The Role of Digital in US Shopper’s Path-to-Purchase – What online touchpoints and devices drive pre-purchase research?

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The report looks into who does pre-purchase research, what online touchpoints they visit and trust, and the role of smartphones and tablets in the pre-purchase research process.

89 pages. 41 charts. Keynote, PowerPoint and PDF formats

The Role of Digital in US Shopper’s Path-to-Purchase What online touchpoints and devices drive pre-purchase research?

Key Trends in Online Shopping Habits in the US

How often do US shoppers buy from online channels?

Data Headlines

  • Almost one in three (32%) US shoppers buy items online at least once a week
  • More than one in three (36%) male shoppers buy at least once a week compared to female shoppers (29%).
  • Almost two in five (39%) Generation Xers 35-44 buy items online every week

Shoppers buy items online more often than in the past. More than nine in ten (93%) shoppers buy more than once in a year. Online shopping is no longer a one-off occurrence. Less than one in ten (7%) buy items online only for seasonal shopping.

Shoppers buy items online on a weekly and/or monthly basis. More than seven in ten (73%) shoppers buy several times in any given month. Weekly buyers account for almost one in three (32%) of all shoppers. More than two in five (41%) shoppers buy items online several times a month.

Male shoppers buy more often online. More than one in three (36%) male shoppers buy at least once a week. In comparison, less than three in ten (29%) female shoppers buy on a weekly basis. The trend is similar for monthly online shoppers. Men (43%) are more likely to buy more than once online in a month compared to women (39%).

Young millennials (18-24) are not the heaviest online shoppers. Over one in five (22%) in the segment buy items at least once a week. Older Generation Xers (45-54) are more likely to buy weekly. Almost three in ten (29%) in the latter segment buy one or more items online in a week.

Young Generation Xers (35-44) are most frequent online shoppers. Almost two in five (39%) buy items online every week. Older millennials (25-34) are the next most frequent online shoppers. A similar proportion (38%) buy items online at least once a week.

In summary, older millennials (25-34) are the heaviest online shoppers. More than four in five (83%) in this segment buy several times from online channels within a month. Young Generation Xers (35-44) are the next most frequent shoppers. Three in four (75%) in this demographic group go online and buy more than once in a month.

Which online channels do US Shoppers prefer to shop from?

Data Headlines

  • Large retailer site is most preferred channel for Millennials (76%), Gen Xers (76%), Boomers (74%), and Seniors (66%).
  • Baby Boomers (59%) are more likely than other generations to buy from online marketplaces
  • Category-specific online channels appeal most to Seniors (44%)

Shoppers across generations prefer to buy online from large retailers. Amazon, WalMart, Target are examples of large retailer channels. More than three in four (76%) Millennials buy from large retailer websites. An identical proportion of Generation Xers (76%) also prefer to buy from large retailers. Baby Boomers (74%) are just behind Millennials in shopping from large retailers. Seniors are the least likely demographic to buy online from large retailers. Two in three Seniors prefer to buy from large retailers.

Online marketplaces like eBay are the next most preferred channels. Baby Boomers (59%) and Gen Xers (56%) are most likely to buy from online marketplaces. More than half of Seniors (51%) prefer to buy from online marketplaces. Millennials (48%) are the least likely segment to buy from online marketplaces.

Another channel popular among shoppers is web stores. Web stores are individual websites that sell a small range items. At times it could even be just one product – such as a book. Generation Xers are the most interested in buying from web stores. Almost half of Generation Xers (49%) buy from web stores. Millennials (46%) and Baby Boomers (42%) also show reasonable interest in web stores. Only three in ten Seniors buy from web stores.

The final channel from where shoppers buy is category specific websites. Websites that sell baby products or outdoor equipment are some examples. Seniors are the most likely to buy from such websites. More than two in five (44%) Seniors buy from category specific websites. Baby Boomers (39%) and Gen Xers (37%) show some interest in buying from these websites. Millennials (29%) are the least likely to buy from category specific websites.

How do US shoppers become aware of brands & products they buy?

Data Headlines

  • 39% of US shoppers become aware of products they buy on TV
  • 18% of US shoppers discover new products online
  • In-store ads drive product awareness for 1 in 10 US shoppers

A shopper’s path-to-purchase begins with the Awareness stage. In this stage shoppers research their options and discover products they end up buying. Various media channels play a key role in bringing about product awareness.

TV continues to be the top source of product awareness among US shoppers. Almost two in five (39%) US shoppers become aware of products they buy via television. Television’s dominance will continue as audiences watch more TV on computers and mobile devices.

Not surprising that online is now a key source of product awareness behind television. Just under one in five (18%) US shoppers become aware of products they buy via online channels. Online news and blog sites are a key source of product discovery. E-commerce websites like Amazon and eBay have emerged as online window shopping portals. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter help shoppers discover products faster than ever. Video sharing sites like YouTube have become a trusted window of new product information. Online will soon challenge TV as the mobile ecosystem evolves. Smarter shopping and comparison apps will help shoppers discover products on-the-go.

Physical stores haven’t lost relevancy in the digital age. One in ten shoppers become aware of products via in-store ads. Another one in ten gain awareness via magazines and newspapers.


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The report looks into who does pre-purchase research, what online touchpoints they visit and trust, and the role of smartphones and tablets in the pre-purchase research process.

89 pages. 41 charts. Keynote, PowerPoint and PDF formats

The Role of Digital in US Shopper’s Path-to-Purchase What online touchpoints and devices drive pre-purchase research?

Online Pre-Purchase Research among US shoppers

What is the demographic profile of shoppers who go online to research products?

Data Headlines

  • More than half (53.6%) of online shoppers who research digitally are men.
  • Shoppers 45 and above account for more than half (56.2%) of digital product researchers.
  • Tendency to research products online is highest among households with annual income between $50K-$99K.

Men account for a higher proportion of shoppers who research online before buying products. Just over half (53.6%) of male shoppers research online. In comparison, 46.4% of women shoppers go online to research products before buying them.

Millennials and Generation Xers have a greater tendency to research products online. But, Boomers and Seniors account for more than half (53.6%) of all digital researchers. More than three in ten (31.6%) shoppers who conduct online research are 45 to 59 years old. Almost a quarter (24.6%) are 60 years or older.

Higher income households are more likely to research products online before buying them. More than a third (33.2%) of households earning $50K to $99K research product online. Just under three in ten (29%) households earning $100K or more research products online.

What is the impact of household income and ethnicity on US shopper’s pre-purchase research behaviour?

Data Headlines

  • Households earning $75K+ a year are more likely to research products online (82%) compared to those earning less than $75K (72%)
  • Households earning $250K+ a year more most likely to research products on their smartphones (14%) and tablets (14%)
  • Households earning less than $75K a year are most likely to research (21%) and purchase (50%) products in-person at a store
  • Households earning $250K or more in a year are most likely to purchase products online (56%)
  • Research just before purchase is common among different ethnicities – Asian (48%), Black (48%), Hispanic (54%), and White (46%)

How long do shoppers research brands and products before making a purchase?

Data Headlines

  • US shoppers spend on average 68 days researching big ticket items before making a final purchase
  • Shoppers spend the longest researching home improvement (97 days), mattresses (96 days), and jewellery (93 days)
  • Research for consumer electronics and home appliances lasts 54 days and 53 days respectively
  • Nearly one in four shoppers buy small ticket products the same day they research it online
  • Nearly one in three shoppers research small ticket products after purchase

Shoppers spend 10 weeks researching big ticket items

A vast amount of online information means shoppers can spend months researching products. This is especially true for big ticket items like appliances and home improvement products. US shoppers spend 68 days on average researching big ticket purchases of $500 or more.

US shoppers spend the longest researching home improvement products (97 days). Mattresses (96 days) and jewellery (93 days) follow next. Shoppers also spend months researching flooring (90 days) and furniture (85 days). All these home related categories are items shoppers invest in for the long term. It is only natural to spend a long time ensuring they make the right decision. Shoppers are likely to use both online and offline channels for product research.

Pre-purchase research for consumer electronics tend to last on average 54 days. Consumer electronics include products ranging from smartphones to TV. Consumer electronic products today are advanced. Shoppers want to make sure they buy the most recent gadget that adds value to their everyday life. Online comparison and review sites provide enough information to keep shoppers busy with research.

Research time for home appliances (53 days) is on par with consumer electronics. The category includes items such as refrigerators, microwaves, and air conditioners. Shoppers expect to shop for these durables once in a while. Reliability is a key factor in the decision to buy. Shoppers conduct thorough research to make sure they buy the most reliable product available. While online is rich with information, shoppers will also look for expertise offline. Store personnel providing personalized advice on the right choice are key research touchpoints.

Shoppers spend a week or less researching small ticket items

Online research for small ticket items occur over shorter time periods. Small ticket items cost less than $100. Less than one in ten (7%) shoppers research small ticket items more that 30 days before the moment they buy. Small ticket items include groceries, apparel, and entertainment related expenses among others.

Almost half (45%) of all shoppers research online for a week or less before buying an item. Close to one in four (24%) shoppers research items the same day they buy it. This is common when making a decision about which restaurant to visit or what movie to watch. Social entertainment activities get decided in a short time frame. Online apps and websites are key in helping consumers make appropriate choices. Research for grocery items tends to last even less time. Most shoppers know what brands and products they want in their weekly grocery. Research happens around looking for discounts and promotions.

More than one in five (21%) shoppers spend up to a week researching small ticket products. Apparel and accessories are popular small ticket items where research can last from a day to a week. Shoppers might have an idea of what they want but are happy to browse to find items that match the latest trend.

Shoppers also continue to research brands and products post-purchase. Almost one in three (32%) shoppers go online to research products post-purchase. Over one in ten (13%) research for up to one week after the moment they buy items. Shoppers continue research if it is possible to return the products they’ve bought. They might want to return the items on finding a better product. Post-purchase research could make shoppers realise the product does not meet their needs. This could also motivate them to return items.

How does product research and discovery differ by size and price?

Data Headlines

  • Shoppers of large size, low cost products are most likely to research via search engines (35.8%).
  • However, they discover the product they purchase through in-store displays (47.7%)
  • In store displays are key for large size, high cost products in terms of research (40.2%) and discover (32.6%)
  • Small size, high cost items rely most heavily on online channels for research and discovery

Price and size play key roles in how shoppers research and discover products.

Shoppers research large size products while browsing in-store displays when the cost is high. Two in five (40.2%) research large size, high cost products via in-store displays. These include products such as refrigerators, home appliances and furnishings among others. Less than one in five (14.5%) use in-store displays to research large size, low cost products. More than one in three (35.8%) shoppers research such items on search engines.

Research via in-store displays, is also common when the product is small size. Almost half (45%) of shoppers research small size, high cost products via in-store displays. More than a third (35.9%) use store displays to research small size, low cost products.

But in-store displays help shoppers discover the right large size, low cost items. Almost half (47.7%) discover large size, low cost products they buy via in-store displays. Just under a third (32.6%) discover large size, high cost products via in-store displays.

It is more convenient to look for large size products in stores. Shoppers can get an idea of the product’s dimensions. They can also touch and feel it. Shoppers need not worry about getting the product home. They can place an online order or request delivery services to get the product home.

This does not mean that shoppers do not go online for research and discovery. Shoppers use online channels in research and discovery of small size, high cost products. These channels include brand websites, third party retailer sites, search engines, and online reviews.

Shoppers research and discover small size, high cost items on brand websites the most. More than one in three (33.8%) shoppers visit brand websites to research such items. Almost two in five (38.5%) shoppers discover them on brand websites. Personal gadgets like smartphones and smartwatches are examples of small size, high cost products. Shoppers looking to buy electronic devices visit Apple and Samsung websites to research products.

Almost one in four (24.7%) research small size, high cost items on third party retailer sites. And more than one in three (34.3%) discover the ones they buy on such sites. Amazon and eBay are prominent examples of third party retailers. Accessories and beauty products qualify as small size, high cost items. Shoppers search for these items by keyword and category within retailer sites. It gives them a better idea of product range under each brand. This is common behaviour among shoppers in the mid research stage.

Search engines are also popular destination for shoppers of small size, high cost items. More than one in four (28.6%) research them via search engines e.g. Google. Almost a quarter (24.7%) discover small size, high cost products through search engines. Search engines help shoppers cast a wider net compared to brand and retailer sites. As such, shoppers are most likely to use search engines at the beginning of the research process. It helps them get a better understanding of what products and brands are available to begin with.

Shoppers researching high cost products turn to online reviews. Almost a quarter (23.6%) research small size, high cost products through online reviews. Over one in five (21%) discover them through online reviews. More than one in five (22.5%) research large size, high cost products via online reviews. While 17.7% discover them through online reviews. Trustworthy online reviews help shoppers lower the risk of a ‘bad’ decision. This is important as they are willing to pay a premium price.

How does primary online research channel differ by age among US shoppers?

Data Headlines

  • More than two in three (67%) Millennials prefer to research products digitally vs in-store.
  • Just over half (56%) of Generation X shoppers say digital is their primary channel of product research.
  • Baby Boomers (41%) and Seniors (28%) are less likely to prefer digital compared to in-store for product research.

Shoppers research products both online and offline. When asked to pick one over the other, choices vary across generations.

18 to 34 year old Millennial shoppers are the most likely to research products online. More than two-thirds (67%) of Millennial shoppers pick digital over in-store. Millennials are most tech savvy generation. A higher usage of mobile apps also contributes to their preference of digital research.

Generation Xers are also more likely to prefer digital channels for shopping research. More than half (56%) of 35 to 49 year olds say digital is their primary channel of research for shopping.

Millennial shoppers researching online tend to explore and discover new products. In comparison, Generation Xers are more likely to be pragmatic with their online research. Gen X shoppers tend to look for discounts, reviews and delivery options.

Affinity to digital product research is low among Baby Boomers and Seniors in the US. More than half of Baby Boomers (59%) prefer researching products in-store. Among Seniors this figure increases to more than seven in ten (72%).


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The report looks into who does pre-purchase research, what online touchpoints they visit and trust, and the role of smartphones and tablets in the pre-purchase research process.

89 pages. 41 charts. Keynote, PowerPoint and PDF formats

The Role of Digital in US Shopper’s Path-to-Purchase What online touchpoints and devices drive pre-purchase research?

Shopper Touch Points in Online Pre-Purchase Research

What are the key online touch points where US shoppers research brand and products before buying them?

Data Headlines

  • Online-only retailers (56%) and retailer sites (55%) are the top online destinations for shoppers researching products
  • More than two in five (46%) shoppers visit brand websites during the research phase to collect information
  • In comparison, fewer shoppers visit social media sites (16%) and deal comparison sites (12%) during research phase

Retailer websites are the top online touch points for US shoppers in the research stage. These websites include online-only retailers like Amazon and brick-and-mortar retailer websites like Best Buy. More than half of shoppers visit online-only retailers (56%). A similar proportion (55%) also visit brick-and-mortar retailer websites (55%). Retailer websites have now become a prominent part of a US shopper’s consumer journey.

Online-only and retailer websites provide information on a wide range of products across categories. This makes them ideal venues to research brands and products. They also include product reviews and ratings which help shoppers make decisions. Shoppers can also buy from these websites and have the products delivered. This is not possible with social media and comparison sites. Retailers also run promotions available only when shoppers buy items from their websites. This tends to push shoppers to visit their websites in search for lower prices.

Brand websites focus on one brand or product. They attract a reasonable proportion of shoppers conducting research. More than two in five (46%) shoppers visit brand websites to look for information. These websites provide in-depth information about the product and category lacking in retailer websites. Shoppers who visit brand websites usually have a list of brands they are considering. They visit each brand’s website to know more about the brand and products.

What sources of information do shoppers use to research brands and products?

Data Headlines

  • Online reviews is top research source for Millennials (78%), Generation X (72%), Boomers (62%), and Seniors (69%).
  • More than half of shoppers across all generations also visit retailer websites and brick-and-mortar stores.
  • Generation X (52%) and Millennials (50%) are most likely to depend on word of mouth during research.

Shoppers across generations use online product reviews more than any other source of information.

Millennials (18-34) are the most likely demographic to read online product reviews. More than three in four (78%) Millennials go online to read reviews when researching brands and products. Gen Xers (35-49) follow with more than seven in ten (72%) going online to read reviews during research. Online reviews are also the top research touch point for Boomers (62%) and Seniors (69%).

The prevalence of reviews shows that online media now become the status quo. Shoppers put online reviews ahead of offline touch points.

This does not diminish the importance of offline channels. Around half of all shoppers seek information from brick and mortar stores. This is on par with shoppers visiting retailer websites while researching brands and products.

Among Millennial shoppers, more than one in two visit a physical store (51%). A similar proportion visit retailer websites (57%) during research. The balance between the online and offline touch points continues among older shoppers. More than half of Gen X shoppers visit brick-and-mortar stores (52%). Just over one in two Gen X shoppers visit retailer websites (55%).

Word of mouth is another offline touch point among young shoppers. Millennials (50%) and Generation X-ers (52%) are more likely to seek out word of mouth. In comparison a third of Boomers (33%) and two in five Seniors (40%) turn to word of mouth during research.

Which online touch point do shoppers trust the most?

Data Headlines

  • Online product reviews are the most trusted source of information among shoppers young (85%) and old (66%).
  • Young shoppers (66%) are more likely to trust information on company or manufacturer sites than older shoppers (44%).
  • Shoppers trust online communities (65%-young, 44%-old) more than social networks (53%-young, 29%-old).
  • Young shoppers are more likely to trust people they follow online (57%) compared to older shoppers (31%).

Shoppers trust online sites with product reviews more than any other online touchpoint. More than four in five young shoppers (85%) 16-39 year old trust sites with consumer reviews. Two in three older shippers 40-70 year olds trust the same.

Online reviews from other customers add authenticity that shoppers rely on. Shoppers have also become aware of how to find and read reviews to weed out the fake ones. Reading reviews has become an important ritual of the pre-purchase research process. Products that lack reviews and ratings, at times, don’t even get considered. This makes it imperative for brands to encourage customers to post online reviews.

Brands do not have control over the volume and sentiment of online reviews. But, they have control over their own website – an important online touch point. Two in three (66%) young shoppers trust information on brand owned websites. More than two in five (44%) older shoppers trust the same. Shoppers can turn to brand websites at various points during research. At the beginning when they come across the brand wither through an ad, word of mouth, or online search. Or once they have a list of brands they are considering to get more information. Brands need to ensure that they have all relevant information in an easy to find and consume format. This applies to website interactions on desktops, tablets and smartphones.

Online communities and social networks are two other touch points brands can prioritise. Young shoppers are more likely to trust online communities (65%) and social media (53%). In comparison, less than half of older shoppers trust online communities (44%). And fewer trust social media (29%).

Online communities has content from strangers, while social media from people we know. But younger shoppers trust online communities more than social media. Online communities have been around longer than social networks. Consumers using online communities might know more about navigating content to find relevant information. Online communities also allow members to post content under anonymity. Members are more likely to not hold back on how they feel about products and brands. This gives shoppers the confidence to trust in the content. When using social media people expect personal content instead of information to help buy.

How do shoppers use online search during pre-purchase product research?

Data Headlines

  • Search engines are the most used search feature at discovery (71%), consideration (74%), and post-purchase (51%).
  • Two in three shoppers use search on retailer sites at discovery (64%) and consideration (65%) stages of the journey.
  • Shoppers are least likely to use search on social networks during all three stages of the consumer journey.

Online search is a key digital touch point during a shopper’s journey. Shoppers can now search the web in three different ways. They can use search engines like Google and Bing to look up brands and categories. They can use the search function within retailer websites like Amazon and Walmart. This would return product information as well as reviews. They can also search within social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These search results return public opinion on brands and products.

Among the three search tools, search engines are most used to look up information. Shoppers use search engines throughout the path-to-purchase. And even in the post-purchase stage.

More than seven in ten shoppers use search engines during discovery (71%). A similar proportion use it during consideration (74%). At the discovery stage, shoppers look for what brands are available. There is in-depth online and offline research during the consideration stage. Search engines like Google and Bing help shoppers find relevant information at both stages.

Shoppers continue to use search after buying a product. More than one in two shoppers (51%) use search engines in the post-purchase stage. At this stage, shoppers are looking for information on returning a product or using a product. They could also be making a complaint or leaving a review.

Retailer websites are one of the more common places where shoppers leave reviews post-purchase. More than two in five (45%) shoppers conduct a search on retailer website post-purchase. Shoppers also conduct searches on retailer websites during discovery (64%) and consideration (65%). Retailer websites provide detailed product information along with customer reviews. Many like Amazon now even have a Q&A section where shoppers can ask questions. These questions get replies from other buyers or brands themselves.

Searching on social media sites is not a common behavior among US shoppers. One in five shoppers (20%) search on social media during discovery stage. The figures drops to 14% in the consideration stage. And further to 13% in the post-purchase stage.


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The report looks into who does pre-purchase research, what online touchpoints they visit and trust, and the role of smartphones and tablets in the pre-purchase research process.

89 pages. 41 charts. Keynote, PowerPoint and PDF formats

The Role of Digital in US Shopper’s Path-to-Purchase What online touchpoints and devices drive pre-purchase research?

Pre-Purchase Research in Key Categories and Demographics

Which categories do shoppers research online before making a purchase?

Data Headlines

  • More than three in ten (64%) shoppers research apparel and accessories online before buying them
  • Almost one in two (49%) shoppers go online to research entertainment products and services
  • Shoppers also go online to research consumer electronics (44%) and other consumer goods (42%)

Shoppers are most likely to research apparel and accessories before buying. Almost two-third (64%) of shoppers go online to research clothes and clothing accessories.

It is not surprising to see apparel and accessories are the most researched category. It’s also the leading category for ‘window shopping’ in the offline space. Online research involves replicating offline window shopping behaviour in the digital space. Shoppers look for latest trends, price points, and discounts among other information.

Shoppers looking to buy entertainment products and services also conduct online research. Almost one in two (49%) shoppers look up information on entertainment products and services. Entertainment products and services include movies, music, amusement parks, nightlife, restaurants. They also include online streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, Netflix and Hulu.

Word of mouth is a key research touch point for entertainment services among consumers. Consumers rely on recommendations to decide which movie to watch or restaurant to visit. These conversations can now also happen on mobile messengers with friends. Or with strangers on online forums like Yelp. Or with experts on websites like Rotten Tomatoes.

Digital is adding a new touch point to the entertainment shopper’s pre-purchase research. Consumers also rely on online reviews, ratings and recommendations to discover new content.

After clothes and entertainment, shoppers are most likely to research consumer electronics. More than two in five (44%) shoppers look up information on consumer electronics.

Consumer electronics include mobile devices, laptops, TV, and audio systems among others. Shoppers go through product features in detail before buying an electronics item. Retailer and brand websites are common touch points to research consumer electronics.

How do men and women research when buying apparel and footwear?

Data Headlines

  • More than half of men and women use both online and offline touch points to research footwear (52% male, 62% female) and apparel (68% male, 75% female)
  • Women are more likely to research apparel and footwear more frequently compared to men

Women seem more tech savvy when it comes to researching footwear and apparel. Almost two in three (65%) female shoppers go online to research footwear. Compared to one in two (56%) men.

Also almost one in five (19%) women claim to research footwear online more than in-store. Around one in ten (12%) men claim the same.

The trend is similar when it comes to apparel. More than three in four (78%) women go online to research apparel. In comparison 72% men do the same. Almost one in four (23%) women claim to research apparel online more than in-store. Less than one in five (17%) men say the same.

Men are more likely to research footwear in physical stores (45%) than women (36%). In apparel, men continue to prefer in-store research (28%) compared to women (21%).

Women’s use digital more because they research the category more often than men. Only 5% of men research apparel at least once a month. Almost one in five (19%) women do the same.

Twice as many women research apparel monthly compared to men. One in five men research apparel at least once a month. More than two in five (42%) women do the same.

What do teens research online before buying clothes, shoes and accessories?

Data Headlines

  • Almost three in five (59%) teen shoppers look up fashion related online tips during pre-purchase research
  • More than half of teens read blogs (57%), share images (57%), and watch videos (57%) related to fashion.
  • Online ads, blog posts, and experts are key digital influences for teen shoppers buying apparel and accessories.

Teen online behaviour today is good way to predict how shoppers will research in the future. The apparel and accessories category is a ideal for this. It is the most researched category among shoppers across all age groups.

Teens researching clothes, shoes and accessories go online to consume a variety of information. The most accessed content is fashion tips. Almost three in five (59%) teens look up fashion tips online. Fashion tips refer to inspiration and ideas from celebrities, experts and peers.

More than half of teens (57%) also read fashion blogs and articles online. The same proportion watch online videos on styling. It shows that pre-purchase research is no longer limited to fashion conscious teens. Digital gives all teens access to useful information. The information could be how-to articles or video tutorials. More than half (57%) also share images of their favourite fashion styles. This behaviour is a great opportunity for brands to find out what teens like. As well as engage them via platforms that enable discovery and sharing.

In the short term, brands can use paid media to influence teen fashion choices. Online ads in particular remain influential. More than one in two (51%) teens say an online ad influenced their decision to buy. These ads range from simple display ads to story led video ads. With digital brands can target relevant ads to teens based on their interest.

Besides ads, brands can also influence teens via online content. More than two in five (47%) teens say online articles and blogs influence them. Another 46% say recommendations from online personalities are influential. The online blogs and articles could be from individual bloggers or fashion websites. With online personalities, the content tends to be in video format. The content ranges from tutorials to product reviews. Once again giving brands an opportunity to place themselves in the conversation.


Get the Full Report Now

The report looks into who does pre-purchase research, what online touchpoints they visit and trust, and the role of smartphones and tablets in the pre-purchase research process.

89 pages. 41 charts. Keynote, PowerPoint and PDF formats

The Role of Digital in US Shopper’s Path-to-Purchase What online touchpoints and devices drive pre-purchase research?

Pre-Purchase Research on Computers and Mobile Devices

Computer, tablets, and smartphones: What is the primary device used during pre-purchase research?

Data Headlines

  • More than half (51%) of shoppers use multiple devices during their path-to-purchase.
  • Laptops are the most used devices for research (63%) and purchase (63%), followed by desktops (49%).
  • More than half (58%) use computers only for pre-purchase research.
  • Shoppers prefer desktops due to ease of viewing products (56%) and its bigger screen (55%)

Shoppers use more than one device during pre-purchase product research. More than half (51%) of US shoppers used more than one device. This is common among shoppers who engage across both online and offline touch points. They also tend to be on the move. Smartphones, in particular, are more suited for on the go shopping.

A reasonable proportion of consumers shopping across online and offline rely on one device. Single device shoppers account for more than two in five (45%) shoppers. They are likely to rely on only one device for all their online needs – not just shopping. They may own several devices, but have a primary device they prefer over others. More often than not this device tends to be a desktop or a laptop.

Computers are the most used device among US shoppers. More than three in five shoppers use laptops for research (63%) and buying (63%). Almost one in two use desktops for research (49%) and buying (49%). Computers have been the preferred device for shopping since the advent of digital. Smartphones and tablets are yet to replace the big screen. Two in five (41%) shoppers use smartphones for research. More than a third (38%) use it for buying. Even less use tablets for research (28%) and buying (25%).

Computers are also the primary research device among shoppers who researched and bought online. Almost four in five (79%) used computers to research. With more than half (58%) using computers only. Over one in ten (11%) rely on smartphones only. Another 5% reply on tablets only. One in three online buyers use more than one device to research. With only 5% using all three devices for pre-purchase research.

Shoppers find it easy to use computers when shopping due to its bigger screen. More than half (56%) say it is easier to see all available products on the big screen. Comparison is a key element of online shopping today. Shoppers compare different brands on price, features and other factors. This is key for shoppers who are already considering certain brands and want to make a final decision. If shoppers are considering 3 or more brands, it might get crowded on a small screen to compare them side by side.

More than half (55%) of US shoppers also find using a big screen easier in general. Ease of usage is a perception as result of the big screen’s ability to display a lot of information in one place. A key factor that adds to this perception is the ease with which shoppers can enter data on computers. Whether it’s typing a keyword on the search bar. Or entering personal information for checkout. Shoppers are more likely to trust in computers connected to reliable internet connections. Trust is low for mobile devices on patchy 3G and 4G networks. This adds to the perception that using a mobile is difficult.

How do shoppers use smartphones and tablets during path to purchase?

Data Headlines

  • Tablets and smartphones have increasingly become the preferred device to research brands and products.
  • More than two in five (45%) online shoppers browse as well as buy on mobile devices.
  • More than half of mobile shoppers (52%) research and buy on mobile only.
  • Almost one in five (19%) say mobile device experience is key when comparing products and services.
  • Shoppers faced challenges and sought assistance when using a mobile device to research (24%) or compare (27%).

Shopper’s preference to use mobile for research and buying has increased over time. In 2016, almost half (49%) of online shoppers said they prefer to research and buy on a tablet. Up from 43% in 2014. The share of shoppers who would prefer to buy using a smartphone increased from 41% to 45% in the same period. Preference to use desktop has remained flat during this time.

The growing preference for mobile is also reflected in shopping behaviour. More than one in two (52%) shoppers at least browse on their mobile device. The majority of these mobile shoppers (45%) go on to buy on their mobile devices. As more shoppers research and buy on mobile, a new mobile path-to-purchase has emerged.

The mobile path-to-purchase is quite different from the computer driven shopper journey. Shoppers are more likely to buy on their mobile devices if it is the only device used for research. More than half (52%) of those who bought on a mobile device, researched on a mobile device only. Mobile buyers are also more likely to use more than one device in their path-to-purchase. Only one in four computer shoppers used more than one device to research. More than three in ten (31%) mobile buyers used both computers and mobile to research.

While shoppers use mobile across path-to-purchase, not all stages are important. Mobile shoppers prioritise research experience more than transactional experience. Almost one in five (19%) say comparing products and services is key when using a mobile device. Another 16% say the research experience of searching for information is important. The online checkout process is another key part of the mobile path-to-purchase. More than one in ten (13%) prioritise the checkout process. It is a key stage where brands risk losing shoppers if the experience is not consistent. For instance, shoppers abandon transaction if the shipping cost is higher than expected.

The payment stage itself is not as significant because shoppers know what to expect. Mobile remains important post-purchase. More than a quarter (26%) of shoppers use mobile during product usage. Shoppers can now go online on their mobile device to look up tips on using the product. Shoppers who wish to return products also turn to their mobile devices. More than one in ten (16%) use a smartphone or tablet to try and return an item they are not satisfied with.

This is also where mobile shoppers face the most difficulty. More than two in five (43%) shoppers attempting to return a product could not do so and had to seek help. There is also opportunity to improve mobile experience during research and checkout. Around one in four shoppers had to seek help during these stages. Shoppers faced issues researching (24%), comparing (27%), and checking out (24%).

How do shoppers use smartphones to research and buy products?

Data Headlines

  • Adults 18-44 make up more than two in three (67%) shoppers who use smartphones for research
  • More than two in five (43%) use smartphones at the start of the shopping journey during product discovery
  • Around a third use smartphones for comparison (36%), advice (35%), and finding a store (32%)
  • Less than one in three (32%) shoppers use smartphones to buy offline from a physical store
  • Smartphone are more likely to be used by Gen Z and Millennials for price comparison (74%, 75%) and research (64%, 65%).
  • Using smartphones to find store location is common across Gen Z (55%), Millennials (65%), Gen X (52%), and Boomers (51%).
  • More than one in two (58%) shoppers use smartphone for product research at home
  • Three in four shoppers use smartphones at home to locate store and/or check opening times
  • Four in five shoppers lookup store locations and opening times on smartphones when on-the-go.
  • More than half of shoppers (55%) find and redeem coupons on their smartphone when in store.
  • Two in three shoppers locate stores and check timings on retailer mobile websites instead of retailer apps.
  • Apps are more likely to be used for shopping research by Millennials (70%) and Gen X (66%).

Shoppers who use smartphones to research products and brands are as likely to be male (53.4%) as female (46.6%). Age influences the likelihood of shoppers using smartphones for pre-purchase research. Adults 30-44 make up more than a third (36.6%) of shoppers who use smartphones for research. 18-29 year olds make up more than three in ten (31.7%) shoppers who research products on their smartphones. Over two in three (68%) shoppers who research on smartphone are under the age of 45.

The likelihood of pre-purchase research on smartphones increases with household income. A third of smartphone researchers are households earning $50K-$99K. Households earning less than $25K account for only 19.7% of smartphone researchers. Households earning $100K or more make up less than one in four (23.2%) smartphone researchers.

Shoppers use smartphones throughout their path-to-purchase. From early stage discovery to the final buy. Shoppers value smartphones the most at very beginning of their shopping journeys. More than two in five (43%) use smartphones during early stages of their path-to-purchase. Their goal is to seek inspiration and discover new options. Key activities at this stage include using search engines and browsing retailer websites.

Shoppers continue to use smartphone for research during their path-to-purchase. More than a third of them use the mobile device to compare choices (36%) and seek advice (35%). Comparing choices includes looking over product features, prices, delivery options among other things. Seeking advice can involve asking peers for their opinion. When online this can be reading online customer reviews or expert opinion.

Finally, under one in three (32%) shoppers also use smartphones to buy offline. This includes tasks like looking up store locations and checking availability. Some also use smartphone to place a click and collect order. Shoppers are likely to be on the go when using smartphones to buy. It is convenient to check availability in the nearest store and place a click and collect order. In comparison, when placing an online order they’d have to wait a few days for delivery.

Younger shoppers are heavy smartphones users during research. Millennials (75%) and Gen Z (74%) are most likely to compare prices on smartphones. Around two in three Millennials (65%) and Gen Z (64%) researchers shop around on smartphones. This could include evaluating product features, looking for offers, and reading reviews. When ready to buy, young shoppers are most likely to buy from their smartphones. More than one in five Millennials (21%) and Gen Z (23%) shoppers buy using their smartphones.

This does not mean that Gen X and Boomers don’t use smartphones for researching. Finding the nearest store location is a key task shoppers of all age groups are likely to do on smartphones. More than half of Gen Z (55%), Gen X (52%), and Boomers (51%) look up store location on their smartphones. With Millennials, more than two in five (46%) use smartphones to find the nearest store. Among older shoppers, Gen X are more likely to use smartphones for research. Almost two in three (65%) Gen X shoppers use smartphones to compare prices. More than half (51%) of Gen X shoppers also shop around on smartphones.

Shoppers use smartphones for research at home as well as when on-the-go. While smartphones are ideal on-the-go, today’s shoppers are more likely to use it when at home. In 2016, more than half (58%) of shoppers used smartphones at their homes to research products. In comparison, only three in ten (31%) shoppers used smartphones at home in 2013. Smartphone users today have access to faster 3G and 4G networks on the move. They also have access to content form Netflix. Media content takes priority over product research when on-the-go. Smartphone research at home also means shoppers can multitask. They can look up information while watching an ad on TV or talking to another member of the family.

Shoppers’ smartphone usage varies by location. When at home, three in four shoppers use smartphones to get store locations and timings. More than three in five (63%) use smartphones to read customer reviews when researching at home. Shoppers do a lot more on smartphones when at home. Finding a coupon code (56%), comparing prices (55%), and checking product availability (55%).

Shoppers carry out similar activities on smartphones when on-the-go as well. The top on-the-go shopping activity is to lookup store locations and opening times. Four in five shoppers do so. The extent of on-the-go smartphone usage for shopping drops to less than half for all other tasks. Finding a coupon (48%), read online reviews (45%), and compare prices across retailers (42%).

Apps and websites should include information relevant to the above tasks. Retailers and brand will have to adjust content for in-store research. More than half of shoppers (55%) find and redeem coupons on their smartphone when in store. This is likely because shoppers do research before a store visit or are looking for a quick deal. It is safe to assume that shoppers are most price conscious when researching in-store. More than half (51%) of in-store smartphone users compare prices. More than two in five (47%) read online reviews on their smartphones when inside a store. Focus on content around coupons, price, and reviews to engage shoppers inside a store.

When researching on smartphones, shoppers prefer mobile websites than apps. Two in three shoppers visit a retailer’s mobile website to locate a store or check store hours. In comparison, less than half (45%) do the same on a retailer app. When reading customer reviews, shoppers prefer mobile websites (50%) over mobile apps (31%). More than two in five (45%) shoppers visit a mobile website to compare prices. In comparison, less than three in ten (28%) do the same on mobile apps. Shoppers continue to prefer mobile websites over app for other tasks. Looking up coupons, checking availability online or in-store, and also buying a product. The only shopping activity where shopper prefer app is when they use their loyalty cards.

Younger shoppers are more likely to use apps for pre-purchase research. Seven in ten Millennials and two-thirds of Gen Xers use a smartphone app to research products. Less than two in five (39%) Boomers use a smartphone app to research brands and products.

How do shoppers research everyday categories on smartphones?

Data Headlines

  • Three in five people use smartphones to research restaurants before eating-out
  • Grocery shoppers (32%) are more likely to research on smartphones than retail (28%) or travel (17%) shoppers
  • Restaurant goers use email (18%), mobile sites (17%), and aggregator apps (16%) to research on smartphones
  • Email (28%), websites (25%), and social networks (20%) are top mobile touchpoints to research grocery
  • Grocery shoppers use smartphones to check list (72%), find digital coupons (65%), and look for discounts (57%)
  • Around two in five grocery shoppers use a mobile app for pre-purchase research
  • More than four in five (88%) grocery shoppers will use mobile apps if there is a chance for more discounts

A growing number of people carry out all their pre-purchase research on smartphones. This is most likely to happen when people are researching restaurants. Three in five people do their entire research on a smartphone before deciding on a restaurant to eat out. People looking for a restaurant are more likely to be on-the-go. They are also likely to have access to their smartphones.

Under one in three (32%) shoppers do all their grocery research on smartphones. It is common for shopper to buy grocery during the commute back home. More often than not, smartphones are the only device accessible during commute. When inside stores, shoppers can continue to research on their smartphones. The same applies to retail i.e. shopping for clothes, appliances etc from big box stores like Best Buy. More than one in four (28%) do all their research on a smartphone before buying from retailers.

Shoppers research restaurants across various mobile touchpoints. These include email (18%), mobile websites (17%), aggregator apps (16%), and social media (15%). Emails are likely to hold booking reservations and discount coupons. There could also be recommendations from friends, family and colleagues. When looking for new options, people visit restaurant websites on their smartphone browsers. The behaviour is likely because of a Google search that leads to the restaurant’s mobile website. It also highlights the importance of a mobile friendly websites for restaurants.

Aggregator apps are one of the most useful tools shoppers can use. People turn to restaurant aggregator apps for price comparison and reviews. They can also filter options by relevant factors – location, cuisine and others. Many aggregator apps allow users to make a booking, place a delivery order, or order a takeout for pickup. Finally, social media is a trusted channel to get suggestions and reviews from peers. People post images of food and drinks on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Others can find new restaurants around them by searching these social platforms.

Grocery researchers use email (28%), websites (25%), social (20%), and messengers (19%) on mobile. Email is most likely used to access coupons shoppers might already have. Grocery shoppers visit websites to search and browse for products. Social networks help them gather trusted recommendations from friends. Finally, messengers help shoppers connect with family and friends to update shopping lists.

Making and updating lists has long been a key part of the grocery shopping journey. Today household members can collaborate and track lists using smartphones. More than seven in ten (72%) mobile grocery shoppers make lists on their smartphones. This is more likely to be true among young shoppers in their twenties (76%) and female shoppers (76%).

Making and updating lists isn’t the only paper and pen tool that has carried over into smartphones. Shoppers can also find, save, and redeem digital coupons using their mobile devices. More than three in five (65%) mobile grocery shoppers use digital coupons on their websites. Coupons aren’t the only price saving tool grocery shoppers use on their smartphones. More than half (57%) of mobile grocery shoppers search for discounts on smartphones. Young shoppers 21-29 are most likely to search for discounts on smartphones (68%). Digital coupon usage is more prominent among older grocery shoppers 60 year old or above (72%).

Under one in four (24%) mobile grocery shoppers search recipes during pre-purchase research. This provides a contextual way for shoppers to prepare grocery lists. It is also an opportunity for retailers and brands to engage shoppers. They could allow shoppers to build lists around recipes. This can be a relevant touchpoint to influence shopper decisions.

While recipes provide context, discounts are the most attractive proposition amongst shoppers. This is also true when it comes to smartphones. Almost nine in ten (88%) mobile grocery shoppers use smartphones for extra discounts. Brands and retailers can send discounts via push notifications. Shoppers who see the notification will recall the app. They would then be more likely to use it when the need arises.


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The Role of Digital in US Shopper’s Path-to-Purchase What online touchpoints and devices drive pre-purchase research?
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