Comparison shoppers are that one breed of shoppers that is loved by the few and dreaded (or let’s say tolerated) by the many. They hop from one online or offline store to the other in order to find the best options and best prices.
This kind of shopping behavior is often blamed for decreasing sales, narrowing margins and reducing revenues.
But, who can really blame them?
Comparison shopping is simply a way of life in the times of Google and instant access to information. In the age of tech-savvy, information-hungry, highly aware consumers, you must accept that loyalty is a flimsy concept and most people will look around in several different places, compare shrewdly and buy from whoever offers the best value for their money and time.
You can safely assume that shoppers who visit your website have already been to a few other stores, and you are, so far, just a part of the consumer decision journey.
In a recent Ask Your Target Market Survey, 79% of respondents said they actively try to find the lowest prices for items when shopping. And 78% said that they like to compare prices from different stores or sources before making purchases.
But there are a couple of things you can do to minimize or even prevent comparison shopping.
This interactive widget shows you some of the most interesting survey results for different product categories (click on the arrows to navigate):
1) Know Your Value And What You Want To Be – Don’t Make Price your Strategy
Competing solely through a lower price might seem like an effective and simple strategy in the beginning, but bears many risks in the future. Unless your product assortment, traffic and sales volume are comparable to Amazon & Co, you’ll lose out quickly.
Read more: Competing with Amazon is crushing retailers (CNBC)
Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, focus on conveying your unique value to the universe of customers with motivations, needs and expectations that are not price-driven.
While price is a major differentiator for comparison shoppers, 81% of shoppers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
Out-Educate and Out-Entertain The Competition: People comparison shop because you’re not convincing them that they’re getting the most value out of their money.
People are self interested. They don’t care about your brand or your products when they interact with your company. Your customers are interested in how you can help them answer a question, solve a problem or do something better.
If you give them something valuable that makes their lives easier, more fun, less stressful, more profitable, or all of the above, without asking for anything in return, you have a purpose in their lives. It is the best way to be memorable, gain influence and increase loyalty.
The solution: Make your website and social media channels the place where they can get all the information they need to understand your value and ultimately, make a decision. Engage with your customer base via informative blogs, articles, how-to guides, and other types of content, and make this collateral part of the broader customer journey.
In the words of the Aberdeen Group, “out-educate and out-entertain the competition with compelling content and experiences”
- Value communication: Clearly communicate how a product solves specific problems or fulfills needs and be honest when it doesn’t
- Clear information: Price comparison is and will remain a major factor in the decision journey so display prices clearly and let shoppers compare different products easily
- Reviews: Display honest reviews to instill trust
Example: Duck Brand uses creative content to turn an everyday product into stories.
Duct tapes don’t seem like an inherently exciting product category, but through video tutorials, projects and how-to articles, Duck Brand provides shoppers with valuable information while creating emotional connections to their brand. It’s a powerful way to create trust and familiarity, so the Duck Brand is thought of first any time a consumer thinks about a product in that domain.
2) Know Your Customers and Their Needs – Be A Helpful Advisor
Consumers are easily overwhelmed by the product choices available to them. In order to save time and reduce friction, comparison shoppers tend to focus their attention on a limited number of attributes that can be compared easily.
The inevitable side effect? They overvalue insignificant attributes and overlook important attributes, which can lead them to worse decisions than if they focused on finding options that match their needs.
Your goal should be to make it easy for comparison shoppers to quickly identify and choose products that are right for them.
According to ThinkWithGoogle, these are three things consumers expect:
Look For Opportunities to Help Customers: People comparison shop because you’re making it hard for them to relate products to their needs, wants and expectations.
Before you can convince comparison shoppers, you need to know that we humans are optimizers.
This means that many people feel the need to compare and contrast until they are sure they are getting the best product. Optimizers also look for ways and shortcuts to reduce the time it takes them to get there.
The solution: The first impression counts. Help comparison shoppers to base decisions on their needs, and get them the results they want with minimal effort and in less time. Become their trusted advisor by demonstrating competence (your product knowledge) and warmth (express interest in the shopper’s needs).
In short, be more like Lisa.
“Lisa is smart and she’s good, and you feel like she would be a really good friend and you trust her.” (Heidi Grant Halvorson)
For example, SMARTASSISTANT’s Digital Advice Suite lets you create interactive, needs-based product advisors that
- engage shoppers in a personable conversation about what they want
- and integrate your expertise and product knowledge via intelligent algorithms to give them exactly what they need
Customers can answer a few questions in an interactive quiz, which educates them, eliminates all the unnecessary options and dynamically shapes their path to the most suitable products. It lets you create a relevant, frictionless experience.
According to AYTM Market Research:
“For retailers that want to draw in cost-conscious comparison shoppers, it would seem to be beneficial to make the process really easy for them. Providing a few different options with varying price points or showing a simple comparison tool right on product pages could help customers make better-informed buying decisions [and] could help businesses speed along the buying process a bit.”
Example: Nordstrom is a retailer that created a “How to buy a suit” guide around the popular keyword phrase “how to buy a suit”.
This approach is great because it
- helps Nordstrom capture qualified traffic from comparison shoppers,
- “…is excellent, helping a man pick the perfect cut to fit his style and then presenting him with personalized shopping recommendations,” says Jason Seeba, CMO of ecommerce technology company BloomReach.
- “offers product recommendations at the bottom of its page, which helps turn visitors into customers”.
3) Know Your Surroundings – Use Technology as an Enabler
As consumers grow familiar with technological innovations, their expectations about their shopping experience increase. They demand innovation and experience-related features that allow for an ease of browsing and finding what they are looking for quickly.
They’re also fickle and move quickly to the new thing. As you can see from the chart, innovations are introduced at a faster pace and are being adopted more quickly.
Don’t shy away from new technology, but experiment with it to understand how it can support you to further differentiate and offer shoppers a better experience on the channels and devices they (will) use.
“There is a noticeable increase in the frustrations customers are experiencing, and an increase in the interest in automated technology. I think the two go hand in hand,” says Tim Dreyer, senior director, public relations and analyst relations at Aspect Software.
Chatbots and Virtual Assistants are examples for technologies that customers will grow more comfortable with. They have existed for years but several enablers came together in 2016 that led to them hitting the mainstream:
- Mobile messenger domination
- App fatigue
- Support for chatbots by Facebook, Microsoft and other leaders
- Dramatic reduction in chatbot development costs
Watch Innovations In Your Space To Stay In The Loop: People comparison shop because they can.
Imagine a consumer being able to ask his/her phone to order a new bike. Thanks to AI, the application on their phone knows the consumer’s height, favorite color, how they commute, preferred brands and so on; it is able to automatically comparison shop for the best option in seconds, even without the consumer getting involved.
This scenario is fictional today, but it’s not as futuristic and fanciful as you might think.
Although Chatbots aren’t yet the ultimate, preferred channel, this can very soon change as artificial intelligence technology steadily improves and acceptance will grow.
The solution: In any industry, innovation is necessary to stay competitive and survive in the long term. Keep an eye on innovations in this field to understand how they will affect or change your business model and be prepared for when they hit the mainstream.
Example: Sephora has been one of the first brands on top of the chatbot trend and debuted several bots for Messenger.
Sephora SVP of Digital Mary Beth Laughton suggests, the expansion is […] more about creating interaction opportunities driven by the customers themselves. Bots can make those interactions easier and more natural for customers to initiate, and the more tools, features and buy capabilities retailers can give them through bots, the stronger those customer relationships will be.
Bindu Shah, VP of Digital Marketing continues, “Clearly, there’s no “playbook” for bots just yet, but we’re hopeful that by experimenting, learning and iterating, we will continue to uncover the potential in chat and inspire the rest of the industry while doing so.”
Sephora Virtual Artist on Messenger – Instantly matches a color from any photo with a lipstick at Sephora with Virtual Artist on Messenger:
The retail landscape has changed immensely and businesses need to delve deeper to convince comparison shoppers. Better products and lower prices alone aren’t enough to do that.
These savvy consumers need you to impress them and provide a differentiated customer experience with an added value.