Defining the digital shopper

Jul 24, 2014

Ernst & Young and Havas Worldwide are just two of numerous firms attempting to classify the still-emerging digital consumer.

E&Y’s new report, Consumers on board: how to copilot the multichannel journey, was based on interviews with 29,943 consumers globally. It breaks out digital consumers into three sub-groups:

  • Digital Informers (63 percent): Use online primarily as a source of information and purchase predominantly in-store. Have the highest brand focus and brand loyalty, but are less open to co-creation and involvement than others, and spend the least amount of time online.
  • Digital Buyers (13 percent): Buy predominantly online with in-store used primarily for research. Most open to co-creation and involvement, strongly influenced by price and availability and are less interested in a company’s social and ethical policies and behavior.
  • Digital Hypertaskers (24 percent): Use a mix of both online and in-store for both information and purchase.

The report asserted that digital hypertaskers are the "shoppers of the future" although they present challenges to reach.

"They are happy to change behavior dependent of category or circumstances, truly at ease taking an omni-channel course," wrote E&Y. "Members of this group are the least sensitive to price, have the lowest level of brand loyalty, and are the most critical of social media. Both enquiring and demanding, they show the biggest interest in technical features and in companies’ social and ethical."

In a similar approach, a Havas report last year, Digital And The New Consumer: Emerging Paths To Purchase, based on a survey of 10,219 adults globally, defined four sub-groups of digital shoppers:

  • Digitally Dissociated (12 percent): Stick to traditional face-to-face purchasing. They don’t use digital technologies for shopping because they can’t or choose not to.
  • Digitally Divided (43 percent): Regard digital as a separate place that they access from a computer at home or work. Happy to shop around and purchase online and may well read reviews and print out coupons for use in stores. However, they wouldn’t use a mobile device while shopping except maybe to make a phone call.
  • Digitally Experimental (28 percent): Know that they can go online wherever and whenever they feel like it. Open to trying out what’s available and exploring what’s possible. For them, digital is intriguing and still a bit of an adventure.
  • Digitally Integrated (17 percent): Blend online and offline throughout their lives without making a conscious distinction between them; digital is simply part of where and how they live.

"In the coming years, as older shoppers drop out of the market, consumer profiles across the world will shift away from Digitally Dissociated and move inexorably toward Digitally Integrated," Havas wrote. "The big driver in this evolution is the global growth of mobile devices."

What questions are most important to ask when looking to define digital shoppers? What traits are particularly important to access in exploring how digital may alter the path to purchase?

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11 Comments on "Defining the digital shopper"

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Bill Davis
8 years 8 months ago

Am I offering selection, convenience, simplicity, service and price? For retailers who can offer an integrated experience like this across their various sales channels, they will be in a much stronger position to succeed. That being said, with mobile just starting to emerge, its challenging to predict what retail will look like in five years, except that mobile will play a much more prominent role.

Shep Hyken
8 years 8 months ago

How easy am I to do business with? How easy is it to navigate web-based platforms; desktop, mobile, etc.? How easy is it to return items? How competitive are you (price and value)?

The digital shopper is looking for the alternative to the traditional experience. They are typically price-sensitive, but also want to have confidence in who they are dong business with. Being easy to work with, having an easy-to-browse site, being competitively-priced, customer friendliness and reputation are considered when making purchases through digital channels.

Dan Frechtling
8 years 8 months ago

The goal is to sell more stuff. Segmentation stimulates a flurry of questions, but if the goal is sales, I would ask:

  • How can retailers remove friction as shoppers wander from in-store to online? How do they remove steps in the process?
  • How can retailers address the habits of emerging segments without neglecting the needs of aging segments?
  • How do retailers harness capabilities unlocked by mobile, social reputation and personalization?

It’s a lot more fun to ask the questions than propose the answers. No one knows the answers until they test and learn.

Mark Heckman
8 years 8 months ago

While segmentation of the digital shopper helps understand the division of attitudes and behaviors, the formation of these groups raise questions such as, “what are the common trigger points to convert one digital shopper type to the next?”

I would also explore how these groups differ from retail channel to channel, as well as how various categories of product change the mix. Those answers could lead to some very actionable conclusions.

Cathy Hotka
8 years 8 months ago

The question I’d pose is, “how can I make my company the company that would put me out of business?” The long knives are out, and aren’t safe unless they sell unique products, or can increase their agility and digital prowess.

Tom Redd
8 years 8 months ago
First with the E&Y report; does the statement “as older shoppers drop out of the market” really mean “the old shoppers die off?” Strange element of forecast, but a reality. In the meantime, while the “old shoppers” are alive and well and spending, these digital channel reports and studies need to get back to the basics. The easy basic? The store is still the number one channel and will be for years and years to come. Humans just like to shop and be interactive with merchandise and other humans. Retailing gains value with the use of digital technology by extending the store into the home of the shopper. When this is done right, you have a digital shopper, and they demand that things are simple, fast and positioned at the best price. They also like more information when they go digital. Why? Technology promotes more information at your fingertips, so things like reviews and videos are key. Think in the mode of extending the store into the home, and the things you need to have… Read more »
James Tenser
8 years 8 months ago

Should we be classifying digital shoppers into enduring behavioral groups, as these two studies imply? Or is is better to interpret their differences as stages of adoption?

This may seem like splitting hairs when the question on the table is, “what do we do about it this quarter?” When retailers consider longer-term positioning and strategy, I think the adoption curve becomes very much more important and useful.

With the spread of mobile devices, it’s a pretty safe bet that virtually all retail transactions in the modern trade worldwide will be digitally influenced to some degree within a couple of years (if they aren’t at that point already).

Marketers would do well to study and track the adoption status of the shoppers who patronize their brands and stores. How pre-influenced are they by digital experience when they visit an e-tail site or walk into a store?

Then, try to match tactics and shopper experience against those insights, with full knowledge that the best options this quarter are likely to evolve rather quickly in the next.

Vahe Katros
Vahe Katros
8 years 8 months ago

As for questions, they should be “Where do you get ideas on what to buy?” “How do you explore your options?” “Where do you buy it?” “Why does that matter?” “Are you a geek?”

Regarding traits, character traits seem to be split between two shopper types: try before you buy, and fly before you buy.

If you own a store, find these people and ask them how and why they do what they do and recruit your geek shoppers for an important point of view.

Bill Hanifin
8 years 8 months ago

A solid assumption is that the majority of consumers will steadily march towards classification as Digitally Experimental or Integrated. As The Boomers become less of a factor in business and Gen X and Y take more leadership, this shift seems inevitable.

Therefore, I would less concerned about worrying about how many people will be in specific groups but would focus on the best ways to communicate with people in the groups they populate today. With the choice of many communication channels available, the marketer’s job becomes more complex. The most direct way to understand customer preference is to ask them.

I would like to see more brands speaking directly to customers to determine which channels they prefer for marketing communications and they using that as a springboard to develop additional knowledge over time.

Gordon Arnold
8 years 8 months ago

Sales is about qualifying and never classifying the client or customer. If classification dollars are there to spend, the company should classify themselves among the competition for differentiation purposes and use the information to enable a more thorough engagement into the market(s) they serve.

Alexander Rink
8 years 7 months ago

What does my brand stand for? What are the characteristics of the shoppers that are most loyal to my brand and offering? Are my in-store and online experiences consistent, and do they deliver to the expectations of my key shopper segments?

The highest priorities are; knowing what your brand stands for, knowing who that appeals to and delivering on that promise both in-store and online.


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