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Nielsen’s Global Connected Commerce Survey: Is E-tail Therapy the New Retail Therapy?

January 28, 2016
Jannie Cahill
Written By
Jannie Cahill

Nielsen’s latest report provides some powerful new statistics on the explosive growth of eCommerce around the world – and fascinating insights into how the online retail ecosystem is fast evolving. The Nielsen Global Connected Commerce Survey polled respondents in 26 countries between August and October 2015 to determine what motivates and deters consumers to make a purchase online.

With eMarketer projecting that online retail sales are set to more than double between 2015 and 2019 (to account for more than 12% of global sales by 2019), Nielsen suggests that retail therapy is now giving way to “e-tail therapy” – as online shopping becomes a two-way street.

Consumers are no longer simply “showrooming”—browsing in store and then going online in search of the lowest-cost option. They’re also “webrooming”—researching online and buying in stores.

According to Patrick Dodd, President, Nielsen global retailer vertical: “It’s well known that the impact of online shopping goes well beyond direct sales. Digital is viewed less as a threat to brick-and-mortar retailers and more as an opportunity. Instead of thinking in terms of online and off, savvy retailers are taking an integrated approach to drive sales in both and providing an engaging experience for consumers regardless of whether they buy in-store or online.”

Information gathering and deal seeking are key online drivers

While online activity rates vary by category, three activities in the Nielsen survey scored consistently high regardless of the category: Looking up product information, checking/comparing prices and searching for deals/promotions/coupons.

For consumable products, particularly edible products, percentages are notably lower than for durable goods, but the same online activities remain top strategies. For fresh groceries, 38% of respondents said they looked up information online and 39% had checked or compared prices.Picture1


Source: Nielsen Global Connected Commerce Survey, Q4 2015

Not all categories are created equal online – but consumable goods have huge potential to grow very rapidly

Nielsen reports that online sales are growing around the world, but when it comes to buying online, not all categories are created equal. In the survey, more respondents said they had purchased durable goods than consumable products online.

Only about one-in-10 online respondents said they had bought fresh groceries (11%) or wine and alcoholic beverages (11%) online, but beauty and personal care is one exception to the category: more than one-third of online respondents in the survey (35%) said they had purchased beauty or personal care products online. However, Nielsen believes that a huge opportunity awaits the consumable goods category online.

Patrick Dodd notes: “Today, online purchase rates for consumables are low, but these categories have the potential to grow very rapidly once initial adoption rates increase. Given their perishable nature, purchase frequency for these categories is higher than for durable goods. Once consumers get over the trial barrier, retailers who get the assortment, convenience and online experience factors right will benefit from frequent purchasing patterns.”

For consumable goods, convenience is most important

For consumable goods, Nielsen reports that the most important takeaway is that there is no single driver of success. Consumers shop online for a variety of reasons including:

  • Convenience—reducing time and effort spent shopping
  • Product assortment—gaining access to more choices than available locally
  • Informed decision making—getting information and reviews to help make better choices
  • Deal seeking—finding the best price possible
  • Useful online features—managing shopping lists and building baskets over time

However, more than half of online respondents in the study agreed that shopping online for groceries is a time-saver (53%). Chinese respondents were shown to have the highest level of agreement (77%), followed closely by Thailand (76%) and India (71%).

Product availability is another key motivator for online grocery shopping. Nearly half of online respondents in the study (49%) said they shop online to get grocery products that they can’t find in physical stores, and 47% shop for groceries online to access stores not available in their area.

Price is also a key determining factor: 40% of respondents believe that deals at online retailers are better than those in stores.


Source: Nielsen Global Connected Commerce Survey, Q4 2015

Strategies for omni-channel success

To sum up, Nielsen reports that retailers can no longer think of their online and offline channels separately. To master a truly seamless omni-channel experience, they need to keep the following considerations in mind.

  • Be shopper-centric. Setting priorities is easier when brands have a deep understanding of their consumers and shoppers. Take the time to understand not only the demographics and shopping habits, but what happens along the path to purchase. Prioritise initiatives around the tools and features consumers use and desire most.
  • Think digital, but don’t neglect in-store. Physical stores maintain many key advantages over online-only channels, and retailers should look for ways to optimize the in-store experience by leveraging digital tools.

The Nielsen Global Connected Commerce Survey was conducted between August and October 2015 and polled more than 13,000 consumers in 26 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America.

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