Affluent are browsing online, but are they buying?
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Smartphones and tablets have transformed the ways consumers are shopping. Nearly any information consumers want to know about a product they can find online, along with scores of user reviews and recommendations for competing products. With the swipe of a bar code scanner app, they can compare prices at various retailers around town and online.
These technologies have increased convenience and transparency. But market research experts say technology has had little impact on the buying habits among affluent consumers and purchasers of luxury goods
What has changed is how consumers are making decisions about what to buy. According to the most recent annual Survey of Affluence and Wealth, 80 percent of affluent U.S. consumers — those with a minimum $100,000 of discretionary income — say they know what they want and how much they are willing to pay before interacting with a salesperson or service provider to purchase luxury goods or services.
Previously, those decisions were heavily influenced by advertising, status and brand loyalty. More often, they are now influenced by online research and recommendations.
Far fewer affluent consumers today than in 2008 say they have a favorite brand for luxury retail goods, fashion or hotels. Instead, nearly three-fourths of these consumers say they find online comments by users of a product or service useful in making a purchasing decision. And half say they use their smartphone or tablet to research prices or other products online while shopping in a store.
Yet, when it comes to making a purchase, the data tells a different story. Of the 48 percent of affluent consumers who said they sourced a product online, fewer than half made the purchase online.
In a study conducted by the Luxury Institute, only 22 percent affluent respondents said they had sourced an item online and then purchased the item in store, and only 15 percent said they had researched a product in a store and then purchased it online. Another study conducted by eMarketer found that three-fourths of the purchases researched on mobile devices were completed in store.
Affluent consumers are using their mobile devices to access information and opinions in order to save time and affirm their buying decisions. They are less interested in bargain hunting or taking advantage of online discounts. They also are less influenced by brand reputation or loyalty, and are seeking demonstrated value for their dollar.
Designers should not be alarmed if their clients take up their smartphones or tablets to investigate the products they are recommending. It is how today's consumers are becoming accustomed — and conditioned — to shop. Designers should, however, be prepared to justify their selections by demonstrating value and the rationale behind the prices they are quoting.
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