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How Do Consumers Shop Online?


Online and mobile shopping are expanding at a quick pace; both venues are allowing consumers to shop anytime from virtually anywhere. It’s important to understand what consumers are looking for when they venture online to shop.


The E-tailing group presented a study of 1,300 consumers at the Internet Retailer 2012 Conference. This study looked at online behaviors of consumers and asked what factors drive their purchasing decisions.


From the study, the top five considerations made when making online purchasing decisions include:


● Price, 80%

● Ability to purchase online for home delivery, 62%

● Ability to get the product within a day or two, 54%

● Ability to purchase locally at a store, 45%

● Advice/reviews from peers on web sites, 38%


The study goes on to state that there has been a 43% increased their online shopping in the last year. Trends are also showing in making online purchases from tablets, smartphones, and even Facebook.


This trend will only continue to increase as the internet, mobile apps, and the enhancement of smartphones develops. Ensuring that your online purchasing options are as strong as possible will help businesses stay competitive.


What are some considerations you can make to enhance consumers’ online shopping experience?


1. Ensure that products are easy to find, and pictures are of good quality. Offering various viewpoints of products online will help customers make decisions quicker.


2. Incorporate a product review feature into websites so consumers can easily find reviews and make informed decisions. Also incorporate social sites, such as Facebook, to allow users to see what their friends buy.


3. If you are using social sites to engage with consumers, make it easy to visit your website. Many businesses are incorporating shopping pages on their Facebook accounts, for example, so consumers can browse without leaving the social networking site.


4. Make sure your website is mobile friendly. Make it easy for consumers to shop wherever they are. Consider the use of mobile apps to enhance business from mobile customers.



Sales Prevention


Surely you’ve heard this term before…if not, sales prevention can be defined as ways businesses keep people from making purchases or otherwise doing business with your company.


Examples of this can be:


* Not returning phone calls or emails in a timely manner, if at all

* Not maintaining adequate stock, especially of sale items, so that when a customer comes in looking for a particular item, it’s not available

* Not empowering your employees to resolve customer complaints in a timely manner so as to not lose business


There is another example of sales prevention that I recently experienced, though it was geared more toward sales prevention from an actual employee. Online sales can be easier and potentially more profitable because you are cutting out the middleman, or sales associate in this case. While that may seem well and good, this can be a dangerous pathway to take.


Consider this recent situation…


My two daughters have cell phone plans that were expiring through a different cell provider than the one I use. My goal was to get us all on the same plan, as my contract is not expiring for a year, and up until now I’ve been happy with their service.


Changing plans meant the girls getting new phones, which of course made my two teenage daughters very happy. Needing to do this as inexpensively as possible, I directed them to the company’s website and told them to look at phones that would be free with a new line added. Coming up short (but of course…), I told them that sometimes the phone options are different in the store, and maybe we could go out one night and check them out.


Before doing this, I perused the website to see what my potential cost would be. I noticed that along with the free phones, there was an option to waive the initiation fee for each new line – saving me $72 – which was great.


A couple of days passed before we were out and about, and passed the cell phone store. We stopped in and browsed the phone options. I met a great sales associate in the store who was very personable and knowledgeable. He understood what was important to teenagers as far as phones are concerned and was able to help them make a (free) decision. Okay, I’ll admit it – I did give in to one phone that wasn’t free, but wasn’t crazy expensive either.


Still thinking about it, I explained that we would likely be making the change in the next day or two and asked if the line activation would be waived as it is with online purchases. His reply? “Oh, no, they never let us do that in the store. That’s only online.”


Okay, but I’m here, ready to add two new lines to the tune of $40/month, plus one not-so-free phone and another two year committment, and it’s only online? We’re not talking $10 here – that’s over $100 plus another $40 month for a budget friendly family of five…..


So that meant leaving the store, essentially wasting an employee’s time and potential commission if they make a commission, going home, and making the purchase online. I ended up finding two phones online that turned out to be free with a new line, and saved $72.00 plus the cost of the one phone I was going to give into.


My next hurdle was placing the online order. One of the phones was able to be picked up in the store the next day, while the other wasn’t. I set it up for the one phone to be picked up at the store, and as I reviewed my cart before hitting the “place order” button, I noticed nothing for the one phone was listed.


I call the store where I set it up to be delivered and explained my situation, asking if the order was still valid since I didn’t see it in my cart. Without missing a beat, the employee says, “You can’t buy something that’s not in your cart, right?” I’m just not making friends with this company…..


Feeling defeated, I turn my situation into a hypothetical question: say I were to purchase two phones online to add to my account; one could be picked up in store and one couldn’t. Would both show up in my cart?


She then explained that no, the one phone wouldn’t show up in my cart. I would be emailed confirmation to pick it up in the store. Okay, good. So then I go on, confirming that all of the stipulations that were included in the online purchase, including the phone being free and the line activation waived, would be honored. Nope and nope. The phone is not free in the store, so I would have to pay for it. And, “they stopped waiving activation fees a long time ago.”


I nicely explained that there is an online special where the activation fee is waived, and she said, “No there’s not.” Um, there is, because I’m on your website right now and am reading it. She again says they don’t do that. I suggest she look at their website, which she does, and then after a moment of silence she says, “Huh. I guess we do waive it online.”


Bringing it full circle, I confirm that since the phone that is free online is NOT free in the store, I am safe to assume that the activation cannot be waived in the store. She confirms, and I thank her for her time, and continue to do it all online.


I know, I know…beggars can’t be choosers, and I should just be happy to settle for purchasing online. What bothered me though, from a customer service standpoint, is:


* The company essentially steered me away from doing business with a live person by not allowing them to make an offer that is available online. That sent me a message about how they view customer/employee relationships, whether they meant to or not.


* They offered an option (to be delivered to the store vs mailed) without the disclaimer that by doing so negates any offers I believed I was getting by making the online purchase. Calling didn’t help much either – I was not so nicely told that by choosing an option they gave me would cost way more than just waiting a few days for it to come in the mail. I completely get the reasoning behind it, but then offer the option with a statement that it will cost more so the buyer knows what they are getting into.


* Employees need to be aware of all products and specials, both in store and online. Give the employees the power to work with customers and encourage purchases from real people. People still need connections with other people, and this can go a long way with customer loyalty and retention.


In the end, they got me – I’m here for another two years. However, based on my experience, I will no longer recommend them to others when people are looking for cell phone provider recommendations.