A Mom’s Buying Cycle – Catalog to Search Engine to Store to Website

I want to share the story of how my wife recently acquired our Burley Honey Bee baby bicycle trailer. It was a beautiful blend of direct mail catalog, search engine research, in store kicking the tires, and ultimately a website purchase.

2008 brought us our wonderful new baby girl. She is growing up so fast! It has been fun to shop for her, and even more fun for me to watch her mom, my wife, do the shopping online.

Yes, as a longtime search/online marketer, even my wife becomes a case study to me.

I know what you are thinking – Mom must get pretty sick of me looking over her shoulder every time she goes online to shop for the baby. You’re right. I have to be stealth about it, or she’ll stop shopping until I have left the room.

We are avid outdoors people. But this year we hardly touched our bikes through the spring and summer. The time had come to go beyond the walking and jogging strollers. Fall was here and there was still some good weather.

We’d been thinking about getting a baby trailer for our bikes for awhile. Then it came – REI’s latest direct mail catalog. Before I had a chance to toss the catalog in the recycle bin, my wife was flipping through the sales pages and found Burley’s Honey Bee trailer.

Magic. Just what we have been waiting for.

My wife realizes that I require due diligence and shopping comparison for any item that has a price tag over $100. So she went to the search engines to see if the direct mail catalog price for the Honey Bee was competitive.

Here’s a glimpse at what she found in Google:

You can see that the REI website was listed high in the organic search listings, and also had a paid search ad on the right side of the page. As Burley is a popular brand, it was no surprise to see several other advertisers in the paid listings. Google also provided a few Shopping Results that helped with price research.

After clicking on all the relevant sites, we determined that REI’s print-catalog sale price was indeed the best price anywhere. We then factored in shipping costs and any REI.com coupons we could find to determine the final price. It still looked like the best deal.

I would also like to give REI credit for having the same price on the website that it had in the catalog.

Next step was to make sure we liked the trailer enough to buy it. We went to Burley’s website to find dealers near us, then hopped in the car and drove to a local bike shop to look at the Honey Bee. The trailer seemed tough enough for us, but the local shop’s price was not competitive with the online offers, even when you figured the shipping cost. Also, the local shop wasn’t willing to give us the REI price. We went home. (I need to mention that REI’s closest brick and mortar store is about a 4 hour drive. That’s too far to shop in-person for us.)

Later that day we went back to the REI website and made our order. My wife mumbled a few “I told you so’s.” I think she just wanted to order it from the catalog without bothering with all the research. In this case we would have been fine, but we may have discovered a better deal, and the research wasn’t hard to do.

From a direct mailed catalog, to a search engine, to a brick-and-mortar store, and back to the website for purchase. This is how people shop now. Marketers should be aware of the trend and make sure their online and offline promotions match up.