Surfing shoppers

Published:  12 May, 2011

What do shoppers say? Exclusive research shows the power of the internet in influencing shopper behaviour.

In the second round of the What do Shoppers Say research, market research specialists ROI Team asked customers at the Mall’s properties in Uxbridge, Blackburn, and Luton about their use of social media and the internet when planning their shopping trips.

And it is clear that the old barrier between ‘clicks’ and ‘bricks’ is breaking down fast. The internet is no longer reserved for online shopping – for many it has become an integral part of any shopping trip and half of our shoppers said they visit a website to plan their shopping trips.

Google and other search engines are the most used sites. With almost a quarter of shoppers using one as part of their planning, centre managers need to be aware of the danger of their shoppers being diverted away at this point. Significantly, three times as many shoppers use a search engine as use a centre’s own website so centres should consider using search engine optimisation to ensure their information features highly on the google rankings.

Not surprisingly, internet use is highest among younger shoppers. More than half of shoppers aged 18 to 44 - and almost one third of the youngest shoppers aged 18 to 24 - visit a website to plan their shopping trip. The proportion tails off among older shoppers.

Facebook is very popular with the youngest shoppers who regard shopping as a social activity, and it was cited by almost one third of those who use the internet to plan shopping trips. The use of price comparison sites increases steadily through life as price consciousness starts to dominate the shopping experience.

The researchers also found that the wealthiest shoppers make less use of the internet to plan their shopping trips; perhaps easily available spending power means they can be more spontaneous.

However Facebook is the platform of choice for the youngest shoppers at both ends of the social scale and it is used equally by young career professionals (‘Urban Prosperity’) and young people struggling by on benefits (‘Hard Pressed’). Price comparison sites are much more used by the ‘Comfortably Off’ shoppers.

The ROI Team researchers interviewed more than 400 shoppers in The Mall’s properties in Uxbridge, Blackburn, and Luton using ‘next available’ methodology. All interviews were carried out face-to-face inside the shopping centres between February 25 and 27, 2011.

Kris Hunt, CRM marketing manager at The Mall says: “The reach and growth of the internet is undeniable and from analysing our own online activities it’s no surprise that half of the people surveyed here are using the internet to plan their shopping trips and to make the most of their time.”

But she points out that the Mall’s customers see their community shopping centres as an important part of their social dialogue, and The Mall’s own research shows a majority of customers agree with the notion that ‘this centre plays an important role in the community.’

“A key focus for us at The Mall is how we bring these two factors together and capitalise on digital techniques to enhance our customer’s shopping experiences,” she says. “Retailers themselves know that a strong multi-channel model is key to success in this age, and shopping centres should be no different. We use our website, and increasingly social media such as Facebook, to highlight products, trends, promotions and give access to deals and offers which has become increasingly important in recent times”.


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