WSJ notes the return of info shoppers or pre-shoppers

Published on: 2015-02-05

WireSpring wrote about pre-shoppers back in 2007, noting that millenials were using the Internet to do all sorts of research before heading to the store. With the tight economic conditions we all face, this trend is becoming more widespread, as the WSJ notes:

While elites were busy shoveling money into Madoff's black box these past few years, strapped consumers have been poring over product spec sheets, third-party reviews and expert blog sites. This past holiday season they watched every dollar. A special kind of consumer has taken a major role in the marketplace -- the new info shopper. These people just can't buy anything unless they first look it up online and get the lowdown.

These shoppers have the Internet at work, typically hold information-based or office-park jobs, have some college or grad school, and are often making ends meet with two jobs, kids, and pets on a middle or upper-middle-class income.

They have become highly suspicious of many TV ads: in a shoppers survey we did, 78% of them said that ads no longer have enough information they need. So many of them search online for virtually everything. Window shoppers have become "Windows shoppers." They want, in the phrase often attributed to Dragnet's Joe Friday, "just the facts, ma'am."

Of course, there is still a healthy role for big emotional brand appeals and mega-advertising campaigns. For every trend there is a counter trend. But that's not the real new thing in consumer behavior.

A whopping 92% of respondents said they had more confidence in information they seek out online than anything coming from a salesclerk or other source. They believe the information they find, not in the information that is spoon-fed to them, and the vast number of clicks today prove that they really are devoting time and energy to ferreting out detailed info before they buy.

Our take:

The WSJ findings correlate well with Miller Zell's own survey results, as was covered on the WireSpring blog just last week. More consumers are willing to put time and effort into research and web-based price comparisons in order to save a few dollars when making a purchase. While the article doesn't indicate whether or not all of this online research will lead to more online sales at the expense of the bricks-and-mortar stores, that result certainly does seem possible, if not likely.


0 # Peter Williams 2009-01-21 10:20
Interesting. When, if ever, do you expect the supermarkets and other stores fight back with better advice, better selections of goods, better value etc? Or am I being unrealistic. Are there types of stores that are incapable of providing a service worth their mark-up on the goods they sell?
0 # Bill Gerba 2009-02-03 20:42
Hi Peter, The typical markup on a name-brand item in your local supermarket is tiny, probably in the neighborhood of 2-3%. Where you see innovation -- and added value -- is in the additional services they provide (e.g. full-service deli, on-premise sushi chef, etc.) and, increasingly, in the private-label goods they put on the market. While private-label once meant low-cost, white box products of questionable quality, today's PL stuff is as good as name-brand, and typically offers better value for the customer and higher margins for the grocer.

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