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Survey: Online Shoppers Want Convenience More Than Low Prices

By Nora Macaluso
Oct 31, 2001 11:42 AM PT

Consumers who shop on the Net prefer e-tailers that make buying online convenient over those that offer low prices, according to a survey released Wednesday by Internet research firm Gartner (NYSE: IT).

Survey: Online Shoppers Want Convenience More Than Low Prices

The survey, conducted by Gartner's G2 division, found that 81 percent of online shoppers said they valued convenience while just 33 percent said price savings was more important.

The results might come as a surprise to e-tailers, said GartnerG2 analyst David Schehr, who wrote the report. "In a down economy, businesses might conclude that the emphasis on lower price would increase," Schehr said. "We found exactly the opposite."

"This is not to say that online merchants should begin to raise their prices, but alternatively, they should focus their energy on getting the customer in and out of the site as quickly and efficiently as possible," said Schehr.

Of the shoppers surveyed, 49 percent said only convenience is an important factor in online buying, while just 2 percent said that price alone is an important consideration. Another 30 percent listed both.

Need for Speed

Speed and ease of access are among the "convenience-related issues" that e-tailers should address when seeking to make buying easier, Gartner said. "Convenience for online consumers is achieved by saving them time and effort," the firm added.

Another survey finding that companies should keep in mind, Schehr told the E-Commerce Times, is that many consumers decide from which places they will buy using offline information. Catalogs, he said, are a big draw for many consumers.

Schehr also said retailers should display their Web site address in as many places as possible, putting the URL on shopping bags, print advertisements and elsewhere. It is also important that a company's Web address be self-evident, so the consumer can find the site by simply typing "www" and the store's name, he said.

The Convenience Factor

Neil MacDonald, director of research at GartnerG2, said companies should look at convenience as a way to add value to the products they sell.

"Buyers can get the same product at a low price from any number of sites," MacDonald said. "In the end, the primary factor in choosing your site will be convenience."

Target Ad Messages

To convince consumers of the convenience of their sites, e-tailers should send marketing messages "that focus on online buyers' feelings of being time-constrained," Gartner said. They can also use messages and design elements that tie price to convenience benefits, the report said.

In addition, e-tailers should consider ease of use, simplicity and speed when designing and improving their Web sites, and not "confuse shopping with entertainment," the report said.

"Content that does not improve functionality provides little value for most online buyers," Gartner cautioned.

Holiday Projections

Gartner said the "convenience factor" is especially important as the holiday shopping season approaches. The firm projects online spending will top $25 billion this season, up 39 percent from last year.

Fifty-nine percent of online shoppers surveyed said they tend to stick with a "handful" of sites that they find familiar and easy to use, Gartner said. Those shoppers save time by knowing where they will go and not having to figure out how to use a new site, the firm said.

The Gartner report was based on a survey of 4,400 adults in the second quarter of 2001, with "supplemental data" from earlier periods.

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