What Marketers Need to Realize About Consumer Electronics Shoppers

September 17, 2015
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Written by Jamie Smith 

How many of us remember buying our first electronics? I sure do. Although at 14, I have to admit that my choice of boom box (yes it was called that) was more about price and how cool I thought it looked. As I matured, I knew to ask the sales clerk questions about the products I was buying and to purchase the device that best fit my specific needs and budget.

Since that time, I can’t tell you how many electronics I’ve purchased from alarm clocks to laptops, tablets and cameras. Instead of going with cool factor or only asking the store employees for help, I do my own research. I look online to see what’s available first, then go to the store that has the most options I’m interested in. I usually ask an employee who specializes in the product I’m searching for and if I have time, will do more research online before making a purchase. I do tend to be the type to purchase from the store if I have actually gone into the store.

The ways that consumers research and then purchase products such as electronics has changed and shopper marketers need to make sure they are accommodate that rapidly growing trend.

As it turns out, my personal path to purchase when it comes to electronics is fairly similar to a large portion of the population.

Fellow blogger and consumer Kori Tomelden, for example, says she does her research upfront, especially to compare products side-by-side. However, Kori said she tends to be more the type to search in-store but then make the actual purchase online.  

That’s just two real-life examples. Let’s take a look at what national marketing research indicates.

Electronics shopper behavior by the numbers

The Consumer Electronics Association is a technology trade association representing the $211 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. According to a press release, the CEA released its report Enhancing the In-Store CE Retail Experience Using Mobile Devices in December 2014. That report outlines how social media, mobile device and shopping in-store go hand-in-hand.  

“Mobile shoppers most often use their mobile devices for assistance when shopping for electronics (60 percent) than any other product type,” the report reads. “… While shopping specifically for electronics, mobile shoppers use their devices to compare prices (63 percent), read customer ratings or reviews (52 percent) and search the Internet for more information (51 percent).”

“Mobile devices have significantly shifted consumers’ shopping behavior,” said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis, CEA in the release. “Retailers are increasingly focusing on delivering a complete consumer shopping experience and mobile devices are now a vital piece of that puzzle.”

The Interactive Advertising Bureau released a report, Showrooming: Empowering Consumer Electronics, in 2013 with similar research results that indicate the prevalence of social media and mobile device use. “The most significant finding in the mobile component of the research was that while 42 percent of in-store mobile device using shoppers ultimately made their purchase online, a full 30 percent made their purchase in the store,” according to the report. “Interestingly, those who used their mobile phones while shopping were also more likely to make an unplanned purchase (32 percent in-store vs. 22 percent online).

A few more findings from the IAB report that we need to consider:

  • 42 percent of those who used a mobile device spent more than $1,000 while in the store
  • Among mobile device owners who didn’t use their device in-store, only 21 percent spent more than $1,000
  • 65 percent of shoppers who use their mobile device while in the store indicated that using their mobile device while in-store made them more likely to buy the product

Takeaways for shopper marketers

What these stories and anecdotal evidence show us is that brands must be savvy in multiple information channels including social media, website information, and yes, still in-store. It’s no longer appropriate or effective to broadcast a message and expect people to fall in line. We as consumers want information and we want it in the moment we need it. 

So what does this mean? Marketers need to work with their brand clients to make the entire path to purchase environment approachable, accessible and attractive. Marketing is not about using a bullhorn to spread a message anymore. It involves preparing the client to meet the hurt points (needs) of the consumer.

This means making sure the website provides access to product reviews, product specifications, and the ability to compare products. The website must also be mobile friendly. This concept also means ensuring that the in-store experience is positive including well-educated employees and having adequate if not ample Internet access in-store for the mobile users. I know I’ve personally walked away from a decision because I couldn’t get information online while shopping in a store.

Finally, it means using multiple methods to make sure customers realize these information sources are available including in-store signage, social media engagement, and utilizing brand ambassadors to share the brand story.

About the Author: Jamie Smith is an avid content creator both for her personal blog Jamie’s Thots and for her writing business Jamie’s Notebook. A newspaper journalist by training, Jamie has loved the written word since elementary school. She started her personal blog in 2005, but had never considered that platform as a means of making a living until joining Social Fabric in 2013. She still writes some magazine and newspaper articles, but the majority of her work is now in sponsored blogging, corporate blogging and website writing. Happily married to husband John, Jamie works in a home office and loves sharing about her four-legged “children.” Tweet her at @JamiesThots.

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