The Integer Group and Decision Analyst have completed a new consumer study that, among other things, has found that the role of brands is less important than expected when it concerns big ticket items.

The study, "The Complex Shopper," conducted with 1,600 consumers, attempts to understand and reveal the motivations that drive shoppers during a considered purchase decision.

“This is the first study we are aware of that seeks to understand the process of a larger considered purchase—in the $100s to $1,000s—showing how shoppers are similar and different and the level of importance on a particular purchase decision,” Xan McNelly, executive vice president and chief integration and strategy officer at The Integer Group, says.

Though the study focuses on big-ticket purchases such as automobiles, vacation travel, and furniture, it also covers windows and doors, flooring, and major appliances. The groups say the findings from the study should prove valuable for companies with a complex sales channel selling a product that requires shoppers to invest time and money before making the purchase.

The sample includes consumers who had recently purchased one of these big ticket items or who were considering making a purchase in the near future, says Katie Geraty, vice president and director of planning and strategy at The Integer Group, which lists among its clients Pella Windows and Doors and Electrolux. “We attempted to figure how consumers approach the shopping process and how they did research.” In some cases, Geraty says, consumers take more than 10 steps—including internet research, store visits, and product reviews—to make a decision.

The study discovered four distinct shopping profiles among consumers: Fretting Frugal, a consumer who is nervous about making the wrong choice, price-conscious, and easily overwhelmed; Experience Lover, generally an older female who values her relationship with brands and is more likely to make repeat purchases with the same company; Passive Purchaser, an older, high-income-earning male who wants purchases to be quick and easy; and the Social Adventurer, a female, urban consumers who believes what you buy is a reflection of your style and personality.

“Each shopper group experiences vastly different emotions and behaviors based on the item for which they are shopping,” the researchers say in a statement. “For instance: Fretting Frugals are most excited by and get the most enjoyment shopping for vacation travel, and the least excitement and enjoyment shopping for tires. An Experience Lover needs a great deal or a sale before buying items for her home, like flooring, a single-serve coffee maker, or a vacuum cleaner.”

The study found that 20% of consumers visited the store before they made a window or door purchase; 69% had no prior experience with the flooring brand they purchased; and 40% of consumers purchased “now” because their old appliance broke. Brands don’t matter as much for considered purchases, Geraty says, adding that there are opportunities for manufacturers to foster brand loyalty with consumers.
Geraty says it’s possible the study might have been different had it been conducted before the recession. “All purchases are considered purchases now,” she says. “People are more cautious and delay decisions that don’t need to be immediate.”

The groups will continue to examine the four shopper profiles and eight considered purchase categories during the next year and will regularly publish new facts and findings.

Nigel F. Maynard is a senior editor at Builder.