not been fully felt yet," Ms. Munchbach said. "However, 11 percent of U.S. online adults say that it is likely they will buy a product or service via the mobile Internet on a mobile phone in the next three to six months.

"Even the most digitally-advanced shoppers have not started using mobile extensively for research, however," she said.

Even though mobile has not been that widely adapted as a research tool, most consumers agree that it is the best platform on which to link out-of-home, in-store and digital efforts.

Therefore, brands need to focus on creating a seamless experience across all channels that connects consumers and marketers.

For example, Italian fashion house Gucci is working with Samsung Electronics to offer an immersive in-store experience devoted to the label’s timepieces and jewelry that combines the in-store experience and QR codes (see story).

Neiman Marcus app

Meanwhile, department store chain Neiman Marcus is launching a new experience in four of its U.S. locations that serves to heighten customer service and the in-store atmosphere with a personal shopping mobile application.

Designed for the iPhone, NM Service uses push notifications, location-based technology and QR code scanning. The purpose of the app is to create and retain relationships with Neiman Marcus sales associates (see story).

“Interest in being able to use emerging tools for shopping-related activities, while still nascent, is growing,” Ms. Munchbach said.

“The time is now for marketers to nail down their mobile strategies as part of holistic marketing plans along the path-to-purchase,” she said.

Final Take

Rachel Lamb, associate reporter on Luxury Daily, New York