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The demise of research online, purchase offline (ROPO)?

When it comes to shopping online for durable and entertainment-related goods such as clothes, event tickets, books and toys, or reservations for tours and hotels, people who browse online are just as likely to buy online, according to a new study by Nielsen.

For these categories, then, it can be said that the ranks of those that “research online, purchase offline,” or “ROPO shoppers,” are thinning.

Though not boasting the same 1:1 ratio, shoppers for consumable goods are not far off:

  • Cosmetics: 33% browse online, 31% buy online
  • Personal care: 31% browse online, 29% buy online
  • Groceries: 30% browse online, 27% buy online
  • Pet products: 24% browse online, 21% buy online
  • Baby supplies: 23% browse online, 20% buy online
  • Flowers: 20% browse online, 18% buy online
  • Alcoholic drinks: 20% browse online, 17% buy online

This tendency to follow up online browsing with online buying, as opposed to heading to the brick-and mortar analog, reflects the changing habits of the consumer, and brands and retailers would be wise to tailor the ecommerce experience to reflect this new reality, says John Burbank, president of strategic initiatives at Nielsen.

“Now is the time to create omni-channel experiences for consumers who are actively using both digital and physical platforms to research and purchase, as consumers increasingly don’t make a distinction between the two.”

Ecommerce’s growing appeal is also apparent in the fact that twice as many consumers say they are planning to purchase a durable or entertainment-related product online in the next six months than were planning to in 2011, according to Nielsen.

“Consumers everywhere want a good product at a good price, and the seemingly limitless options available in a virtual environment provide new opportunities for both merchants and consumers. The market for fast-moving consumer goods is no exception, ” says Burbank.

Nearly half of respondents say they intend to make an online purchase in the next six months in the clothing (46%), airline (48%) and hotel reservation (44%) categories.

The ecommerce market for groceries and other consumable products has also grown, but not quite as quickly. Compared to 2011, those planning on making a purchase in the cosmetic category in the next six months increased 6 percentage points to 31 percent, groceries rose 5 percentage points to 27 percent and baby supplies jumped 12 percentage points to 20 percent.

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