Buying or leasing a new car, selecting furniture or appliances for your home, or choosing which apartment community to move into are all big buying decisions for any consumer. To get the best deal, these complex purchases require some forethought, extensive research and comparison shopping.
But where do shoppers start with so much information available online today? The more informed consumer conducts as much online research as possible — comparing prices, reviews and amenities before narrowing down which showrooms or living communities to visit in person. When they actually visit in person, they are typically ready to buy and just want to confirm the details, incentives and offers before finalizing the purchase.
With so many auto, furniture and multifamily property websites optimized only for online shoppers who are ready to buy, consumers find themselves exhausted when conducting hours of in-depth research, only to be forced to contact a salesperson or leasing agent for more information.
Consumers avoid talking to salespeople, but they expect an educated response when they do reach out. They want a more personalized online shopping experience, much like how Amazon or Google remembers what they searched for, without the pressure of a lurking salesperson. They expect a seamless transition from an online search to an in-store purchase.
Learn more here from consumers about their fears and expectations when making complex buying decisions, as well as their suggestions for making the process a little easier:
Avoiding Buyer’s Remorse
“I try to research everything that I can before making any sort of large purchase,” says Tracy Slavens, a Waynetown, IN, mother of two who tried to do her homework before leasing a new car in 2017. She researched online first, then called local car dealerships for more information. Unfortunately, some listed the wrong inventory online or never called her back.
While Slavens ultimately settled on a $490-per-month lease for a 2017 AWD Chevrolet Traverse, she says she since experienced buyer’s remorse over a car she didn’t really want. She explains that the “kind, patient and knowledgeable car salesman” on the phone turned into a “pushy ogre” once she drove an hour to the auto dealership, and then wrangled over pricing and other details for more than four hours.
“He wore us down. He knew I was a ‘Frantic Fran’ on the phone. He knew I needed a vehicle and that I was going to travel with the whole family to his dealership. He knew we wouldn’t want to start all over again with a new vehicle search. He was absolutely correct. We fell right into his perfect plan,” she says. “Talk about buyer’s remorse. I’m not a stupid person and I try to educate myself to be smarter than the average purchaser, and look what happened. I got sucked in just like everyone else.”
Knowing More Than the Salesperson
Josh Palmer of Fishers, IN, conducted extensive online research before deciding to buy his dream vehicle, a 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport. He researched dealer websites, industry-focused review sites, and consumer forums discussing common issues, annoyances and maintenance problems.
“I am an obsessive researcher when it comes to big purchases, and besides my house, this was the biggest purchase I’ve ever made,” says Palmer, who admits he researched the Toyota pickup truck for two years before buying. When he finally visited a dealership, he knew the model, color, trim package, options and price of the vehicle he wanted. He also asked to deal directly with the online manager who had confirmed the vehicle was on the dealership’s lot.
“The one downside to doing too much online research is that I knew more about the car than he did,” Palmer says. “Although he filled in some blanks and details that only the dealer could know, it was a little frustrating asking detailed questions and not getting the answers I was looking for.”
Hiding the Price Online
Susan Miller of Carmel, IN, says she’s currently searching for a new sofa for her seniors-only apartment. She’s conducted online research for about a year, and plans to start visiting showrooms this summer.
“I thought I had found the exact sofa I wanted on the website of a local furniture store, but the price wasn’t listed. You could click to get more information, so I did. I never heard back from them,” Miller says. “And now, do you think I can find that sofa on their website again? Nope. I have tried numerous times and I can’t locate it. It must have been a mirage.”
Miller had better luck four years ago when searching for a new apartment. “I found that most apartment complexes have quite a bit of information online, so you can see right away if what they offer will work for you,” she says. “The one I ended up moving to showed floor plans but not pricing, so I went in person, got a tour of the floor plan I was interested in, and lucked into the tail end of a current special.”
Her biggest pet peeve when searching online are websites that force you to talk to a salesperson to get more information. “Some websites are a breeze to navigate, while others are not all that user-friendly,” Miller says. “I prefer to be anonymous. I just want to look and see what’s available, and I don’t want to chat online with a salesperson.”
Making the Buying Decision Easier
Consumers who shop online want a more personalized experience on a website (one that remembers who they are, what they searched for). They also demand transparency on pricing and other details without the pressure of talking to a pushy salesperson.
Remember Tracy Slavens from earlier? She says she purchased a large kitchen sideboard online without ever talking to anyone. “I was actually shocked at their easy-to-use search function and all of their options,” Slavens says of the popular furniture website Wayfair.com. “I’m not sure I would order any ‘comfort’ furniture like mattresses or sofas online. People have different opinions on what is firm or comfy.”
And Susan Miller thinks it’s important for multifamily property sites to provide information about the living community, such as crime rates, convenience to shopping, distance/route to work, etc. Slavens agrees, suggesting property managers should invite potential residents to visit at least twice. “It’s easy to fall in love with an apartment, condo or house during your first visit,” she says. “Try to visit at different times of the day or night to see what your actual neighbors or neighborhood is like.”
Lastly, Josh Palmer thinks car dealers could do a better job of tailoring the sales experience to match a buyer’s persona and where they are in the buying process. “Respect the fact that I’ve done my homework. Give me more information about the car and ownership experience. Put me in touch with other buyers. Let me read testimonials about the car-buying experience with your dealership, but make sure they’re authentic. Nothing smells as fishy as a phony review,” he says.