Consumers spend an average of 76 days in the research process when considering a major purchase -- that bit of retail intelligence was among the findings from a recent consumer research study sponsored by GE Capital’s Retail Finance business, the consumer lending unit of General Electric Company.

The survey and interviews, conducted by Rothstein Tauber, Inc., a marketing research company based in Stamford, Conn., explored the shopping habits of more than 3,000 consumers nationwide who were in the market for major items such as appliances, electronics, floor covering, home furnishings, home improvements, jewelry, and lawn and garden equipment. Nearly 2,000 of the consumers were GE Capital Retail Bank (GECRB) accountholders and one third of respondents were random shoppers. All had recently made purchases of $500 or more. Portions of the Major Purchase Shopper Study will be updated annually.

“The findings indicate that consumers take a significant amount of time to plan and evaluate major purchases, with 61 percent starting with online research,” said Toni White, chief marketing officer of GE Capital’s Retail Finance business. “This major purchase study also validates that financing continues to play a key role in helping consumers make their buying decisions across every category.”

The results provide a clearer picture of the process consumers go through when considering a major purchase. Depending on the category, the length of time spent researching the purchase took between 38 and 115 days – more than two months on average. While the data represents the average major purchase experience, it is inclusive of shoppers who had a short decision cycle due to an urgent need to replace an item. The study also reveals the way in which consumers conducted product research and the role of payment options in their decision. Among the findings specific to flooring:
Depending on the category, the length of time spent researching the purchase took between 38 and 115 days – 76 days on average.  The research process for shoppers considering a Flooring purchase took an average of 102 days.
While more than 60 percent of consumers begin product research online, 89 percent made their purchase at a brick-and-mortar store. In Flooring, 94 percent made their purchase at a brick-and-mortar store.
Availability of financing drove their final choice of retailer, according to 79 percent of Flooring shoppers.
Flooring shoppers visit 5.13 unique retailers – 2.5 online retailers and  2.63 offline retailers, on average.
And findings across all segments showed:
Consumers, on average, visited two-to-three unique online retailers and two-to-three unique brick-and-mortar stores before making their purchase.

Nearly 70 percent of shoppers said their choice of payment options was made before they entered the store to make their purchase. Six out of 10 GECRB cardholders said the availability of financing drove their final choice of retailer.

“The insights from this research can help our merchants, both big and small, build better businesses,” adds White. “Based on these findings, merchants can re-evaluate their sales training and marketing to better attract consumers and help them make informed choices.”

The GE Capital Retail Finance Annual Major Purchase Shopper Study represents the average major purchase experience. The data reflects recent purchases valued at $500 or more that were categorized by consumers as both an immediate need and a more considered want.