Habits of Online Shoppers That You Should Know

consumer shopping habits

Online customers are becoming important to most businesses. For example, in a recent Nielson Global Survey more than 85 percent of the world’s online population has already used the Internet to make purchases.

But what do we really know about online consumer shopping habits and their preferences? What they buy and why?

Our small business community has some answers you may find helpful.

Online Consumer Shopping Habits

Mars and Venus: Not All Online Shoppers are the Same

As you might expect, online buyers differ in many ways. But one of the greatest differences online merchants should be aware of is the difference between male and female online shoppers.

In many areas, men and women differ little in their online shopping habits, reports Rieva Lesonsky. For example, the majority of purchases by both genders (87 percent in the case of men and 82 percent of women) are made from desktops.

Also most online shoppers, regardless of gender (84 percent of women and 81 percent of men) make online purchases at home.

So where do men and women differ in terms of online shopping habits?

The big difference is how they tend to find products online. Specifically, women are more likely to respond to marketing emails while men are more likely to find products while surfing online.

Many Online Shoppers are Easily Distracted

Online shoppers are easily distracted as demonstrated by the number of abandoned online shopping carts.

For example, Ilana Bercovitz, a social media and marketing professional, reflects on the need to retarget online shoppers due to distraction:

Consider how distracted we are as we do online research or purchasing. Phone calls, emails, or chat windows regularly interrupt me, for example. These interruptions result in my abandoning a shopping cart or forgetting what I was doing entirely.

Most commonly, retargeting involves use of a cookie allowing a site you have visited and shown interest in to “follow you” with relevant ads online to lead you back to the site.

Bercovitz lists a number of companies offering services allowing you to set up your own retargeting campaigns. They include Google Remarketing, AdRoll, Fetchback and Bercovitz’s own Retargeter.

Do you need a way to bring online shoppers back to your site in order to make a purchase?

Online Buyers Use Multiple Devices

Online consumer shopping habits indicate that online buyers are also more unlikely to find your product or service via just one device than probably ever before. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of consumers today use multiple screens (smartphone, laptop, tablet) during the day. And this includes when they’re looking at your website and possibly buying a product or signing up for a survice.

Web design professional William Johnson talks about the need to develop a multi-screen ecommerce strategy.

Johnson quotes data suggesting that today 65 percent of purchases begin on a smartphone, while 25 percent begin on a laptop and 11 percent start on a tablet. Johnson reports most of the customers who make these purchases will use multiple devices to visit a site before making their final decision.

Many Online Shoppers Are Still Looking for the Best Deals

Just like shoppers offline, shoppers visiting your website will be looking for deals. And they will likely make a purchase on another site if you don’t offer the right price.

Rieva Lesonsky shares a few more details about how consumers buy online. She explains:

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.

But Lesonsky days that doesn’t mean online consumers will spend more than they have to or that they aren’t looking for the best price they can find.

For example, 75 percent of online shoppers polled recently said price was a factor in their latest purchase, she said. And 79 percent of those consumers said they bought from the site where they found the best price.

Here are some other things online merchants should keep in mind about online consumer shopping habits, Lesonsky said:

  • 6 out of 10 online shoppers bought products on sale.
  • 54 percent ordered from sites with free shipping.
  • 33 percent used coupons provided by online merchants for their purchases.

Showrooming is Not a Big Factor

Despite all the complaints coming from brick and mortar retailers, most online shoppers still don’t do much “showrooming” it seems. This refers to the supposedly popular practice of visiting a retail store, looking at a product and then finding a cheaper version online.

But does this really happen all that much?  Not exactly.

According to Lesonsky, 78 percent of online shoppers don’t look at a product in a store before buying it online. Only 12 percent look at a product in a store then buy it from the same retailer online. And just 10 percent see products in the store and later buy them elsewhere.

Shopping Photo via Shutterstock


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Executive Editor for Small Business Trends and a professional journalist with more than 20 years experience in traditional and digital media for trade publications and news sites. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has served as a beat reporter, columnist, editorial writer, bureau chief and managing editor for the Berks Mont Newspapers.

12 Reactions
  1. Shawn,

    It’s still a mystery to me, but as customers are seeking the best deals, how online retailers can avoid getting caught in price wars?

  2. You forgot to mention that they ALWAYS read feedbacks and testimonials. If they cannot find it, they will usually look for reviews on Google before they actually buy.

  3. Many online shoppers are easily distracted? You don’t say! Amazon constantly bombards me with related purchases before I ever check out. Sometimes, hours later or even the next day, I have to go back and check to see if I even made the purchase or if it’s sitting in my shopping cart.

  4. Online shoppers are an odd bunch. There really isn’t any rhyme or reason to most of their habits which makes it very difficult to determine what they will buy and when they will buy it.

  5. Pariyamon Yongyuen

    Don’t forget the unique items that are not found in the normal brick and mortar stores. Thanks

  6. Hi Shawn, I like your article, I wonder please if you can help me with an example of how to write or market a product online to attract traffic for sales. I am a novice but with the help of your experience in Journalism, it will be just fine for me.

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