Understanding consumer online shopping behavior

By Brad Smith

How does today’s consumer find dealerships and/or products and services? Ask friends and family for suggestions, perhaps. Go browsing at a local store, maybe. Chances are they’ll start their research and shopping online. Since most consumers want to start their shopping experience online, let them.

Regardless of how consumers make their way to your website, in order for you to successfully earn their business, you need to make sure your website caters to the needs of the growing number of Online Buyers, as well as Web-influenced Buyers. This article will explore the behavior of both and provide you with actionable tips that you can start using immediately.

Online Buyers: Capture their attention; convert them into online sales

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, eCommerce sales have grown steadily over the past decade. In the third quarter of 2012, eCommerce sales (as a percentage of all retail sales) increased 17.3 percent compared to the third quarter of 2011.That’s great news for dealers.

Whether researching or purchasing online, consumers want to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. On average, you have only 3.5 seconds to catch a visitor’s attention. From the moment a consumer lands on your website all the way to checkout, the two most important parts of eCommerce sales are to keep a consumer’s attention and build trust. Here are a few ways you can accomplish that:

Build trust with a well-designed, professional-looking website. Your website should make visitors comfortable doing business with you and buying your products online.
Use customer reviews to increase your dealership and product credibility by showing what other customers think about the products you sell, as well as their experience with your dealership.
Make the checkout process quick and easy to use.
Provide your contact information so potential buyers with questions can easily call or e-mail you.
Use a PCI-compliant payment system to protect consumers against fraud.
Prominently display security credentials near the “Proceed to Checkout” button to reassure buyers that their online purchase is secure. A Getelastic.com study shows that online sales conversions increase 4-6 percent by adding a prominent security display.

Your website is an extension of your brick-and-mortar store. The two need to complement each other and work hand-in-hand to turn your dealership into a 24/7 business and, ultimately, increase sales and profits. Your website should make it easy for customers to buy from you, even when you’re closed, whether it’s parts or whole goods.

Web-influenced buyers: Turning visitors into buyers

A growing online consumer trend is web-influenced sales — sales you make in your dealership that are generated by your website — primarily as the result of online research.

A recent Forrester study reported that a majority of customers (51 percent) want to buy from their local dealership because they want the product now — they don’t want to wait for it to arrive or pay delivery charges. According to the report, the second-highest reason people shop at their local dealership (42 percent) is because they want to see the product in person before purchasing.

Another important reason is that consumers are more likely to purchase equipment that may require future service from their local dealership.

The web-influenced trend is growing. It is estimated to grow to five times the size of eCommerce sales by 2015, at which time it will represent nearly 44 percent of total retail sales. Simply stated: It’s important that you recognize that even if you never sell a lawn mower or snowblower “on” your website, you have the opportunity to sell products “because” of your website.

To capture this growing segment of web-influenced buyers, make sure your website:

Provides visitors with the information they need to make an educated purchasing decision quickly and easily.
Includes product descriptions, specifications, multiple photos and other product information.
Puts your dealership’s best face forward. Give visitors an online experience that inspires confidence, shows product availability (in-store and online), and spotlights your professional, fully trained staff.
Motivates buyers to drive to your dealership, not your competitor’s.

Customers who start by researching on your website can be some of your best customers. According to another Forrester study, 45 percent of consumers who research online and buy offline will purchase additional products at your store. That means future sales for you. And, one in-store purchase could lead to another and eventually a lifelong customer.

Building a website for today’s (and tomorrow’s) consumer

Building trust for online sales, as well as providing a place for customers to research your dealership and products, will help you take advantage of today’s (and tomorrow’s) online consumers.

 Brad Smith is director of product management and general manager of aftermarket at ARI, a leading provider of technology-enabled business solutions for dealers, distributors and manufacturers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine and RV industries. ARI products and services include eCommerce-enabled websites; lead generation; lead management; Search Engine Optimization; Search Engine Marketing; and eCatalogs (parts, garments and accessories). Smith can be reached at (414) 973-4459 or via e-mail at bradsmith@arinet.com. Website: www.arinet.com.


Showrooming: Turn it into a selling tool

You may have seen it in your dealership already. A consumer walks through your door, and stops at a snowblower. The consumer looks it over carefully and “kicks the tires.” Then, the consumer pulls out a smartphone — iPhone, Droid, Samsung Galaxy, whatever — and starts tapping the screen. You may see the consumer look at his or her phone, and then down at the price tag. And, unless you act quickly, the consumer leaves. So, what happened?

This is a relatively new phenomenon called “Showrooming.” Showrooming is when a consumer comes into a brick-and-mortar store, looks at a product to see what it looks like in person, checks the price (yours and the competition’s), and then buys it elsewhere.

With Internet access on smartphones, it’s now easier than ever to search for the lowest price on just about anything, anywhere, anytime, including while in your dealership. You can’t blame the consumer. (Who doesn’t like saving a little money?) But with this growing trend, you need to be aware of showrooming, and find ways to combat it.

Here are a few easy things you can do to position yourself for success against showrooming:

1. Search for leading sample products you carry. Find out how your price compares to the competition. Not only will you have insight into what buyers see online, but you’ll also be better prepared to counter any price objections with your dealership’s value proposition and sell on more than just price.

2. Take advantage of free Quick Response (QR) code generators. QR codes seem to pop up everywhere. Smartphone users can scan the code, and it will bring them to whatever website the QR code is connected to. For a focused defense against showrooming, consider creating QR codes directed to your website landing page that give discounts to smartphone users.

3. Add value to your products. Perhaps, offer a percentage off service, priority service scheduling, or a free attachment with a purchase.

4. Promote your service. Your dealership’s fully trained, certified technicians cannot be matched by online (or for that matter, big-box stores); make sure buyers know that.

5. Build your local brand. In the past few years, the “shop small, shop local” and small business movements have really been gaining momentum. Position yourself as a member of your community.

6. Introduce yourself to customers. The human connection is something the Internet and big-box stores, try as they may, can never replace. Greet everyone who enters your store. Share with them your product expertise and years of experience. And, make sure you immediately engage with a buyer you suspect is showrooming. If you don’t, you’ve missed the opportunity to win the sale.

Buyers who practice showrooming should be thought of simply as a new breed of buyer that requires a new strategy. With the right strategy, your “showroom” will also be your sales floor and turn more prospects into lifelong customers.


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