eMarketer recently re-published this data from the “2010 Auto Consumer” by About.com, which shows that most U.S. consumers research cars online prior to purchasing. I believe that pre-purchase research probably correlates with the value or complexity of the product — meaning: consumers perform more research for more expensive or more complex products.
As more consumers research products online before visiting a seller, it will be more and more challenging for sellers to ensure that their sales staff are as smart about their products — and competing products — as their well-researched customers. We already know from Accenture research that consumers perform significant online research prior to publishing a mobile device, and this data from About.com confirms that car sellers are experiencing the same dynamic among their customers.
I recently described a use case for companies to use emerging text data mining technologies with social media listening tools to empower retail employees to meet the information needs of their customers who are getting smarter and smarter. That use case can also be applied in the form of a kiosk within lower-touch retail environments such as Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart, where consumers might appreciate the ability to quickly research the products on the shelf at that instant.