Disappointing demos hinder sales of consumer electronics, Outform finds

Underwhelming displays and a lack of staff knowledge in store are impacting shoppers’ buying behaviours in consumer electronics – especially when it comes to consideration of a new brand or upgrade – according to a recent study.

Shoppers looking for new smartphones say that playing with demos and using interactive display to see the features and benefits are influential in purchasing decisions. Yet they are frustrated by devices that are locked into displays or switched off, preventing trial of features that are key to purchase decisions, including taking photos, uploading posts to social media and connecting to apps.

Consumers also expect the specifications of smartphones to be easy to understand and relatable, but the consensus is that displays are static with limited information.

The findings come from a qualitative study carried out by retail innovation agency, Outform. Consumers were observed as they shopped in stores for new mobiles, laptops and smart home accessories, to explore how their expectations aligned with the shopping experience.

Outform’s study also found that shoppers are more likely to buy smartphones over laptops in-store. When it comes to laptops, shoppers visit stores to narrow down their options based on their use cases. And once in store, they expect dedicated spaces for hands-on trials, including being able to switch laptops on and test heavyweight software, to decide what product and brand can best meet their needs.

When it comes to the overall shopping experience, the big pain point is a lack of guidance and advice. Shoppers want to be guided by experts who can explain technical specifications, offer tailored recommendations based on budget and use case, and provide hands-on product knowledge based on personal experience. Instead, shoppers say there isn’t an adequate level of product knowledge or advice to make a decision.

Hannah Abbasi, head of insight and marketing at Outform, says: “In-store is at the heart of consumer electronics. Online can narrow the funnel with reviews and comparisons, but our research shows that testing the product is fundamental to purchase. Physical stores need to complement the online funnel, but should also focus on hands-on experiences to drive footfall. It’s clear that current layouts and limits in interactivity are letting shoppers down, and so hindering sales.

“Expectations have changed. We saw a boom in virtual consultations for consumer electronics in the pandemic – and they’ve stuck around. Currys PC World is offering ShopLive on a permanent basis and shoppers now expect these types of personalised experiences as standard. Retailers should integrate virtual one-to-ones in-store so the level of service is consistent across all channels.”

Abbasi concludes: “Delivering the most effective recommendations, online or offline, should now be led by a digital handshake to create a unified experience. As our study shows, research online doesn’t necessarily translate to a sale online. So consultants need to be armed with information on past searches and transactions across all channels, to tailor their advice and maintain shopper loyalty – and relevance.”