58% of Americans Perform Online Research Before They Buy

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According to a September 2010 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, ‘58% of Americans now reporting that they perform online research concerning the products and services that they are considering purchasing.’ In fact, on any given day 21% of adults perform some form of product research in advance of making a purchase.

What does this mean for your business if you’re a local retailer? For one, it means a better informed customer who, if they haven’t already determined the exact model, color and style for their desired product, have narrowed their choices down to 1-3 possibilities.

This can greatly expedite the sales process. It can also win you a lifelong customer if you take a consultative selling approach.

Here are some ideas to use this trend to your advantage:

Welcome the Informed Customer The next time a prospective customer enters the store with a stack of print outs of the information they gathered from the night before, don’t roll your eyes. You may have valid concerns that they’re coming in with misinformation that you need to correct. Embrace them as the customer you NEED to win over.

After all, if they went online BEFORE they bought, chances are they’ll go online after…and that means whatever their experience…(good or bad)…they will share it.

Be Prepared With Your Own Online Research – YOU are the expert in the products you’re selling. Many times customers will come in with incorrect or outdated information that you’ll need to correct  in order to guide them towards the best buying decision. Nothing builds credibility like independent verification of the claims of your product or service.

By having your own independent research handy, say in printed repots reviews you keep on your store counter, you can use them as additional information they take in before making their decision.So do your own research online. Know every review, every post and every argument someone may have for (or against) your top brand.

Rather than seeming sloughing off a review a customer found online, you can respond with a knowing…‘ohhh yeah, I did read that. I found it interesting but when I checked it against XYZ, ABC, & DEF they found that this model still was superior to it’s leading competitors.’

Or better yet present them with your own preprinted version, ‘Have you seen this report by Consumer Digest?’

Ask and Answer – An informed customer is pretty darn close to buying. By the time they walk into your store, they may have already invested hours in online research. Now they just need the validation of a real person… an expert in their industry, to get their debit cards out and commit to the sale.

You can engage them by asking what they’ve already learned; what they thought of the information they found; what resources they found to be most helpful; and what questions they were unable to answer with their research.

By listening to what questions they were trying to get answered with their online research, you’ll better understand their specific needs, fears and concerns.  You can then fill in the gaps and help them make the right purchase decision for their needs.

Become THE Resource For Online Researchers in Your Area
– You can leverage your store’s Web site, Email Newsletter, Facebook Page, and Twitter presences by populating them with the reams and reams of information you have on the products and services you provide.

Adding your own editorial take will bolster the presentation of the material with your own person brand of expertise.Promoting your web presence and as the source for this information — both online and within your store — will also help reinforce the reality that you’re not a ‘cost-plus’ reseller, but a trusted resource they can turn to when it comes to making making their purchase decisions.