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How the internet has changed buying behavior [Infographic]

How the internet has changed buying behavior [Infographic] Blog Feature

January 5th, 2020 min read

The internet has changed so much about our lives, it’s hard to imagine a time without it. 

Of course, one of the main things the internet has altered is the way we buy. How we discover, research, and ultimately purchase products is completely different than it was even a decade ago. 

Now, with the rise of subscription boxes, grocery delivery services, and two-day Amazon shipping, it’s completely plausible to never leave your house and still have all the necessities you need. 

However, despite the wide availability of products you can buy from the comfort of your own home, there are still some products that consumers choose to consistently buy in-store. 

Likewise, there are products that the average consumer doesn’t deem worth traveling out to purchase. 

As marketers, it’s important to make this distinction so can effectively drive the right kind of behavior from advertising campaigns. 

For example, if you know a particular product is preferred to buy-in store, you may want to create ads designed to drive and measure in-store purchases instead of driving to an online checkout page, and vice-versa for paid ads. 

To help marketers figure out which products are which, and what factors contributed to these purchasing decisions, Signs conducted a study asking 1,000 Americans about their buying habits and compiled results into the infographic below

What types of products do people prefer to buy in-store vs. online? 

While this varies greatly person to person, Signs found that on average, the majority of consumers preferred to buy the following products in-store: 

  • Groceries (Perishable 85%/ Non-perishable 75%)
  • Paper Products (75%) 
  • Cleaning Supplies (74%) 

These make sense, as there is a bigger sense of urgency behind getting these products. In most cases, online purchases are more convenient, but in the case of household staples like these, it’s actually inconvenient to have to wait for them. 

By contrast, these four products are most likely to be purchased online: 

  • Books and Media (48%)
  • Video Games (38%) 
  • Electronics and Accessories (27%)
  • Gifts (26%) 

Again, this group is largely centered around convenience. In the case of e-books, media, and video games, these are often instantly downloaded to your device at purchase, so there isn’t a lag time.

For electronics and gifts, these are often thought about well in advance, so the consumer can typically wait the time it takes for the product to ship. 

So, as you build out your next ad campaigns, stop and think about how necessary your product is for the user. Can they wait a day or two, or would they need it immediately? That will give you a better sense of how to frame the goals of your campaign. 

What factors influence our decisions? 

When asked about what consumers liked better about either option and what would cause them to choose one over the other, here’s how they responded: 

Motivations to make purchases in-store: 

  • To physically see and touch items before purchase (73%) 
  • To have the product immediately (72%) 
  • To avoid shipping costs (52%) 
  • To try on an item first (50%) 
  • Just enjoy going out to a store (26%) 

Motivations to make purchases online:

  • Convenience (85%) 
  • Price comparisons (72%) 
  • To save time (71%) 
  • To avoid crowds/other people (54%) 
  • To read product reviews before making a purchase (54%) 

So, how can marketers use this information? 

Well, if you’re trying to prompt more online purchases, make sure that your website addresses these key reasons the consumer has for wanting to buy a product online.

Make your website a smooth, easy-to-navigate experience to boost overall convenience.

Have blog posts and other content with price comparisons, and have a reviews section on your site and get great reviews from repeat customers. 

To eliminate the barriers that might prevent someone from buying online and going to an in-store competitor, take the in-store reasoning into account as well.

Make sure you have multiple, clear images of your product, showcasing both the professional polished images and customer photos so a visitor can know what they’re getting.

For clothing, always have a size chart and note the model’s dimensions (if one is pictured) as well as the size they’re wearing. 

From personal experience, this has significantly reduced hesitations I’ve had with buying products online. Offering free shipping for bigger purchases and a great return policy is always helpful as well! 

Pay attention to consumer behavior shifts 

These may be the rules now, but they won’t be forever. 

In order to succeed, great marketers need to stay ahead of the game in order to meet consumers where they’re hanging out and present an offering in a way that will be well-received. 

By knowing these preferences, marketers can craft better, well-informed campaigns to eliminate barriers and yield the desired results. 

To learn more, you can read Sign’s full study here, and view the infographic below:


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