For me, the most useful information to be gleaned from the Bazaarvoice/JupiterResearch study is the confirmation of just how important it is for etailers to target every stage of the buying cycle–not just the “buying” stage. I often tell web site owners that consumers typically follow a buying cycle which can be condensed down to just three stages–for easy recall.
Research – this is the stage where consumers know they have a need, but don’t yet know what the solution is. Ecommerce sites can target these consumers by offering articles and practical advice for helping them realize the solutions available. For example, your content and keyword buys might target “benefits of LCD versus Plasma.” Some 69% of consumers start their online buying without yet making up their mind as to the type of product they need.
Comparison - this is the stage in the buying cycle where consumers have an idea of the type of product or service that will fit their need, but haven’t decided yet on a brand or service provider. They’ll likely want to compare different brands and product features. As an etailer, you should make it easy for them to compare the different LCD TVs you sell, or if you only sell one brand of LCD TV, explain the features that make it better than its rivals. Only 23% of consumers start their buying cycle knowing which brand they want to buy.
Buy - this is typically where most novice etailers focus their marketing efforts, yet the study suggests that only 13% of consumers start their buying cycle with the mindset that they’re ready to buy. At this stage consumers are comparing price, shipping options, and store reviews. If you only focus on this stage of the buying cycle, chances are high that one of your competitors has already influenced a consumer’s sentiment towards a particular technology (LCD over plasma) or brand (Sony over Toshiba).
It’s a tough market out there! If you’re in the automotive, travel or consumer electronics space–the top 3 industries expected to feel the pinch–there’s not yet a light at the end of the tunnel. With few consumers making a purchase, it’s time to go beyond attracting those “ready to buy” and add tire-kickers and window-shoppers to your target audience. It might sound like more work–and it is–but with fewer overall online shoppers, you’re going to need to work harder and smarter, if you want to see any kind of growth in 2009.