The amount of information available to us on the internet is astounding. If you need a new refrigerator, you can read the latest information from consumer testing laboratories, consumer opinions on items and even tutorials on how to fix problems that occur with each of these items. Not only is all this information readily available, it is also having a profound effect on the way we shop.
I recently purchased a washer/dryer combo for my son’s rental unit. He was working remotely and asked me to tend to the job for him. However, he is a very informed consumer, emailing me a list of the most highly rated appliances that had the specifications he wanted. All I had to do was to call around until I found one of the specific combos that were on his “buy” list.
Tulip Retail, a research company that works with retailers to improve their customer service, reports that four of five shoppers (83 percent) believe that they are more knowledgeable about the products they are purchasing than are the sales associates. This is a direct result of the amount of information available on the internet and the fact that people are doing their homework. Product reviews and details can be reviewed before you even set foot in the store, so many people shop with a very specific idea of what they want.
You might think that this would keep consumers from even entering the store. To some extent, it has changed the number of people who choose to go to local stores. A survey by the National Retail Federation found that during the last two Black Friday events, more consumers shopped online than in local stores. According to Tulip Retail, we are so comfortable with using the internet for shopping that more than 90 percent of consumers have used Amazon.
However, people are still shopping at the brick and mortar stores. Their internet searches are often just the start of the hunt. Many still prefer to kick the tires and feel the heft of their purchases. And an informed consumer is never a bad thing.
But what about those sales representatives in our local stores? You might have had the same experience I had lately, when the sales associate whipped out his phone and searched the internet to find an answer to a question I had. Tulip research also reported that 72 percent of consumers had a better experience in stores when the sales associate used his or her mobile device to hunt for answers to questions.
The internet is a wealth of information. Use this information to make informed consumer decisions when it comes to your purchases.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be emailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (907)474-7201.