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Consumers Buy Less Impulsively Online
New study encourages marketers to adapt to "gamesmanship" culture of online commerce.
Posted May 24, 2011
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Consumers are turning to the Internet to evaluate their options, collaborate with peers, and to get the best possible deal, according to "The Long and Winding Road: The Gamesmanship of Shopping," a recent study conducted by Yahoo!

The research shows the shopping process as "more fun" that resembles a "game" for consumers with the ability to discover, evaluate, and discuss information prior to making purchasing decisions.

The study surveyed about 2,500 consumers and found that 55 percent are less impulsive when shopping online. "We used to hear consumers talk about that this is overwhelming, now it's controlled chaos," says Edwin Wong, director of market research at Yahoo!. "They are using the Internet much more smartly not to make those impulse buys and to really help them open their minds in terms of what kind of brands they are going to consider."

Eighty-two percent of shoppers in the survey said "finding a great deal" on a product most contributed to a "win." In addition, 60 percent said the "competitive" aspect of shopping and knowing they got a better price than other shoppers contributed to making them feel like winners. "Online shopping is not a chore anymore," observes Karen Ring, vice president and research director at Universal McCann. "There is a certain level of fun and gamesmanship to the whole process."

Ring says consumers are using the Internet to research both small- and large-ticketed items to "minimize risk" when making a purchase. "There are so many other places you can go online to look," she says. "It's so easy now to have so much information in such a short amount of time—when you are sitting in front of the computer or even on your mobile phone—so your purchases are much more thoughtful. You are so well-armed now with so much information."

While the "paradox of choice" suggests consumers might be overwhelmed with increased information and choices, Ring offers an alternative explanation. "There are so many products to choose from now [that] we actually think the Web can help, even though it is a complex process and there are so many things out there," she maintains. "The Web can help [reduce] this feeling of being overwhelmed and [help consumers] figure out what to get."

Although the Internet makes things considerably faster, consumers are not more willing to make quick purchases, Wong says. "Impulse and speed are not correlated how they used to be," he explains. "We are much smarter with the Internet, so when you end up saying, 'Hey, I am gong to make that choice and purchase,' you know exactly what you are buying."

Wong and Ring encourage marketers to reevaluate their strategies to reflect the gamesmanship of online shopping. "I think the whole space is about to change," Wong says. "As the consumer begins to master this platform and it becomes second nature, it's not about trust anymore. It's about how to make this an interesting game for the consumer."

"Just doing an online video or putting up a banner is just now not going to cut through the clutter and it's not going to reach the people you need to reach," Ring adds. 


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