Download ReportThe last few times I’ve visited Europe, I’ve heard a general sentiment that the US is ahead of Europe in adoption of social media, social commerce, and interactive marketing. A common reason given for this lag is the “cultural difference” between Europeans and Americans; many hesitant executives in Europe don’t believe their customers will respond to user-generated content as favorably as customers in American markets have. While there are clear cultural differences, we’ve seen our European clients like Argos, Comet, B&Q, and others do fantastic things with social commerce that are behind no one.

To find the truth about European shopper habits, Bazaarvoice partnered with RichRelevance to commission Forrester Research to study shopper behavior in the UK, France, and Germany. In summary, the research concluded that shoppers in these countries are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their purchase research habits, and now have higher expectations that businesses must meet: they want more information, in more formats, across all channels. Here are some key takeaways.

  • Shoppers are doing more research online than ever. 82% of them visit more than one website before buying a product. Most of them (59%) have not decided what or where they will buy before researching online.
  • These shoppers rely on product details, user reviews, and personalized recommendations most in their purchase decisions. In fact, 86% of UK shoppers rely on user reviews for online purchases.
  • Shoppers don’t distinguish between online and offline channels. For them it is one brand, and they want a seamless experience online, in store, and on mobile phones. 42% use mobile phones when shopping in store. The content shoppers need to make purchase decisions is the same no matter where they shop, so they expect to find it in every channel.

My video below shares a few more of the highlights.

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The most surprising finding for me is how important online research is for UK shoppers specifically. In the UK, most shoppers use public transportation and walk to work, often passing “high street” stores.

One could reasonably expect that there is no need to buy online from a store you pass twice a day. However, today’s UK shoppers are making more cautious buying decisions and doing much more research online before buying in store, in part because of the economy. For UK shoppers, finding the best product for them is more important than finding the best “deal.” The certainty that a product will meet their exact needs holds more weight than instant access to products in stores, and is even more important than price. They would rather buy the camera that is best for their usage intentions, for instance, than a more expensive camera that falls in their price range after a discount. And still, if you look at most advertising in Europe, the main value proposition is still price.

So, are European shoppers behind? The numbers say no.  While their shopping habits differ from their neighbors across the pond, Europeans have the same need for reliable information they trust – information from other people like them. And just like in the US, early-moving businesses are meeting this need – and reaping the rewards.

Want the full results of the Forrester Research study? Download the free white paper from Bazaarvoice and RichRelevance.

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