Buyers who research-online-and-buy-offline (known as 'ROBO' behaviour) represent a significant marketing opportunity for most retailers, according to 'The Conversation Index Volume 9' from online shopping network Bazaarvoice. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

The study found that 54% of the surveyed consumers aged 25-34, and nearly half of consumers in the 35-44 and 45-54 age brackets, said that online consumer-generated content (CGC) has an influence on their in-store purchases. And, even among consumers aged 55-64, 40% acknowledged that CGC plays a factor in their decision-making process.

The index examined how consumers' online and offline shopping behaviour is influenced by CGC such as ratings and reviews, questions and answers, photos, videos, and social posts, and was based on an analysis of sample data from the Bazaarvoice network, including more than 57 million reviews and 35 billion product page views as well as supplemental data obtained via a survey conducted using Google Consumer Surveys.

CGC was found to play an equally significant role in purchases of high- and low-consideration purchases. For relatively low-price purchases (such as those common in the food and beverage industry), those who use CGC buy 73% more often than those who do not. Similarly, high-value purchases (such as those among automotive brands) have seen as much as 86% - 97% lifts in offline sales conversion among consumers who used CGC.

Service-oriented industries are also increasingly influenced by CGC that accurately conveys customer experiences. When customer service is an essential component of a business, CGC is more likely to address interactions between customers and employees. For example, financial service organisations (such as insurance companies, banks, and credit unions) experienced one of the highest proportions of CGC that mentioned customer service at 14%, 9%, and 7% respectively.

The report suggests a sharp rise in the usage of and impact of consumer generated content in sectors such as food and beverage and automotive, as well as an increase in content generated via the mobile channel.

The Conversation Index was created to provide new insights into how online consumer conversations can help predict shopping behaviour, and provide ideas about how businesses can maximise sales and deliver better consumer experiences, covering topics such as:

  • Seasonal spikes in consumer generated content: when and what are consumers buying?
  • Influence of consumer generated content, by region, by income, by age;
  • Retail sectors seeing the greatest volumes of consumer generated content;
  • Which are the most used channels and devices for creating consumer generated content?
  • Marketing tool success rates, supported by consumer generated content.

"The information that guides purchase decisions is no longer contained in a single channel, yet brands still struggle to link the online and offline experiences for their consumers," concluded Sara Spivey, chief marketing officer for Bazaarvoice. "CGC provides the bridge between the in-store and online experiences and the means to pivot from a shopping environment based on company branding to one informed by consumer experience."