Significant purchase journeys – insights into opportunities

When it comes to spending a lot of money on one purchase, customers are understandably cautious. Here’s what you need to know to help them with their decision-making and keep them coming back.

By Amanda Salter

Significant purchases are just that: significant. Customers don’t do them regularly and are often out of their comfort zone. This gives forward-thinking retailers a big opportunity to step in and help you. We recently did an in-depth study of significant purchase journeys. Here’s what we found out.

Significant purchases are typically:

  • Fairly expensive – usually over a certain price (e.g. over £100)
  • An investment purchase – something that will last at least a few years
  • An out of the ordinary purchase – rather than something bought regularly
  • A feature purchase – customers often only have one at a time
  • A complex purchase – customers have a large number of options and choices that may not seem totally straightforward

Examples in the home electricals sector include large home appliances (e.g. a dishwasher, vacuum cleaner) or a home technology device like a tablet or smart TV.

Key insights of significant purchase journeys

This is what we discovered in our study. These insights should inform the type of retail experience you deliver:

  • Consideration is triggered either by a new aspiration (e.g. my friend/family member has one and tells me it’s great) or as a replacement or improvement on one they already have.
  • Customers often don’t know a lot about the item and can feel daunted by the choices available.
  • Customers do a lot of research into these items across multiple sessions, devices, and channels, before finally buying. This is usually over a longer period of time than for other purchases.
  • Trust is crucial. Customers often say if they don’t trust the retailer, they will go elsewhere, even if the price is higher.

How to use these insights to give a better customer experience

These insights provide savvy retailers with an opportunity to offer customers better support for this type of purchase, and gain the edge on the competition. Here are some tips.

Customers want to be reassured that they’re making the right decision. This isn’t simply a matter of product choice. Customers also want reassurance about you as a retailer. Are you the right retailer to buy from? Will you support them after the purchase if anything goes wrong or if they change their mind? Will someone help them if they have questions or difficulties? These are guiding factors for buyers, which means you need to answer these questions before the purchase phase. It’s not enough to tell them all this post-purchase because by then, they may have gone elsewhere.

Customers are looking to you to be experts about the products you sell. It doesn’t give a good impression for customers to feel they know more about an item than your salesperson. This means your teams need to be equipped with knowledge and able to demonstrate expertise. They need to be clear on the reasons why a customer should choose one item over another. They also need to be able to advise customers as to what is genuinely in their best interest, without being motivated by commission or stock levels. All of this serves to build trust, which is crucial for this type of purchase.

Customers actively seek out unbiased opinions. Retailers who provide easy access to third party as well as internal product reviews, warts and all, will earn more trust. It’s often obvious to customers when a retailer is deleting or manipulating reviews, and on social media this type of criticism can spread like wildfire.

These purchase journeys often take place over a number of days and weeks, across multiple devices and channels. As a retailer you need to keep track of every enquiry, and recognise and remember the interactions a customer has with you over that time.

Take the example of someone going to your website, spending hours looking through options and saving products to the basket. Before they decide to purchase, this person comes into your store for more information. In an ideal world, your channels will be linked in such a way that your sales teams know which products are being considered and can advise accordingly.

This kind of service has a much a higher chance of leading to a sale – and smart retailers are joining these dots. A ‘book an appointment’ service on your website can allow in-store teams access to online browsing information. Which lets you provide a personalised experience to your customers.

But recognition and recall doesn’t stop there. It also extends to the next time your customer chooses to shop with you. Remembering them and sending courtesy emails to make sure they are happy with their purchase is a nice touch.

Your job as a retailer doesn’t stop after a purchase. There are still huge opportunities to show exceptional customer service, no more so than in an emergency. If your customer has just dropped their new mobile phone in the toilet, a forward-thinking retailer can quickly become their hero. For example, by providing a temporary loan phone, redirecting their calls, and making sure they are still connected and able to function. This will work wonders for your advocacy scores, and helps ensure your customers stick with you for life.

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