Web-savvy consumers still want to visit retailers before buying

While six-in-10 consumers research their home improvement projects online, even more say they want to see products in person before they buy.

Unhooked Communications’ Home Unhooked survey of more than 2,000 adults across the UK reveals that while 60% of consumers want to research products online, 64% say they want to see products in person before buying, highlighting the importance of bricks-and-mortar retail showrooms.

A new kitchen or bathroom was among the top six of the 20 home improvement projects that survey respondents were planning to undertake in the next 12 months.

The report points out that these figures show how important it is for retailers to develop both their online and off-line shopper experiences if they are to capitalise on quality-conscious consumers.

Emphasising the importance of expert advice, the report also showed that 37% of those surveyed said they would like to speak to a specialist architect, designer, retailer or merchant, before proceeding with their purchase.

More than half (51%) of survey respondents also said that they would prefer to support local businesses when buying products or materials for the home.

When asked about what they were looking for from a retailer or supplier, respondents rated recommendations and a positive reputation the highest (39%), followed by the opportunity to see and feel products (38%), recommendations from someone they know (34%), a wide range of products or services (30%), demonstrating good expertise or knowledge (30%), reassurance that products will be delivered on time (29%), testimonials.

The report concludes that people still value the opportunity to physically interact with products and engage with experts. This, it says, presents a huge opportunity for businesses that can provide showroom or in-store experiences with knowledgeable staff. It adds that in a predominantly digital world, this can be a powerful differentiator to help retailers stand out from their competitors.

Unhooked Communications’ managing director Claire Gamble said: “Online shopping is a common habit for lots of consumers today, with £110 billion spent on e-commerce in 2022. But when it comes to purchasing products and materials for the home, turning to digital channels is only part of the decision-making process.

“While proving both online and bricks-and-mortar premises both have a purpose for today’s shoppers, more importantly, the findings highlight the need for brands in the home interiors and renovations industries to join up their digital and in-person buying strategies to ensure they’re capitalising in busy markets with more quality-conscious shoppers.”

She adds that retailers need to go beyond the basics with their service: “We also know that when it comes to content, it’s essential to go beyond basic product details and specifications. Buyers want to be reassured of quality and performance by engaging with experts, to know your product is reliable by hearing from people just like them, and to tap into conscientious priorities like buying local. It is this – rather than mastering how to use a specific channel – which has the power to secure a sale.”

This, she says, all points to an opportunity for bricks-and-mortar showrooms: “There is a huge opportunity on offer to businesses today, especially those who can combine the power of showroom or in-store experiences with the limitless potential of digital marketing. In a competitive landscape, this will be the key differentiator to help brands stand out from competitors, build trust and boost sales.”

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