How Do Consumers Buy Online?

how do consumers buy online

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So how do consumers buy online?

From showrooming worries to mcommerce trends, small retailers and e-tailers have a lot of issues to keep up with these days. A new study from Shopzilla that polled Internet users about their online shopping habits has some useful insights. Below is some of what they found.

What Inspires Purchasing?

In terms of advertising and marketing outreach, store emails were the top driver of online sales (11 percent), beating out magazine ads (8 percent), blogs or online content sites (4 percent), and Facebook (2 percent) in this regard.

However, impulse buys are a bigger factor than any type of advertising or marketing. Nearly one-third of customers say they ran across their most recent purchase while surfing the Web,25 percent say they found it after they went looking for a specific item, and 8 percent say they saw it while “out and about” shopping.

Where Are They Buying?

One place employees aren’t shopping is at work—just 17 percent of purchases were made from the office, while 70 percent were made at home.

In terms of device, the vast majority of online sales (85 percent) still take place on a desktop computer. iPads ranked second, with 11 percent of overall purchases taking place on an iPad (fewer than 1 percent of sales were made on any other type of tablet). For those with household incomes of $150K and above, 20 percent of purchases were made on an iPad.

Despite lots of mcommerce hype, mobile phones are still just minimal contributors to online sales–less than 5 percent of sales were made on any type of smartphone. (I’ve seen other surveys that show much higher usage of mobile phones for shopping.)

What Are They Spending?

The good news for retailers is that more than 50 percent of consumers feel confident about spending. Overall, 28 percent feel free to spend, and 31 percent expect to spend more than they did in the previous month.

That doesn’t mean consumers are throwing money around, however. Price remains a huge factor, with 75 percent of shoppers saying price influenced their purchases, and 79 percent reporting they bought from the site offering the best price. Six in 10 bought items on sale, more than half (54 percent) ordered from sites that offer free shipping, and 33 percent used coupons.

Are They Really Showrooming?

Showrooming (looking at a product in-store, then buying it from a competitor online) isn’t an issue for most online shoppers since the majority (78 percent) never bother to look at the product in a store before buying.

Only 12 percent see a product in a store, then buy from that store or its website. Just 10 percent look at the product in-store before if someplace else.

What it Means to Your Business

Serendipity is Still a Huge Factor in Online Purchases

Since shoppers are often influenced by something they see online while looking for something else, consider adding suggestions to your ecommerce site (such as displaying related or complementary items in the sidebar while customers are shopping), making suggestions for additional purchases during the checkout process, or serving ads related to shoppers’ past browsing history when they leave your site.

iPads Are Growing Strong

Clearly, the iPad is a major contender when it comes to mobile shopping. Particularly if you target upscale consumers, it’s crucial to develop a tablet-optimized ecommerce site.

If you have a retail store without an ecommerce component, look into ways to use tablets in your store, such as by providing additional information about your inventory to shoppers or enabling mobile payments to speed checkout.

Time Your Emails Right

Among the marketing strategies you can use, email marketing matters the most. However, with shoppers rarely surfing shopping sites during work hours, timing your emails for evenings and weekends, or right before the lunch hour, is most likely to yield maximum results.

4 Comments ▼

Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

4 Reactions

  1. Getting people to do serious shopping on a mobile device will continue to be hampered until websites make the purchase process easier. Have you ever tried to fill out the standard credit card info on a touch screen phone? It’s painfully slow and I’m still concerned with the security.

  2. I am planning to open my own web store in the next few months. Rieva has surely delivered some great insights and information on how people buy online, their strategies, mind set etc.

    I have really liked the idea of emailing potential customers in evenings or just before the lunch break and I will be eagerly waiting to see the result this will bring.

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