An increasing amount of consumers are researching products before they decide to buy them. An important information channel during this process is the internet. In Central and Eastern Europe, comparison shopping engines have gained a key role in the buying decision process during the last couple of years.
There are several channels a consumer can use to find information about a product or service he wants to buy online. There are the classical advertising channels such as television, radio and catalogs, but there also more personal channels, such as recommendations from friends and family, email and the internet. Research from Google’s Consumer Barometer Survey shows that three out of five Europeans use the internet in the buying process. At various online sources, they compare products, prices and features that are relevant for their purchasing decisions.
As a source of pre-purchase information the internet has become an important and dominant medium. But at the same time, internet also became a key driver of sales in traditional channels. “In the future its impact will be even greater considering the development of mobile access and applications”, says Ceneje, a comparison shopping engine from Slovenia.
Consumers check comparison shopping engines
In some places in Europe, comparison shopping engines have become an even more important source of information than the retailers’ own websites, the Consumer Barometer Survey shows. For example, in the category “Televisions”, 41 percent of internet users in the Czech searched for information on a brand’s website, while 29 percent did this on comparison engines. The retailer’s website was less popular, as it was being used by 26 percent. In Germany it seems that comparison shopping engines are even more popular among consumers, as it was being used by one in three internet users. Brand websites (28 percent) and retailer websites (27 percent) are shown to be a less popular research method. In Slovenia, brand websites are the most dominant option (47 percent), followed by comparison sites (26 percent) and retailer websites (25 percent).
The benefits and importance of comparison search engines
“The purchasing process has become more transparent”, Ceneje states. “The internet allows retailers to act completely competitive and via comparison shopping engines they try to (more or less successfully) introduce the true value of their offers to consumers. The benefits and importance of such websites can be divided into three main segments: the importance for consumers, the importance for retailers in the purchasing process and the importance from the aspect of information on the purchasing process.”
Physical retailers are losing potential consumers
For consumers, comparison shopping engines have become one of the most important sources in the buying decission process. “This is because they enable consumers to compare different offers based on their technical characteristics and price so they can make the best shopping decisions”, the Slovenian company says. “And comparison platforms represent a key source of quality leads both for online retailers and retailers, whose primary focus is in physical stores. However, retailers whose only focus is in physical stores and thus don’t provide any information about products and offers online, are losing an important part of potential consumers that make a key part of the purchasing decisions on the internet, but then want to buy products in traditional sales channels.”
Also, comparison platforms are said to offer deep insight into buying behavior, because these websites have access to information about the consumer’s behavior during different phases of the buying process, which trends are in demand, price positioning and more. “Another important advantage is that comparison sites offer retailers an organized channel to compete in a more transparent way. They also enable the growth of smaller retailers that may have high entry barriers and less opportunities to start a business.”