Paul Clement - Director at British BIDs and Head of Place-Shaping at Savills Place gives us his thoughts on how shifting consumer attitudes affect how people 'buy' online.
I have always been fascinated by the psychology of shopping.
Why do we buy one product rather than another? What affects one person’s buying decisions compared to someone else’s? How do people prefer to buy and in what type of environment?
One of the most dramatic changes to consumer behaviour has been the purchase of holidays and time away. The fact that 9 to 5 hours are largely a thing of the past, and that one person’s pattern of working seldom mirrors the next, it reduces people’s social or leisure time. The model of supply versus demand suggests that, as leisure time has become squeezed, it has also become more valuable.
My parents rigidly pre-planned holidays months (sometimes a year) in advance.
They searched numerous catalogues ordered by post. In what became an annual family game, we deliberated for weeks before finally deciding where to go. Then, even more exciting, was seeing if the catalogue images bore any resemblance to the real thing when we arrived. Yet, we seldom went more than a county or two away from where we lived and, if we drove for much longer than 4-5 hours, it involved an overnight stop.
When my children search for destinations, decision-making is entirely different.
Now, today, with social time squeezed, travel is more last minute, less planning is involved, much more decision-making is based upon instinct and first impressions. Online is how we ‘buy’ places which, with the added benefits of unfiltered customer reviews, are more likely to meet our expectations when we get there.
Choices are made later, from a list that includes everywhere, experience drives the final buying decision, and the internet is the only source. My kids don’t want to stand in a queue in a shop or wait for out of stock goods to arrive to them, so don’t expect them to wait for a brochure in the post. If your place fails to entice them online within five minutes, they will swipe to move on and buy somewhere else; convince them that it offers the experience they crave, though, and they will buy on impulse.
The only slight delay - a matter of moments only – is best explained by how they react when a meal arrives in a restaurant. I would rely upon my traditional senses - look, smell and taste - to judge my food; they rely upon a fourth sense which is to photograph the plate, send it to their ‘friends’ on social networks, and wait for the reaction. If the look and feel of your place online meets with the same approval as that meal (“wow, that looks amazing, I wish I was there”) it’s game on and they are cramming their backpacks ready for the off.
Online shopping has transformed the retail environment forever.
In the equally cut-throat, brutal and competitive world of destination marketing, it will be those places that have the most consumer-centric online tools that will rise above the rest and prove to be the real winners.