Two recent surveys explore consumer sentiment about shopping with new or small online retailers.

Shoppers aren’t opposed to shopping with retailers that are new to them or small. They just need the right motivation, new research finds.

In a survey of more than 1,000 online shoppers, conducted by Bizrate Insights earlier this year, nearly half (47.3%) of respondents said they occasionally bought from websites they had never purchased from before over the past year—the top response. And only 5.3% said they have not in the past 12 months.

When it comes to the reasons why consumers don’t buy from new sites, the top answer was, “I worry about the quality of the merchandise or customer service” at 22.7%. That was followed by consumer worries that their personal information or credit card number might be stolen at 20.3%, and that many don’t offer free shipping at 18.1%.

However, there are clues about features new or lesser-known retailers can take to encourage shoppers to purchase from them. The survey asked shoppers: “Which website features or qualities would make you feel comfortable purchasing from a website where you’ve never purchased before?” Free shipping was the top driver at 14.8%, followed by the best price and customer reviews both at 12.6%.

The survey also found that shoppers are most likely to discover new retailers via search engines like Google (39.2%). But social media plays a big role in discovery as well. 14% said Facebook is where they are most likely to discover an online retailer they have never heard about before, 4% said Instagram, 2% said Pinterest and 8% said other social media. That means nearly 30% of shoppers discover new retailers via social media.


Consumers also gain peace of mind when shopping with new retailers if they can see the items in person. When asked, “When considering a purchase from a retailer you’ve never bought from before, how important is it be to be able to see the retailer’s products in person?” 36.1% said it was somewhat important. And 24% said very important, the second-most common answer.

Meanwhile, in a separate exclusive survey of 1,000 consumers conducted by Toluna for Internet Retailer in July, 60.6% said they had shopped at an online retailer they were visiting for the first time. And 70.7% of shoppers said they would shop at a smaller online retailer if the merchant offered products they couldn’t find elsewhere—the most popular answer. Coming in second at 54.8%: if the merchant offers superior customer service, such as informed and available customer service representatives, free shipping, free returns, and robust product information.

In that survey, shoppers were asked: “What would influence you to shop with a smaller online retailer than with a larger one?” Consumers replied as follows:

• 41.8%: If I feel like I’m supporting a small business
• 34.9%: If the retailer’s values align with my own (such as made in the USA or eco-friendly)
• 32.5%: If the retailer gives back to the community or to a charity
• 21.8%: If the retailer offers a compelling story about its products