More than 90% of online shoppers aren’t planning to buy anything either

It’s a well-documented fear among bricks-and-mortar retailers that many of the future customers who walk through their doors are “showrooming” – examining something they’d like to buy in the real world before purchasing it online. But a recent study has found the vast majority of online consumers are doing the same thing.

According to the “Reimagining Commerce” report, released last month by Stockholm, Sweden-based ecommerce software firm Episerver, when 92 per cent of consumers visit a brand’s website for the first time it’s for reasons other than making a purchase: 45 per cent are searching for a product or service, one-quarter are comparing prices, and more than one in 10 are simply trying to learn more about the store.

Moreover, the report found that a third of consumers who visit a brand’s website or mobile app intending to buy something never did so.

The authors noted this lack of engagement doesn’t mean online retailers should ignore the majority of visitors. In fact, it means the opposite.

“The content customers see and the experiences they have while interacting with a brand online are crucial to shaping their purchasing behavior,” Episerver CMO and executive vice president of strategy James Norwood said in a Jan. 16 statement. “While not every consumer visiting a brand’s website is there to make a purchase, brands must consider how the experience of their websites – from navigation to checkout – supports engagement.”

And contrary to other online retail-related reports, the majority of shoppers surveyed by Episerver chose desktop computers as their digital channel of choice, underlining the importance of designing an omni-channel experience.

Courtesy Episerver

In fact, 59 per cent of respondents said they would be interested in personalization being incorporated into their online shopping experience, while 43 per cent said they would be open to personalized in-store experiences, and 21 per cent said they would be more likely to purchase a second time from brands that provided a more personalized experience. Presently, however, 35 per cent said they feel brands do a “poor” or “very poor” job of customizing their online shopping experience, while only seven per cent said brands did so “very well.”

The report, which is based on a survey of more than 1,100 U.S. consumers across the age and gender spectrum, also found that 98 percent of shoppers have been dissuaded from completing a purchase because of incomplete or incorrect content on a brand’s website, and that when consumers are prepared to make a purchase on a website or mobile app, 60 percent go directly to the product page for the item they’re looking for, underscoring the need for descriptive, accurate content, Episerver said.

Another 18 percent of consumers look at items for sale first, the company noted, while seven per cent seek out customer testimonials before anything else.

The report found some good news for online retailers, at least: two thirds of survey respondents said they plan to make more purchases online in 2017 than in 2016.

For beleaguered retailers wondering precisely which technology they should use to tailor their content, Episerver also found that shoppers were more interested in such relatively lo-fi personalized content as location-based coupons (44 percent) and images (31 percent) than emerging technologies such as virtual reality (seven percent) and augmented reality (six percent).

Also worth noting is the company’s breakdown of what, precisely, customers buy online:

Courtesy Episerver

The full report can be downloaded here.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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