Finnish consumers prefer shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, where they also go to find information on the product before making their purchase. Finns place particular value on the expertise of sales personnel, although they often base the final purchase decision on price. That said, there is no denying the importance of online information sources.

Traditional brick-and-mortar stores still play an important role in the everyday lives of Finns. According to a recent survey* by the Finnish Commerce Federation on paths to purchase in food, menswear, cosmetics and sports equipment trade, many Finnish consumers turn to physical stores when they want to buy the product, but also when looking for information on it before the purchase.

They search for information online mainly after the purchase. For example, half of the respondents who purchased menswear or food search for information on the product afterwards, such as recipes, tips or care instructions. The internet is the primary source of information for sports equipment buyers, both before and after the purchase. Sports equipment is also bought online more often than other kinds of goods.

Smartphones are also becoming more and more important. Smartphones are a common means for finding information, particularly among sports equipment buyers. More than half of them use mobile devices at some point of the path to purchase.

“Shopping will become more mobile in the future. At the moment, mobile devices are mainly used for browsing prices, looking up locations and claiming discount codes, but functionalities such as mobile payment will make them more common in a few years,” says Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist at the Finnish Commerce Federation.

Currently, only a handful of consumers make payments on mobile devices. Consumers who buy menswear are the most active users of mobile payment—a little more than five per cent of them have paid on a mobile device.

Impulse purchases are seldom successful

The survey also mapped out the elements of a successful purchase path. Analyses of consumers’ paths to purchase are particularly vital for companies operating in specialty goods trade.

“Finnish specialty shops have a hard time competing with international online stores when it comes to price. But they can gain competitive edge through good customer service and physical stores,” Kurjenoja says.

The survey reveals that the most successful purchases tend to be well-planned. For example, the happiest weekend and party food buyers plan their shopping carefully in advance. They look up prices, various qualities and allergens before they go to the store. While price is the most common criterion for selecting where to buy goods in other product groups, weekend groceries are typically bought at the store with the best location and selection.

Advance planning also improves the consumers’ experiences of cosmetics purchases. Only 16 per cent of successful cosmetics purchases are made on impulse.

Menswear buyers place the most importance on the expertise of sales personnel. They choose where to buy on the basis of price and previous positive experiences. Although the majority of successful clothing purchases are planned in advance, as many as 28 per cent of these are made on impulse. This percentage is notably higher than in other product groups.

“Successful menswear purchases are typically made at specialty shops, where expert customer service seems to lead to successful impulse purchases,” Kurjenoja thinks.

Under 40-year-old men were the most active in searching for information before buying cosmetics. In the sports equipment product group, the most active consumers to search for information in advance were over 40-year-old men. Over 40-year-old women, on the other hand, were the most active searchers for information on food and menswear.

Quality issues with groceries, service issues with menswear and sports equipment

Consumers are disappointed when the quality of the product falls below their expectations, they are unable to find information or there are problems with service. The major sources of disappointment among grocery shoppers are products that are no longer fresh or seem to have gone bad. Consumers are also annoyed by limited selections or products that run out.

Customer service is the most common reason for complaints among menswear and sports equipment buyers. For example, sales personnel do not always recommend the right size or explain the different uses of the product to the customer. Sometimes, there might be no sales personnel available. This can lead to bad purchases.

Cosmetics buyers, on the other hand, struggle to find sufficient information on animal testing, ingredients, allergens or colours, among other things. Clearly, ingredient lists, colour charts or sales personnel expertise are not always sufficient.

“Unclear price labels or confusion with the price at checkout are typical reasons for bad shopping experiences. Stores should be aware of this, because price is the most important criterion for selecting a shopping venue and the most common thing consumers look up beforehand,” Kurjenoja points out.

 *The survey was part of the federation’s research cooperation with professor Hannu Saarijärvi from the School of Management at the University of Tampere.

A total of 1,817 15–79-year-old Finns residing in mainland Finland completed the consumer survey, which was carried out by TNS Gallup.

For further information, please contact:

Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)40 820 5378, jaana.kurjenoja(at)kauppa.fi

The Finnish Commerce Federation represents commerce – the largest sector of economic life. Commerce employs around 300,000 people in Finland. The federation has around 7,000 member companies and represents both retail and wholesale commerce in industry policy and labour market lobbying. www.kauppa.fi