OREANDA-NEWS. June 05, 2012.  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 (NYSE:GE - News).

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 USD 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:

More than 60 percent of consumers begin product research online, but 89 percent made their purchase at a brick-and-mortar store.
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.”

For more than 75 years, GE Capital’s Retail Finance business has provided billions of dollars in consumer financing through major retailers and more than 200,000 small- and mid-sized businesses throughout the United States. GE Capital is a leading provider of consumer credit and supports its clients with proprietary online technology such as Business Center, which includes service, marketing and sales tools, as well as the newly launched Learning Center, providing businesses with fast and easy access to training tools and resources on how to better understand and offer financing to consumers.

*The GE Capital Retail Finance Annual Major Purchase Shopper Study represents the average major purchase experience. The data reflects recent purchases valued at USD 500 or more that were categorized by consumers as both an immediate need and a more considered want. Worth noting, there were some product category differences (i.e., appliance shoppers take less time to research the product and categorize their purchase as a “need.” The jewelry shopping process is more impulse driven and categorized as a “want.”)